The Real Deal Part Three: Credit In Defeat
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
25th October 1990, The Mirage Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Undisputed Heavyweight Title
James 'Buster' Douglas Vs Evander Holyfield
In Tokyo on 11th February 1990 the undisputed number one heavyweight contender watched the 42-1 outsider James 'Buster' Douglas knockout 'Iron' Mike Tyson in ten rounds to become the new undisputed champion of the world. Evander Holyfield's dream match in June against Tyson was now wishful thinking thanks to 'Buster's' right uppercut.
Douglas then became embroiled in a long legal battle with Don King over a contract dispute. Douglas claimed that King breached their contract when he tried to get the Tyson victory overturned. They settled out of court, with King having the rights to stage a Douglas-Tyson rematch, but first the new champion had to face his mandatory contender.
The Mirage Casino in Las Vegas won the bid to promote the fight. They paid $32.1 million, beating Main Events (Holyfield's promotors) bid of $29,101,000. Steve Wynn, the Mirage's owner cut out the middle man by promoting the fight himself. "Fighters see the wisdom of not needing to pay someone like (Bob) Arum $3 million when they can talk to me themselves," Wynn said. "If we have a hot fight, people will buy it on pay-per-view. No hyping by King or Arum will change that."
Douglas had ballooned in weight since February and started training camp as a hefty figure. Steve Wynn was concerned about the champion's weight and offered him private use of a hotel sauna. Apparently, from the sauna Douglas ordered $98 of food from room service, which Wynn wasn't very happy about when he found out. His official weight was 246 pounds (111.58 KG) compared to the 231.5 pounds (105.01 KG) he weighed against Tyson.
Holyfield, always in top condition, scaled in at 208 pounds (94.35 KG). Douglas also towered over his top contender, but this didn't stop him from being out jabbed by the smaller man. Holyfield was too quick and fired in double and triple jabs, following in with right crosses. A left hook had Douglas faltering at the end of the first round.
Holyfield gained in confidence as the champion gave away ground continuously. Holyfield started the third targeting the champion's ample body. Douglas threw a big right uppercut, but Holyfield swayed back out of harms way and landed with a right counter to the jaw.
As Douglas fell, Holyfield's follow up left whistled over the champion's head, causing their heads to clash. Douglas hit the canvas on his left side, propping himself up with his left arm. Unlike against Tyson, Douglas had no intention of getting up and rolled onto his back. He stared at the ring lights as referee Mills Lane counted over him. He rubbed his gloves over his eyes searching for signs of blood, where Holyfield's head cracked into his. Douglas' eyes were clear and they were intent on finding blood; this is what brought condemnation on 'Buster' Douglas.
"He didn't try to get up," said the man closest to him during the count. "I'm not saying he could have gotten up but he didn't try. His eyes looked good to me. You're born with a ticker, they can't give you one."
"I just got caught with a good shot," explained Douglas. "By the time I picked up the count, it was over. I'm not embarrassed. You live by the sword and you die by the sword. I wanted to fight the best, and that's why I wanted to fight Evander."
Douglas received $24,074,000, the largest purse ever at the time, whilst the new champion pocketed $8,025,000. Wynn was most upset by Douglas' performance and suggested that future bouts should be winner-take-all, so boxers would have more incentive to win.
Douglas retired after the fight and his weight went up to 400 pounds (181.44 KG) with his blood sugar level going up to 800 he fell into a diabetic coma. When he got out of hospital he returned to the gym to lose weight and ended up returning to the ring on 22nd June 1996. He won six in a row before getting stopped in the first round agains Lou Savarese in June 1998. He returned six months later with a first round knockout victory. He retired winning by first round TKO on 19th February 1999. His resume stands at 38 -6-1 (25 KO's) and will always be remembered as the one to finish Tyson's unbeaten record.
19th April 1991, Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Undisputed Heavyweight Title
Evander Holyfield Vs George Foreman
The three governing bodies decreed that the winner of the Douglas-Holyfield encounter must make their next defence against the undisputed number one contender, Mike Tyson. The WBA and IBF backed off the notion shortly after Holyfield's victory, but the WBC did not and threatened to strip him of their belt.
The new champion took them to court, with the judge ruling that Holyfield couldn't have the green belt taken from him. This paved the way for 'The Battle of the Ages' against George Foreman.
Big George was born on 10th January1949 in Marshall, Texas. He started boxing in 1966 whist in the Jobs Corps. In 1968 he won gold at the Mexico Olympic Games, beating Russia's Ionis Chepulis in the final. He turned pro on 23rd June 1969, winning by third round TKO against Don Weldham.½
In his fourth contest he stopped Chuck Wepner in the third round a and picked up the vacant NABF heavyweight title, stopping the experienced Gregorio Peralta in the 10th round.
By the time he challenged Joe Frazier for the heavyweight title he had amassed an unbeaten record of 37-0 (34 KO's). The contest took place at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica on 22nd January 1973.
Champion Frazier was also unbeaten in twenty-nine contests with twenty-five kayos. He won the vacant NYSAC heavyweight title with a seventh round retirement of Buster Mathis. He made four defences and fought WBA heavyweight champion Jimmy Ellis. The vacant WBC belt was also up for grabs and Frazier became undisputed champion with a fourth round retirement.
He knocked out the WBA & WBC light-heavyweight champion Bob Foster in round two, then outpointedd Muhammad Ali over fifteen rounds, giving 'The Greatest' his first defeat.
Frazier knocked out his next two challengers before facing Foreman. The champion was a 3½-1 favourite in Las Vegas to keep his crown. Foreman had other ideas and put Frazier down three times in the opening round. Three more knickdowns in the next round saw him become the new heavyweight champion of the world.
Foreman made his maiden defence against Jose Roman in September 1973, blasting out his challnger in the first round. He then knockedout Ken Norton in two rounds six months later.
He lost the championship to Muhammad Ali on 30th October 1974 in the famous 'Rumble in the Jungle,' where Ali employed the rope-a-dope tactics. Ali stopped the punched-out champion in round eight to regain the crown.
Foreman came back in January 1976 and won the vacant NABF title in an up and downer against Ron Lyle. He defended that belt against Joe Frazier, knocking out his rival in the fifth round. He won three more contests before losing to Jimmy Young on a twelve round unanimous decision on 17th March 1977.
Foreman retired at the age of twenty-seven and didn't box again until almost ten years to the date of the Young fight, where he TKO'd Steve Zouski in the fourth round. He went 24-0 with only one man taking him the distance before getting in the ring with Holyfield.
The twenty-eight year old Holyfield was dwarfed by his forty-two year old challenger, who outweighed him by forty-nine pounds (22.23 KG). The champion kept on the outside, using his jab and speed too beat Foreman to the punch. Foreman's ramrod jab was an effective weapon, but the snappier stuff was coming from The Real Deal.
Foreman was landing with some clubbing right hands in the second round, which managed to stun the champion. Holyfield let go with a barrage of fast hooks and had the challenger reeling towards the end of the third.
The champion's quickness banked him the fourth round, but Foreman had Holyfield going again in the fifth as he landed his harder punches. The challenger had another good rally in the sixth, proving his critics wrong that at his grand age he could keep up with the pace of the younger man.
A looping right from Foreman seemed to hurt Holyfield in the seventh, but the champion fired back with his salvo of meaty hooks, as 'Big' George started to look tired. In round eight Foreman had to take some big rights from Holyfield, but in the ninth round he soaked up some big combinations and looked like he was on his way to visit the canvas. The big man stayed upright to hear the bell.
Foreman had a good tenth round, notably catching the champion with a good one-two. The challenger was behind and with a point deducted in the eleventh round for a low blow meaning a points victory was out of the question. Holyfield saw out the twelfth round and kept his crown with scores of 116-111, 117-110 and 115-112.
Foreman carried on in the game, getting a shot at the vacant WBO heavyweight crown. Tommy Morrison outpointed him in June 1993 to take the belt. It looked like the big man from Texas had retired, but got a shot at the new WBA/IBF king Michael Moorer in November 1994.
The southpaw champion was in front on the scorecards, until a right hand in the tenth round made Foreman the oldest heavyweight champion in history at the age of forty-five. Foreman was stripped of the WBA belt by refusing to face top contender Tony Tucker. He also lost his IBF title out of the ring too. He carried on boxing as the lineal heavyweight champion, finally losing on points to Shannon Briggs in November 1997. He retired with a record of 76-5 (68 KO's).
23rd November 1991, The Omni, Atlanta Georgia
WBA & IBF Heavyweight Titles
Evander Holyfield Vs Bert Cooper
Holyfield was scheduled to face Mike Tyson, his undisputed number one contender on 08th November 1991 for a purse of $30 million. The fight that was in the making since Holyfield stepped up from the cruiserweight division was cancelled indefinitely due to Tyson injuring his ribs in training and his pending court case for the alleged rape of beauty pageant DesireeWashington in early 1992.
Former WBO champion Francesco Damiani was brought in as a substitute for the 23rd November in Atlanta, but he too had to pull out with an ankle injury. Bert Cooper stepped in as the substitute for the substitute.
Bert Cooper turned pro on 11th September 1984 as a heavyweight, knocking out Dennis Caldwell in the first round. He stayed unbeaten until the end of January 1986, when Reggie Gross beat him by an eighth round TKO.
One victory later he then went on to beat Henry Tillman for the NABF cruiserweight title. He held on to that title until losing to Nate Miller in February 1989. He also lost his next contest to George Foreman by a second round retirement. Cooper won and lost the NABF heavyweight title, beating Orlin Norris, then got outpointed by Ray Mercer.
Riddick Bowe blew him away in two rounds in October 1990, before going on a four bout winning streak, TKOing Joe Hipp in round five the following October, five weeks before facing Holyfield. His record stood at 26-7 (23 KO's).
The WBC didn't sanction the fight as Cooper wasn't ranked by them. The only organisation that had a ranking for Cooper was the IBF, who had him 12th. The WBA didn't rank him, but sanctioned the contest anyway.
It looked like an early night as Cooper was dropped by a left hook to the body before the one-minute 20 seconds mark. Cooper, to his credit stormed back, landing some good right hands. Both men were warned for low blows by referee Mills Lane, as Holyfield finished the round strongly.
They traded punches in an action packed second frame. Holyfield's snappier punches probably shaded an evenly contested round. The champion's corner told him to work the body for the third. Holyfield landed a good left hook that had the challenger backing up, but he managed to stand his ground as they both slugged it out.
Holyfield landed another good left hook, but Cooper countered with a hard right hook. The champion had to hold on, but Cooper let go with some more meaty rights and backed Holyfield to the ropes. The champion covered up as the challenger banged away. Holyfield kind of fell forward from the punches into the ropes, which prevented him from touching the canvas. Mills Lane administered the first count of Holyfield's professional career.
Cooper stormed in, trying to finish the shaken champion. All Holyfield could do was cover up and hang on for dear life, as he nearly went down again. Cooper had his man on the ropes and teed off with lefts and rights. Cooper seemed to punch himself out as Holyfield's head cleared. He landed a couple of nothing right uppercuts. Both men traded right hand blows, but it was the champion's shot that did the damage. All of a sudden Holyfield was the man teeing off and the challenger was covering up. Both men traded big shots at the bell, as the crowd in attendance went wild.
Round four was evenly matched as both men traded flurries, with the champion closing the round with some good combinations. Holyfield started the fifth fast and landed some good right uppercuts. Cooper backed off and almost turned his back, but in an instant of realising he was in a world heavyweight title contest thought better of it and covered up as the champion landed more uppercuts.
Halfway through the round and the champion was looking desperately tired. At that point Mills Lane noticed a tear on Holyfield's right glove and called time, giving both fighters a long rest as they waited for a replacement. Just over two-minutes later the action resumed, with both men trading. Cooper's mouth was now bleeding and he was cut over his right eye.
Cooper had excess grease over his cut eye, which Mills Lane ordered to be wiped just before the bell sounded to commence the sixth. Holyfield started with on his toes for the first time in the contest. He couldn't miss with the right uppercut, but Cooper was also scoring with his sneaky high hand.
In between the round Cooper's corner complained to the referee about Holyfield having some kind of ointment on his body that was getting into their man's eyes and causing them to burn, but at the start of the sixth, Cooper also had excessive ointment over his eye.
The seventh got under way with both men trading evenly. Then with 20 seconds remaining Holyfield fired out a barrage of twenty-four unanswered punches, causing the referee to halt the contest at the two-minute and 58 second mark. It was an exciting fight, but Holyfield came away from the contest with his reputation more than dented.
Cooper had one more shot at the title where he lost an up and downer against Michael Moorer for the vacant WBO crown. Moorer was down in the first and third rounds, whilst Cooper was down in the first and fifth rounds, getting stopped in round five.
His career went down hill as he became a journeyman. It looked like he retired in 2002, but came back in 2010, finally retiring after losing his third fight in a row in September 2012. His record stands at 38-25 (31 KO's)
19th June 1992, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Undisputed Heavyweight Title
Evander Holyfield Vs Larry Holmes
Larry Holmes, The Easton Assassin was born on 03rd November 1949. He had an amateur record of 19-3, but according to Holmes he started sparring with Muhammad Ali after just eleven amateur contests from 1972 - 75.
He turned pro on 21st March 1973, outpointing Rodell Dupree over four rounds. He remained unbeaten and five years after his debut found himself in a WBC heavyweight title eliminator against the hard punching Earnie Shavers. Holmes won every round on two of the judges cards, losing only one round on the third card, earning him a shot at Ken Norton in his next bout.
Ken Norton won a final eliminator for the WBC crown against Jimmy Young via a fifteen round split decision on 05th November 1977. Shortly after this contest the WBC awarded Norton their belt as Leon Spinks chose to have a rematch with Muhammad Ali, instead of facing Norton, the top contender.
On 09th June 1978 Ken Norton's first defence was against Larry Holmes, who was 27-0. After fifteen rounds the judges scored the contest 143-142 (twice for Holmes) and 143-142 (Norton) meaning that Holmes took the title in a very close split decision. After the fight Holmes' trainer Richie Giachetti revealed that the new champion had damaged his left bicep in sparring five days before the contest. Many eyes were raised when the trainer said before the fight that Holmes stopped sparring due to being too sharp.
Holmes held the belt until 1983, making sixteen successful defences. He beat former champions Mike Weaver, Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks and defeated future champions Trevor Berbick and Tim Witherspoon.
He made his last defence against Scott Frank in September 1983. In November that year he stopped Marvis Frazier, Joe Frazier's son, in one round. The WBC refused to sanction the contest as Frazier was not in their top ten.
Holmes gave up the WBC belt on 11th December 1983 as he refused to face Greg Page unless he received more than the $2.55 million that Don King was offering. The day before, newly formed IBF president Bob Lee contacted Holmes and told him that his organisation will recognise him as their champion.
With unification fights falling through and boxing politics getting in the way, Holmes didn't defend his new title until November 1984, when he stopped James 'Bonecrusher' Smith in the twelfth round. He outpointed the undefeated Carl Williams the following May to go 48-0, one victory away from equalling Rocky Marciano's record.
On 21st September 1985, the undisputed light-heavyweight champion Michael Spinks bulked up to heavyweight and took the IBF crown with a close 145-142, and two scores of 143-142 unanimous decision. After the contest the former champion said 'I'm thirty-five fighting young men and Rocky (Marciano) was twenty-five fighting old men. To be technical, Rocky couldn't carry my jockstrap." Holmes was heavily criticised for the outburst and later apologised.
In April 1986 both men went at it again. This time Spinks prevailed with a split decision verdict of 144-141, 144-142 and 141-144. Holmes didn't fight again until 22nd January 1988 when Mike Tyson blew away the thirty-eight year old former champion in the fourth round. (See http://lw05boxing.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/the-iron-years-part-two-undisputed.html for more information)
Holmes finally came back again on 07th April 1991 when he stopped Tim 'Doc' Anderson in the first round. After that contest he had a street brawl with former champion Trevor Berbick. He won four more bouts that year, against fringe opponents, but in February 1992 he outboxed and outclassed the undefeated and ex WBO champion Ray Mercer. The victory was credible enough to earn him a shot at Holyfield.
Hoĺmes fought a cunning fight. He spent most of the time on the ropes, waiting for Holyfield to commit his jab, then counter with his right, as he corner shouted "Chop the tree big Jack" (Holmes' nickname).
The champion never stopped throwing punches as he out worked the forty-two year old. Holmes managed to inflict a cut over Holyfield's right eye. Replays showed that the injury was caused by Holmes' elbow as he missed with one if his chopping rights.
Even though Holyfield was made to look sloppy as his punches were being parried, the champion out worked him and won by scores of 116-112 (twice) and 117-111,
"He proved to be a classy fighter and he has a great defence" Holyfield said after the bout. "I hit him with a lot of good body shots. I wasn't looking to take him out with one shot. It's hard to knock out a defensive fighter."
"He's a great fighter," said the gracious loser, "He's a lot stronger than I thought."
Holmes returned to action in January 1993, winning seven in a row before losing to WBC champion Oliver McCall via unanimous decision on 08th April 1995,
Holmes had nine more contests, losing on points to the Dane Brian Neilsen for the lightly regarded IBO crown along the way. He fought for the final time on 27th July 2002, aged fifty-two, outpointing Eric Esch (Butterbean) over ten rounds. Holmes retired with a record of 69-6 (44 KO's).
13th November 1992, The Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
Undisputed Heavyweight Title
Evander Holyfield Vs Riddick Bowe
With the knives out for the thirty year old champion, who had been taken the distance twice by forty-something opponents, he was still installed as a 7-5 favourite to beat his twenty-five year old number one contender.
Riddick Bowe picked up a silver medal in the 1988 Seoul Olýmpics when he was stopped by Lennox Lewis in the second round. He won his pro debut against Lionel Butler by a second round TKO on 06th March 1989. Bowe won another twelve contests that year, winning on points once.
In his sixteenth bout he was taken the full eight rounds against Eddie Gonzales. He went 19-0 after stopping the first former heavyweight champion he faced, as Pinklon Thomas retired after eight rounds.
He blew away Bert Cooper in two rounds in his next outing. On 02nd March 1991 he TKO'd Tyrell Biggs in eight rounds. He then went the full ten rounds with ex WBA champion Tony Tubbs, inflicting defeat number three on his opponent.
Three fights later he took just under one-minute and 50 seconds to destroy fellow prospect Bruce Seldon. In October 1991 he won his fìrst professional title when Elijah Tillery was disqualified in the first round for kicking Bowe three times, for the vacant WBC Continental Americas title.
Bowe won the rematch two months later in the fourth round. He carried on winning in 1992, stopping Conroy Nelson in the April and the durable Everett Martin the following month.
On 18th July he bludgeoned Pierre Coetzer in seven rounds to become the WBA's top contender as he won the eliminator to face Holyfield. He went into that bout with a record of 31-0 (27 KO's) but had massive question marks about his heart for a fight.
The consensus was the champion would stay on the outside of his bigger opponent and box. This happened at the start of the round, but Holyfield inutiated the action and mixed things up with Bowe. The challenger's jab was effective, but the more eye-catching work was coming from the smaller man.
The second round had both men swapping blows. Holyfield went to war and Bowe obliged, answering the many critics he had about his heart. It looked like the thirty pound weight advantage was going to pay off as the challenger was having a good third round, but with twenty seconds remaining, Holyfield landed a salvo of left hooks that appeared to stun the challenger.
Again it was punch for punch in the fourth. Holyfield's pace had dropped and Bowe was beginning to establish his right hand. The challenger was warned by referee Joe Cortez at the end of the round for a low blow. Holyfield started fast in the next frame, then utilised his jab, as the challenger appeared to be taking a breather. The contest was proving difficult to score as both men were trading big shots and not gaining an advantage.
After a quiet sixth round, Bowe took the seventh clearly thanks to his jab and over hand rights. The champion seemed weary as the younger man looked to come on in the second half of the contest. Both men swapped punches in the eighth and ended the round with their corner's working on their eyes. Holyfield was swollen around the right eye and his other eye was cut, whilst Bowe was thumbed by Holyfield and his right eye was nicked and appeared to be closing. Round nine and both men connected with right hands, but it was the challenger who had the power in his punches.
The challenger started round ten quickly behind his jab and right hands. Holyfield got in close, but Bowe landed a right to the body and a massive uppercut to the head. The champion was all over the place and had it not been for the ropes he would've visited the canvas for the second time in his career. The champion pulled on all his reserves and experience to weather the storm as Bowe failed to land another bomb to finish the contest.
Then it was Bowe who was on the receiving end as the champion fired right back at him. The 18,000 crowd were on their feet as they were witnessing one of the greatest rounds in heavyweight history. As the round came to the close it was the champion who finished it the stronger, but it was still a big round for the challenger.
This was the first time that Bowe had heard the bell for the eleventh round. The champion started quickly, but was stunned by left hook. He pushed Bowe back to the ropes as he took a left uppercut, then Bowe ducked down and away from him and clubbed Holyfield to the canvas with a right hand. The champion was up early, but looked like he wouldn't survive the round, but again he was still fighting at the bell.
Holyfield needed a knockout to keep his crown, but didn't have the power to trouble his bigger foe. They both traded at the bell, with Bowe raising his hands and ran out around the ring. Holyfield, not bothering with the bravado of raising his hands returned to his corner as his team worked on his eye damage.
With two scores of 117-110 and 115-112 in favour of Bowe, saw him become the new undisputed heavyweight champion of the word. Holyfield dropped to 28-1 (22 KO's) and gained more credit from this defeat than he did in his contests prior to this.
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