The Iron Years Part Four: Incarceration

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Mike Tyson

Tyson looking in top condition for his first fight back Vs Peter McNeeley

As Mike Tyson sat in his prison cell, the heavyweight division continued without him. Evander 'Real Deal' Holyfield defended the undisputed championship against another forty-something opponent, former champ Larry Holmes.

Holmes retired after his fourth round destruction at the fists of Tyson in January 1988, only to come back again on 07th April 1991. His opponent was Tim Anderson and it took him two-minutes and 03 seconds to secure his first win since beating Carl Williams on 20th May 1985. He won four more fights before taking on the former WBO heavyweight champion Ray Mercer. Holmes put on a masterclass and humiliated his younger opponent, wining by a twelve round unanimous decision, which earned him a shot at Holyfield.

Evander Holyfield the undisputed heavyweight champion 1990 - 1992

The bout took place on 19th June 1992 and the forty-two year old grandfather of two made the younger champion look sloppy. Holmes, for most of the contest, positioned himself against the ropes and looked to counter off the champion's leads with straight rights and uppercuts. Holyfield was the busier fighter and although he suffered a cut right eye, which a replay confirmed was from a Holmes' elbow as he missed with a straight right punch, in the sixth. Luckily for Holyfield the bleeding didn't impede his vision and he kept the three belts with scores of 116-112 (twice) and 117-111.

With Holyfield now looking there for the taking he had to get past the young pretender Riddick Bowe next. The fight took place on 13th November 1992 at the Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas. Even though the champion didn't look great against Holmes, he was still a 7-1 favourite to keep the titles.

Riddick Bowe took silver at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, losing to Lennox Lewis in the second round. He turned professional in March 1989. He amassed thirty wins when he faced South African and number one WBA contender Pierre Coetzer. Twenty-three year old Bowes bludgeoned his opponent to a seventh round stoppage victory.

With questions about the challenger's heart to have a proper tear-up, Bowe wanted to prove the doubters wrong against the champion. Many believed that the smaller Holyfield, who weighed 205 lbs, would box and stay out of range of the bigger and younger challenger, who scaled in at 235 lbs. Instead the champion took the fight to his opponent and both men traded blows.

The tenth round started to what could be the greatest round in heavyweight history. Holyfield was stunned by a huge Bowe right uppercut, with only the ropes keeping him up. The champion looked gone, but the challenger couldn't land the big punch to end matters. Then suddenly, Holyfield went to is well of reserves and attacked Bowe with hooks and uppercuts. The challenger now looked in desperate trouble, but managed to hang on to the bell.

Bowe put his man on the deck in the eleventh, but Holyfield was still there throwing punches and both men were trading blows right up to the final bell. Bowe won this exciting contest with the three judges awarding it to him by scores of 115-112 and two lots of 117-110.

Fragmented Championship

Fourteen days before Bowe became the undisputed heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis became the official number one WBC contender when he destroyed Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock in the second round. The governing body ordered Bowe to face Lewis next, but he refused and dumped the green belt in a dustbin, refusing to face his Olympic conquerer.