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.

Riddick Bowe became undisputed champion by beating  Holyfield, but dumped the WBC belt in the bin rather than face Lennox Lewis

January 1993 saw Lewis as the new WBC champion, with Bowe holding the IBF and WBA straps. Riddick Bowe made his first defence against former WBA champion and ex drug addict Michael Dokes. The contest took place at Madison Square Garden and was billed as the champion's home coming. The fight only lasted two minutes 19 seconds as the huge champion blew away the thirty-four year old.

The new World Boxing Council champion Lennox Lewis had to face his number one contender, Tony 'TNT' Tucker in May 1993. Tucker, the former IBF champion, had only lost to Mike Tyson and had never been off his feet. Though Lewis was deemed to look amateurish by the American press, he did knock his challenger down in the third and ninth rounds, winning by scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 118-111. Later on in the month Bowe had another predictable blow out against Jesse Ferguson, knocking out the no hoper in the second round.

Lennox Lewis was awarded the WBC title in January 1993

01st October 1993 and history was made when two British born boxers fought in a world title fight for the first time. Lennox Lewis defended his belt against Frank Bruno, who was looking to make it third time lucky.

Bruno out jabbed the taller Lewis and took an early lead. The challenger went in with a right hand in the seventh round, but Lewis fired a left hook that caught Bruno on the chin, turning the fight into his favour. The challenger was 'gone' on his feet and took a barrage of unanswered punches on the ropes. It appeared that the referee, Mickey Vann had stopped the contest, but instead ticked off the champion for holding. The fight resumed, but not for long, with Lewis keeping his title one-minute 12 seconds of the round.

Almost a year after beating Holyfield, Bowe was in the ring with him again. The former champ had a new trainer in the guise of Emanuel Steward. Since losing his crown to Bowe, Holyfield outpointed old foe Alex Stewart over twelve rounds in June '93.

The champion was favourite to keep his two belts, but after he weighed in at 246 lbs, his odds shortened. Bowe started fast, looking for another quick KO, but Holyfield wasn't Dokes or Ferguson. He was a well conditioned fighting machine, ready to trade with the champion.

The rounds were close, but in the fourth round both fighters didn't hear the bell and continued to fire shots. Mills Lane jumped in between them and it was noticed that the champion was cut between the eyes, high on the bridge of his nose. The extra poundage the twenty-six year old champion was carrying started to go against him as he was looking tired.

Then the infamous seventh round when paraglider James Miller tried to land in the ring. The round was 60 seconds old when his parachute got entangled in the ring lights. His legs were momentarily trapped in the ropes, but angry crowd members pulled him back and one of Bowes's security team knocked out 'Fan Man' with a mobile phone.

Twenty-one minutes later the two gladiators were in action again. Holyfield was hurt in the ninth, but the warrior fought back down the stretch to regain the titles with a majority decision 115-113, 115-114 and a dead level card of 114.

22nd April 1994 and Evander Holyfield took on his number one contender Michael Moorer. 'Double M' was the former WBO light-heavyweight champion. He won the belt in his twelfth contest and retained it nine times. In April 1991 he stepped up to heavyweight with a record of 22-0 all knockout victories,

He won his next four contests before going the distance for the first time against the huge Mike White. He was taken the distance again against Everett Martin, before being in an up and downer against Bert Cooper for the vacant WBO heavyweight title. Both men were floored in the first round. Moorer was down again in the third, but ended matters in the fifth to claim his second belt.

He never defended the title and won five in a row before challenging Holyfield. Southpaw Moorer was winning round two before getting floored by a left hook late in the stanza. Holyfield was cut over the left eye in the fifth and Moorere went on to take the championship by a majority decision 115-114, 116-112 and 114 a piece. Holyfield was hospitalised after the contest with dehydration and a rotator-cuff injury. He was also discovered to have a kidney bruise.

The following month Lennox Lewis kept his WBC championship with an eighth round TKO victory over Phil Jackson, dropping his opponent in the first, fifth and eighth rounds. He landed 247 punches to the challenger's sixty-four.

Lewis put his belt on the line again in the September against top contender Oliver McCall. The fight took place at Wembley Arena and the 7,000 spectators in attendance witnessed Lewis getting knocked out in the second round.

On 05th November 1994 Michael Moorer took on former heavyweight champion George Foreman. After losing to Holyfield in April 1991, Foreman won three fights, before getting outpointed by Tommy Morrison for the vacant WBO heavyweight title in June 1993.

Seventeen months later he was getting soundly outpointed by the WBA and IBF champion. Then in round ten Foreman, weighing 250 lbs to Moorer's 222 lbs, connected with a right hand that put the champion down for the count.

Foreman had finally regained the title he won twenty years before. At forty-five years old he became the oldest man to win the heavyweight championship.

For more information about Lewis, Bowe and Holyfield see this blog post: