Battle Royal

By Earl Gustkey

In a way, it was awful to see. No one, no matter how much they are paid, should take that many hard blows to the head.
And no one, in any lifetime, should be asked to summon that much courage, that much heart, short of wartime combat.

But it was a war, last Saturday’s heavyweight battle between Evander Holyfield and Michael Dokes in Las Vegas.

Boxing, for all its blemishes and critics, every so often rewards its followers with something so special it makes it easier to put up with the frequent mismatches, the phony ratings and the rest of the sport’s nonsense.

As a group, boxers aren’t eloquent. Few could tell you, for example, why they possess such courage and so many of us do not.

But neither Holyfield nor Dokes needed to say a thing after they had assaulted each other for just short of 10 rounds. When Dokes finally went crashing down in the 10th, he had absolutely nothing left.

You found yourself wondering in the aftermath about the nature of courage itself–about how Dokes, 30, could display such heart inside a boxing ring and yet be so ill-equipped to handle drug addiction, which took 33 months out of his career.

The 10-round battle between Holyfield and Dokes ranks as the most exciting heavyweight bout since Larry Holmes beat Ken Norton in 1978.

Actually, 1989 is already a big year for memorable boxing matches. The Roberto Duran-Iran Barkley bout in Atlantic City, N.J., last month also makes the long-remembered list.

After he had lost a decision and his World Boxing Council middleweight championship to Duran, Barkley said a lot about the primal appeal his sport holds on so many people when he said of the 37-year-old Duran:

“It was his heart; it just wouldn’t go.”

Special thanks to Roy Bennett of Vintage Boxing Archives

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