• Lea Worrall

The Real Deal Part Four: Warrior's Return

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Evander Holyfield

After his first defeat to Riddick Bowe, Evander Holyfield contemplated retirement saying “I don’t want to box for a very long time.” He did, however return to the ring on 26th June 1993 against Alex Stewart.

Holyfield struggled with Stewart the last time they met, but under new trainer Emauel Steward, Holyfield tipped the scales at his heaviest ever. The contest wasn't as exciting as their previous meeting and Holyfield won the bout by scores of 119-109 and two cards of 118-110.

Alex Stewart won his next seven contests in a three year period. He was stopped in the eighth round by Craig Petersen in November 1996. His career petered out losing to Oleg Maskaev, Phil Jackson and Lance Whitaker. His final bout took place in June 1999 where he was stopped in the second round by the Cuban Jorge Luis Gonzalez, leaving the sport with a 43-10 (40 KO's) resume. Stewart died on 16th November 2016, aged fifty-two.

The victory set up a rematch with Bowe, who only held the WBA and IBF titles as he threw the WBC belt in the bin, rather than defend it against top contender Lennox Lewis. Bowe was making defence number three after blowing away Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson and was favourite to do the same with Holyfield.

The challenger came in at a career high of 217 pounds (98.43 kg), whilst Bowe scaled in at a huge 246 pounds (111.58 kg). The champion's odds dropped from 5-1 to 2.5-1 after the weigh in.

Bowe started fast and nailed the challenger with his right. The champion took the centre of the ring as he looked to end things quickly. Holyfield didn't let him have it his own way and fired in some fast punches of his own as the round came to a close.

Bowe started well with the jab again in the second round, but it was Holyfield who was looking to land the bigger punches. It was looking like the crowd in attendance would get anither exciting contest.

Holyfield's tactics of being mobile and staying just of harms way was being effectively employed, but he just couldn't get out of the way of the jab. The champion complained again about Holyfield's use of the head.

The challenger started the next round on his toes, but initiated an assault that had Bowe taking some meaty left hooks and right hands. Both men didn't hear the bell and had to be separated by the referee and their corner men. Bowe sustained a cut over the left eye.

Holyfield managed to back up the bigger man in the fifth round. Bowe had blood running down his face and his defences were much looser than the previous rounds. Towards the end of the frame Holyfield landed a big right that shook the champion up. As the bell went Bowe looked in all kinds of trouble.

It seemed as the extra poundage had taken its toll on the champion as his sharpness had escaped him. Holyfield looked sharp and was managing to out jab his bigger opponent in the sixth. Bowe came out for the seventh meaning business and both men traded some big shots. The fight seemed to be heating up nicely until some clown decided to try and enter the ring with a paraglider.

His parachute was entangled on the rigging above the ring and his feet were trapped in the ropes. He was pulled back into the crowd, where someone in the champion's team hit him over the head with a cellular phone, knocking him out.

The paraglider was called James Miller and intended to land centre of the ring. He failed miserably and delayed the contest for twenty-one minutes, so that his chute could be untangled from the overhead ring lights.

Unbeknownst to Bowe, his pregnant wife fainted and had to be taken to hospital. Rock Newman missed a trick in not calling the fight to be a no contest. The round resumed from the incident. They both felt each other out with jabs, but it was Holyfield who was the busier fighter in what was a difficult round to score.

Holyfield was landing with the flashier, meatier punches as Bowe just pawed with his jab in the next round. The champion's eye was bleeding again, as the challenger seemed to land at will. Bowe needed to move up a gear, but it didn't look like he had the stamina to raise the pace and force his size on the smaller man.

Bowe finally got his jab going in the ninth and backed the challenger up. Holyfield had a good spurt in the last twenty-seconds, but the older fighter started to look weary. Bowe came out for the tenth looking to impose his authority and get a grip back on the fight. Then the two gladiators began to trade, with Holyfield coming out on top and punched Bowe's gum shield out of his mouth as the bell sounded.

Both men were feeling the pace, but they stood in the centre of the ring trading punches. Holyfield landed the sharper punches, especially at the end of the round as he seemed to hurt Bowe again.

Bowe started the final round quickly and probably did enough to win it, but Holyfield was fighting until the end. The bell rang and both fighters were still throwing punches. Emanuel Steward had to pull Holyfield away and they both ended up on the canvas.

The crowd in attendance were given another good battle as they awaited the judges decision. Scores of 115-113, 115-114 and 114-114 meant that Holyfield regained the heavyweight title on a close majority decison, and he inflicted the first defeat of Bowe's professional career.

Holyfield made his first defence of the WBA and IBF belts against Michael Moorer on 22nd April 1994. The champion also had Don Turner as his trainer as Emanuel Steward was cut loose over money. Turner would also act as cut-man, as Holyfield dismissed longtime cutman Ace Marotta rather than pay him $25,000.

Michael Moorer had an amateur record of 48-16 and won bronze in the light-middleweight Goodwill Games and became the United States Amateur champion in 1986. He boxed out of fhe famous Kronk gym in Detroit, under Emanuel Steward.

He turned professional on 04th March 1988, TKOing Adrian Riggs in the first round. He ripped through the light-heavyweight division amassing eleven wins, all by knockout in an eight month period. On 03rd December 1988 he defeated Ramzi Hassan for the vacant WBO light-heavyweight title. He defended the belt nine times in two years, before bypassing the cruiserweight division and made his debut at heavyweight, winning by a TKO in round two against Terry Davis on 19th April 1991.

He stopped Levi Billups in the third round two months later and in July '91 he was in an exciting contest with Alex Stewart, stopoing his man in the fourth round after getting hurt himself earlier on.

He finally went the distance when he outpointed the giant Mike White, taking his unbearen resume to 27-0 (26 KO's). He went the distance in his next contest against Everett 'Big Foot' Martin, who had only been stopped three times in his 17-12-1 record.

On 15th May 1992 he took on 'Smoking' Bert Cooper for the vacant WBO heavyweight belt. Cooper, who floored Evander Holyfield in the third round before losing in round seven (see http://lw05boxing.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/the-real-deal-part-three.html for more information) beat Cecil Coffee in his next contest. The fight was a mini classic, with Moorer put on the canvas inside the first minute. He came back just over a minute later to floor Cooper and he finished the round the stronger man. A combination form Cooper had Moorer down in the third round for the second time in the fight. Moorer soaked up Cooper's bombs and heavily dropped his man in the fifth round. Cooper, his left eye badly bleeding got up at the count of nine, only to be waved off by referee Joe O'Neil. The victory saw the Kronk gym fighter become the first southpaw to lift a version of the heavyweight crown.

The Cooper fight was the last time he had Steward in his corner. The great trainer cited that Moorer had changed mentally and wasn't as dedicated to training since moving up to the top weight division, but Moorer insisted that Steward wasn't readily available. He worked with Tony Ayala Snr in his next victory, then teamed up with the Duva family and trained by George Benton.

He won three in a row, but he wanted to go back to his aggressive roots and switched to Teddy Atlas when he outpointed Mike Evans. His record stood at 34-0 (30 KO's) and was the WBA and IBF mandatory contender for Evander Holyfield's belts.

The bout took place at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas on 22nd April 1994 and both fighters weighed 214 pounds (97.07KG) and Holyfield was installed as a 2-1 favourite. After a quiet opening round, Moorer began to dominate the second, notably with his southpaw lead and rocked Holyfield towards the end of the round. The champion fired back with a right, left that put the challenger down with 20 seconds remaining.

Rounds three and four were lacklustre affairs, but Moorer cut Holyfield's left eye in the fifth round, as Holyfield began to look fatigued and ready to be taken out at any moment. The champion did a good job at tying Moorer up, but the challenger didn't seem able to miss with his right jab. Holyfield told her corner that he hurt his left shoulder.

Holyfield came out strong for the seventh. he was loading up with his hooks, looking to take his man out. His usual crisp jab didn't have any snap to it, unlike the challenger's jab. The next round was a tough one to score. Holyfield looked the busier fighter, as Moorer seemed to be pacing himself as he seldom attacked. As he got to the corner hew saw Teddy Atlas sitting on his corner stool. "Do you want me to swap places with you?" Atlas was pleading with him to fight a full round. He could see that the champion had something wrong with him.

Holyfield imposed his will on Moorer in the ninth and the challenger hardly did anything positive until the final ten seconds. It was like he lost all confidence in his abilities. "You're blowing it and you're going to cry tomorrow. He'll lose his next fight instead of this one," Atlas informed him.

Moorer did land a couple of power shots in the tenth round, but it wasn't enough to deter the champion as he was constantly backing him up. The challenger's dominant jab had also disappeared. The champion came out for the penultimate round on his toes and continued to back Moorer up. The challenger did land with solid jabs, but neglected to follow them up with his powerful left.

Finally Moorer woke up in the twelfth round and started the first minute with a two-fisted attack, but Holyfield, being Holyfield came back and forced the challenger to the ropes, until with twenty-seconds remaining Moorer sprang to life. the bell rang to end the fight and the challenger raised his hands above his head.

Judge Dalby Shirley couldn't split the men and scored it even (114-114). Jerry Roth had it a close 115-114 whilst Chuck Giampa's card read 116-112, meaning Michael Moorer took the WBA and IBF belts with a majority decision. Jerry Roth scored the second round 10-10. Moorer was dominating this round, but Holyfield floored him. Had the judge scored it 10-9 for the champion, then Holyfield would've kept his belts with a draw.

After the contest Holyfield was hospitalised suffering dehydration and a rotator-cuff injury. A bruised kidney was also found. He was given a large amount of fluids for the kidney, but as his heart wasn't pumping the fluids out sufficiently his lungs began to fill up. As he was diagnosed with a non compliant left ventricle, he retired from boxing.

A few months later Holyfield claimed that he had been cured by a faith healer, Benny Hinn (not Hill) and was given a clean bill of health by the Mayo Clinic. The heart condition appeared because he was over-medicated and over-hydrated by the treatment he received after the Moorer fight.

The medical arm of the Nevada State Athletic Commission questioned Holyfield over possible HGH use, as his heart abnormalities were consistent with growth hormone use. Holyfield always denied such allegations, but there was no test at that time to back up both parties claims.

Thirteen months later Holyfield was back in the ring to take on former WBO heavyweight champion Ray Mercer. Mercer became the Olympic heavyweight champion at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and turned pro in late February 1989, stopping Jesse McGhee in three rounds.

He picked up his first professional title when he outpointed Kimmuel Odum on 02nd March 1990 for the vacant IBF Inter-continental heavyweight title. In August that year he went the distance again with Bert Cooper to take the NABF heavyweight crown.

At the start of 1991 Mercer challenged the undefeared WBO heavyweight champion Francesco Damiani, knocking him out in nine rounds to become champion. Mercer defended the title once, stopping Tommy Morrison (28-0 with 24 KO's) in a brutal fifth round onslaught.

Mercer gave up the WBO belt and then lost his unbeaten record when Larry Holmes outpointed him over twelve rounds on 07th February 1992. He had two wins at the end of the year, but dropped a ten round decision to Jesse Ferguson, which scuppered his chances of facing WBA & IBF champion Riddick Bowe (Ferguson took his place.)

Mercer went on to win three in a row, including a revenge split decision over Ferguson in November 1993. He next boxed a draw with Marion Wilson in July 1994, before taking on Holyfield on 20th May 1995 in Atlantic City.

The former two-time champion tipped the scales at 209 pounds (94.80 Kg), whilst the former WBO champ scaled in at 224 pounds (101.61 Kg). Mercer worked behind a single left jab that snapped back his opponent's shaved skull, but Holyfield was the busier and sharper of the two in the opening round. The second followed the same pattern as the first with round three beginning to heat up as both men traded towards the end.

Holyfield started the fourth fast, but Mercer matched him and landed often with his dangerous right, as the two gladiators got back to their boxing. Both men landed with their respected right hands in the fifth and Mercer was hoping that the body shots he had been landing all night would eventually slow the man from Atlanta, Georgia down in the home stretch.

It was Mercer who began to slow in the sixth as Holyfield continued to press and outwork his man. Holyfield's cut-man had to work on a nick to his right eye during the minute break. The cut began to bleed as the seventh progressed, which gave Mercer some hope as he was much more proactive in this round.

The referee stopped the action in round eight and got the ringside doctor to check on the damage. This spurred Mercer on even more as he began to showboat, but with the eighth coming to a close Holyfield landed a big left hook. The punch staggered Mercer somewhat and he went down voluntarily as he said afterwards that he couldn't see where the follow up punches were coming from.

Holyfield had his best round in the ninth, landing with some good combinations, but the soldier spirit came to the forefront with Mercer as he willed himself to drive forward, to keep up with the competitive nature of the contest.

The tenth and final round was another good one for Holyfield, as the pace had taken an effect on Mercer, but he was still dangerous with the right hand. Holyfield was still bleeding from the right eye at the bell, but he had done enough to take a unanimous decision with scores of 96-93, 97-92 and 95-94.

Mercer boxed again a year later and suffered a close points defeat to Lennox Lewis. He got his career back on track by outpointing Tim Witherspoon in December '96, staying unbeaten until June 2002 where was stopped in the sixth round by WBO heavyweight champion Wladamir Klitschko. He carried on boxing until 2008, picking up defeats against Shannon Briggs and Derric Rossy along the way. He won his last fight by a sixth round majority decision to Richel Hersisia and retired with a 36-7-1 (26 KO's), suffering only two stoppage defeats.

The victory set up a rubber match with old foe Riddick Bowe at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas on 04th November 1995. After losing the WBA and IBF belts to Holyfield, Bowe fought a No Contest against Buster Mathis Junior. In the fourth round, after taking a barrage from Bowe, Mathis took a knee. Instinctively Bowe threw a right and put Mathis on his back, laying him out cold. Referee Arthur Mercante Snr told the New Jersey State Athletic Board that the punch was deliberate, but didn't think Bowe should be disqualified as it came in the heat of the battle, hence the board ruling a No Contest.

Bowe did manage to get back to winning ways against Larry Donald, outpointing the undefeated man over twelve rounds. In March 1995 he challenged Britain's Nigerian born Herbie Hide for the WBO heavyweight title. Hide's speed and accuracy caused Bowe problems in the opening two rounds, but Big Daddy found his range in the third and his natural size came into play as he put the champion down seven times, ending his unbeaten record in round six. The victory meant that Bowe was the first man in boxing to have won WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO titles.

He made his first defence against another unbeaten fighter, Jorge Luis Gonzalez who had beaten Bowe in the amateurs and stopped all but one of his twenty-three opponents. At six-foot-seven (2.04 metres) the man from Havana floored Bowe en-route to a Pan American Games contest, but the professional game was much different and the champion battered Gonzalez for five rounds, before dispatching him in the sixth with a right to the head.

Evander Holyfield was on a mission to equal Muhammad Ali's record of winning the heavyweight title three times, but refused to fight for the WBO belt as he deemed it as insignificant and thought it would hinder his chances of regaining the other three main titles.

Bowe was installed as a 3-1 favourite to win, but Holyfield boxed effectively in the opening round, working behind a busy jab and made his opponent miss to take round one. Bowe started to get his jab going in the next round, but Holyfield kept to boxing on the outside, looking busier. Then as the second was drawing to a close both men went to close quarters, with some overtime after the bell.

Bowe, defying his size was a master at working on the inside and had some success with his right uppercut. Holyfield had his moments too, as both fighters locked horns and spent most of the round head to head. Holyfield started the fourth round quickly, then appeared to fade as they stood again head to head, then the older man sprang to life and landed some fats punches at the bell.

Holyfield looked a spent force in the fifth. His mouth was bleeding, his breathing looked laboured and it seemed difficult for him to get his punches off. Bowe was deducted a point for a low blow and the short rest was welcomed by the older fighter. He did manage to finish with a quick burst before the bell, but his actions were losing forced rather than flowing.

With the ringside doctor and the referee checking on Holyfield between rounds, he came out meaning business at the start of the sixth and landed a huge left hook on Bowe's jaw, flooring Big Daddy for the first time in his career. Bowe steadied himself in the ring corner as Holyfield threw what little he had left at the younger man. Holyfield couldn't find the finisher and Bowe began to fight back as Holyfield seemed to have punched himself out, but he did finish the round strongly.Holyfield appeared tired in the seventh, but as always dug deep and landed some good shots in the exchanges.

Still looking tired, Holyfield summoned the energy to initiate an attack and was backing up the bigger man, but he got tagged with a short right hand that put him face first on the canvas. He barely beat the count and wasn't very responsive when Joe Cortez asked him to step forward. He did eventually and the fight was allowed to continue, but Bowe clubbed him with two more rights and Holyfield's legs betrayed him again as the fight was stopped 58 seconds into the eighth. It was the first stoppage of his career.

Riddick Bowe never defended his WBO belt again and appeared to be a shot fighter when he struggled to win by disqualification in round seven against Poland's Andrew Golota in July 1996. He won the rematch in December, again by disqualification and never boxed again until September 2004. He fought again the following April and had his last contest on 13th December 2008, decisioning Gene Puckall over eight rounds. Bowe finished his career 43-1 with thirty-three knockouts, his sole loss when he surrendered his WBA and IBF belts against Holyfield.

Evander Holyfield seemed to be a spent force after the third meeting with Bowe and his lacklustre performance looked like to be his last...

All the best fight fans

Lea https://twitter.com/LeaWorrall

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