• Lea Worrall

The Real Deal Part Five: Equalling Ali

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Evander Holyfield

After his first stoppage defeat at the hands of Riddick Bowe in November 1995, Holyfield returned to the ring on the same bill as the Lennox Lewis Vs Ray Mercer bout on 10th May 1996. Bobby Czyz, born in Orange New York in 1962, was Holyfield's opponent. He turned professional as a middleweight, beating Hank Whitmore in the first round on 24th April 1980.

Czyz lost his unbeaten record via a ten round unanimous decision to Mustafa Hamsho. After his next contest he campaigned as a super-middleweight in 1983, then in 1984 moved up again to light-heavyweight. In 1986 he challenged the undefeated IBF light-heavyweight champion Slobodan Kacar, knocking him out in the fifth round to take the belt. He made three successful defences, before retiring in nine rounds to 'Prince' Charles Williams in October 1987.

He dropped to 32-3 when he lost his next bout to Dennis Andries. Two wins later he lost to WBA light-heavyweight champion Vigil Hill by an unanimous decision. In his next contest he lost a rematch to Williams with a tenth round retirement.

In 1990 he moved up to cruiserweight, winning three on the bounce, before taking Robert Daniels' WBA cruiserweight title on 08th March 1991. He made two defences before vacating the belt in May 1992. Czyz didn't box at all through 1993, but returned to the ring in '94, beating George O'Mara, then losing to David Izegwire by a fourth round retirement.

Bobby Czyz then debuted as a heavyweight, beating Tim Tomashek, Jeff Williams and Richard Jackson before taking on former two-time heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield. Czyz weighed 210 pounds (95.25KG) with Holyfield coming in at 211 pounds (95.71 KG).

Even though there was just a pound between them, the size difference was immense. Holyfield was able to back up Czyz at will, but the smaller man was landing with some good left hooks. Holyfield landed a series of power shots to end the first round. Holyfield picked up from where he left off in the second round as he came out bombing, trying to take Czyz out of there, but the smaller man weathered the storm and survived the round, landing some meaty body shots in the process.

Again Holyfield came out for the third meaning business and forced Czyz to the ropes where he had no choice but to trade. He was taking some heavy punches and referee Ron Lipton administrated a standing eight count. The round continued with Czyz taking some more punishment, but he bravely fought with Holyfield to hear the bell.

Czyz went back to his corner complaining that something from Holyfield's gloves was burning his eyes and his corner told the referee to check the gloves. Holyfield's pace dropped significantly in the fourth and if Czyz had the power of a true heavyweight then he would've been able to capitalise on the situation in front of him.

Holyfield, who refused to sit down between rounds was told by his corner to up the pace and get him out of there. The former heavyweight champion obliged and caught his opponent with some good hard punches, but he couldn't take out the game and brave fighter in front of him.

Again Czyz went back to the corner complaining that his eyes were burning and he couldn't see. The ringside doctor confirmed vision problems and advised the referee stop the bout. Ron Lipton declared Holyfield the winner by technical knockout, then rubbed his face with Holyfield's gloves and verified to Czyz that nothing came off the gloves.

The thirty-four year old Holyfield marched on to 32-3 (23 KO's) and faced Mike Tyson for the WBA heavyweight title. Bobby Czyz, who was adamant that something was on his opponents gloves and that the third round eight count shouldn't have occurred, fought one final time. Two years later he lost by a second round TKO to Corrie Sanders on 12th June 1998 and retired from boxing with a 44-8 (28 KO's) resume.

With Holyfield fading badly in his third contest with Riddick Bowe and seemingly struggling to put away the smaller Czyz, many believed that 'The Real Deal' was way past his sell-by date. Mike Tyson, on the other hand, had made light work of his opponents since returning from a prison spell, only going eight rounds since his return.

An impressive 109 second demolition of WBA heavyweight champion Bruce Seldon, to add to his WBC strap; and reports that Holyfield was getting beaten up by his Tyson-esque sparring partner David Tua; Holyfield was deemed as a dead man walking getting into the ring with Tyson.

The bout took place at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas on 09th November 1996, for the WBA title as Tyson relinquished the WBC crown to take on Holyfield, instead of defending it against mandatory challenger Lennox Lewis.

The fight was billed as 'Finally' as in June 1990 Holyfield and Tyson were pencilled in to face off for Tyson's undisputed heavyweight crown, but four months previously James 'Buster' Douglas scored one of the biggest ever upsets by knocking out Tyson in ten rounds. Holyfield beat Douglas for the title and was due to defend his three belts against Tyson in November 1991, but the challenger suffered an injury in training, then he was sentenced to six years in prison.

The champion started fast and looked to steamroll his way to an expected quick victory, but Holyfield had other ideas and fought a smart fight. He stood in front of the champion, rolling with his punches and countered with some solid shots of his own. He imposed his will and began to push Tyson back, nullifying everything the WBA title holder had to offer.

He scored a knockdown in the sixth round and nearly stopped Tyson in the tenth. The fight was halted 37 seconds into round eleven, which meant Holyfield had matched Muhammad Ali's record of winning a version of the heavyweight title on three separate occasions, and causing the biggest heavyweight upset since Douglas beat Tyson in Tokyo, Japan.

The much anticipated rematch was scheduled to take place on 03rd May 1997, but Tyson clashed heads with a sparring partner that caused a cut over his left eye. The fight took place on 28th June 1997. The night before the contest Teddy Atlas, Tyson's former trainer gave this prediction to a group of reporters. "Tyson will try to get lucky naturally. But if he can't land a knockout punch early, he's gonna try to disqualify himself, either by elbowing, or throwing a low blow, butting or biting."

Holyfield, who wanted to prove that the first contest was no fluke took the fight to Tyson, showing his man that he wasn't intimidated and used his strength to bully the bully. A good right hand rocked the challenger and Holyfield had Tyson backing up as the first round came to an end. Round two was another bad one for the challenger. His right eye was cut from a clash of heads and he kept looking to the referee, Mills Lane for help. Tyson was in distress and Holyfield carried on using his strength to take an untidy round.

Tyson came out for the third and looked to be warming to the task as he was getting off first, having his best round, but Holyfield was able to match him. Then Teddy Atlas' prediction came true as Tyson sunk his teeth into the champion's ear. They fought on, but Tyson bit Holyfield's other ear. The bell sounded and Mills Lane had no choice but to disqualify Tyson for the infringements. Pandemonium broke out as Tyson started swinging punches at anyone or anything that moved.

Holyfield needed eight stitches to his right ear. After the contest an MGM employee found part of the champion's ear in the ring, scooped it up wearing latex gloves and took it to Holyfield's changing room. "I have something he probably wants," he told the security guard.

His team placed the severed ear into an ice bucket and hoped that the plastic surgeon would be able to reattach it, but it went missing during the ambulance ride. "The plastic surgeon and I were digging through the ice pack and couldn't find it," said Holyfield' conditioning coach, Tim Hallmark. (For more in depth analysis on Tyson vs Holyfield I&II please refer to the following article http://lw05boxing.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-iron-years-part-five-mayhem.html)

Evander Holyfield next appeared in another rematch, this time against the man who inflicted his second professional defeat, Michael Moorer. The bout took place on 08th November 1997 at the Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas with Moorer's IBF belt up for grabs, along with Holyfield's WBA title.

Since beating Evander Holyfield in April 1994, Michael Moorer looked to make a routine defence against the forty-five year old George Foreman. Moorer was dominating the contest, but in round ten got nailed by a right hand that relieved him of his sense, his unbeaten record and the WBA and IBF heavyweight belts. Foreman regained the crown he lost to Muhammad Ali in 1974 and became the oldest heavyweight champion in history.

In May 1995 Moorer won a ten round unanimous decision against Melvin Foster, then in his next bout, thirteen months later outpointed Axel Schulz, in Germany to claim the vacant IBF heavyweight crown (vacated by Foreman). He made the successful first defence on the Tyson-Holyfield I bill, stopping South Africa's Frans Botha in the final round. In March 1997 he outpointed the undefeated Vaughan Bean by majority decision.

Holyfield boxed out of the red corner and weighed in at 214 pounds (97.07 KG's). The IBF champion had the blue corner and tipped the scales at a pudgy 223 pounds (101.15 KGs'). Moorer, fighting out of the southpaw stance, gave Holyfield all kinds of problems with his jab in their first encounter. This time the WBA champion started brighter and was much busier than his flat-footed opponent. With ten seconds remaining Moorer jumped to life as he appeared to wobble Holyfield to the ropes. The punch only made the older man lose his balance and he fired back with some meaty punches to end the first round.

Holyfield looked to stamp his authority on the contest in the second round, but Moorer was prepared to stand his ground and trade with the 12-5 betting favourite. His right jab had more snap to it in this round than the previous one. Holyfield came out strong in the third and nailed Moorer with some heavy hooks to the head and body. An accidental head-butt opened a cut on Holyfield's right eye. Moorer got his jab working again during the second half of the round, but Holyfield found his range again with a right just before the bell.

Moorer jabbed confidently in the fourth and both men landed some big shots. But midway through the round it appeared that Holyfield had a mini crisis. He backed on to the ropes, with his left hand down as Moorer looked to land on him. Holyfield fought back, but was walking onto jabs. He snarled at Moorer then opened up on his opponent. He landed a good left to the body, then to the head as he had the IBF champion on the ropes as the bell sounded.

Moorer was having a strong fifth round, backing Holyfield to the ropes and landing rights and lefts, but 'The Real Deal' came back with a quick attack and nailed his man with a right to the jaw. Moorer hit the deck and got up at eight surviving the final seconds to hear the bell. Holyfield let his man off the hook in the next round as he appeared to tire. The cut on the WBA champion's right eye was worsening and visibly beginning to bother him.

The second half of the contest started with Moorer establishing his right jab again and looking in control, but with just over a minute gone Holyfield landed a left hook that staggered Moorer. The IBF champion regained his balance, but was wobbled again from another Holyfield onslaught.

Moorer punched back, but found himself on the canvas again from a right uppercut. Holyfield, sensing blood attacked his man and landed with another uppercut that put his opponent down for the third time in the fight. Moorer got up and as he was taking the mandatory eight count looked at Holyfield and beckoned him to come in. He survived the remaining 27 seconds, but it was a huge round for Holyfield.

Round eight looked like a battle of the jabs, but Holyfield found a combination that put Moorer on his back. Disgusted with himself he got up, but his legs seemed to go from under him every time Holyfield connected. He showed his gameness by calling his opponent in, but as the round came to a close he was on his back again. He showed heart to get up for the fifth time in the contest and went back to his stool as the round ended.

Ringside Dr. Flip Homansky advised referee Mitch Halpern to stop the contest, citing that Moorer wasn't sharp or focused after the eighth round. "There was no three-knockdown rule. I was ready to keep on fighting. I was going to keep getting up," said Moorer. "I'm disappointed that the doctor stopped the fight. I felt good, because I knew that Holyfield was going to come in. I beat him the first time, he beat the second time, let's do it the third time."

There was no third meeting for Moorer, who didn't box again until November 2000. He stayed unbeaten for two years before suffering a 30-second destruction at the hands of Samoan David Tua. He won three on the bounce before losing to Eliseo Castillo on points. Moorer then stopped former IBF cruiserweight king Vassiliy Jirov in the ninth round for the vacant WBA-NABA and vacant WBC Continental Americas heavyweight titles in 2004.

Moorer didn't box in 2005, but stayed unbeaten from 2006 until his final victory, a 32-second KO against Shelby Gross on 08th February 2008. He retired with a record of 52-4-1 (40 KO's).

The victory for Holyfield meant he had two-thirds of the heavyweight championship and a prospective clash with WBC counterpart, Lennox Lewis, was on the horizon. First though he had to deal with IBF mandatory contender Vaughan Bean.

All the best fight fans

Lea https://twitter.com/LeaWorrall

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