As much an inspiration as he was a great boxer, 🇺🇸Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield (44-10-2, 29KO) was a living embodiment of how much the human spirit can endure, and how you could ⚔️weaponize it as fuel towards your drive in pursuit of your goals. Holyfield had the ability to fight in all 3 ranges, inside, within the pocket, and outside. With his versatility being key to his attack, he also had a great chin, and loved the prospects of getting into a war if you took the fight to him.
Evander was apart of that legendary ◯◯◯◯◯🇺🇸1984 American Olympic team that featured great talent in Pernell Whitaker, Mark Breland, Meldrick Taylor, Evander himself, and a few other standouts. Holyfield won an Olympic Bronze-Medal after a fit of controversy where Holyfield was disqualified for what was described as hitting on the break, when the Referee yelled “break” simultaneous to Evander throwing a 2 punch combo that put his opponent down, and Evander had to pay the heavy price of it with the disqualification, taking him out of the running for the Olympic Gold-Medal. After that ordeal, Holyfield finished his Amateur career with a 160-14-0 overall record. He turned professional in late 1984 for a brief stint at Light-Heavyweight, then grew fully into the (fairly new at the time) Cruiserweight division of 190 lbs. Evander for the next year-and-a-half offered up impressive knockout victories in quality overall performances, and found himself with an opportunity to make history in attempting to become the youngest Cruiserweight Titleholder, and he had to go against a dangerous Champion in setting out to accomplish this feat.
The “Camden Buzzsaw” Dwight Muhammad Qawi was a very tough, skilled, intelligent fighter, and although this was only Evander’s 9th fight as a professional, he was already well equipped and ready between the ears for this type of assignment, so he and his team rolled-the-dice and took on the opportunity. What manifested is still to this day the most riveting Cruiserweight bout of all-time, as the wily vet and the tough-minded youngster went to war in nonstop toe-to-toe action throughout their 15 rounds. It appeared that Evander had a massive edge over the shorter Champion when he decided to box, but Evander like he was normally accustomed to doing during his career allowed himself to be pulled into a fight, something he always relished in even if it wasn’t the best course of attack. Holyfield became the youngest Cruiserweight Champion by way of Split-Decision victory, and what was on display was a young fighter with a very bright future ahead of him. After Holyfield secured a 1st title defense of his WBA Title, he fought and beat IBF Champion Ricky Parkey with no problem, TKO’ing Parkey to become a unified WBA/IBF Cruiserweight World Champion. A couple fights down the line, Evander would again encounter Dwight Muhammad Qawi in a re-match. This time, Evander fought a smarter fight, and won it far more convincingly by knocking out the “Camden Buzzsaw”, leaving nothing to doubt. With his wins over Qawi, Parker & a couple other title defenses, Holyfield earned the honor of being named Fighter-of-the-Year by Ring-Magazine in 1987. His next bout would be in 1988, and it would be the most important fight in Cruiserweight History at the time, with WBC Champion Carlos “Sugar” DeLeon stepping in with Evander, for the winner to be crowned as the first Undisputed World Champion in the Cruiserweight division. DeLeon was a very good fighter whose name tends to fall through the cracks nowadays, but he had a lot to bring to the table. In this case however, Holyfield had minimal problems handling the Puerto Rican Champion and rose to the occasion. He battered De Leon to an 8th round TKO stoppage to become the King of the division. With this being his final fight at the weight class, Holyfield had secured himself as the greatest Cruiserweight in boxing history, a moniker still held by many even today. With him accomplishing everything he had set out to achieve at 190 lbs, Holyfield’s real goal all along was to become Heavyweight Champion of the world, so he vacated his position and traveled north in pursuit of the big guns.
Holyfield didn’t waste any time, taking on notable Heavyweights of the 80’s in Pinklon Thomas, and Michael Dokes. He defeated Alex Stewart to put himself at prime position for the Heavyweight title. The irony through it all was that Holyfield always wanted a shot at Mike Tyson for the Heavyweight title, however Mike himself was defeated by James “Buster” Douglas in the greatest upset in boxing history, so Holyfield officially got his shot against Douglas at being Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion by fighting the man who possessed all of the belts. Buster didn’t look to be in the form he was in when he made history in Tokyo, instead returning to his inconsistent effort despite his talents. Holyfield came in sharp, and strong, standing firm with the big man and dished out a good deal of punishment. For whatever reason, Douglas decided to throw a wide uppercut from the outside, which was a punch everyone could see coming. Holyfield took a step back, and made him pay with a hard right cross that floored the Champion, a hard enough shot where Buster was unable to beat Referee Mills Lane’s count, and just like that in the flash of a second, Evander Holyfield had become Undisputed Heavyweight Champion, and became the only man (to this day) to ever become Undisputed a both Cruiserweight & Heavyweight. Amazingly enough as a 1st title defense of his new Undisputed claim, he would give a shot to a living legend, that being devastating all-time puncher George Foreman, who was trucking opponents along the way storming through competition during his comeback. While many laughed at Foreman for appearing flabby and entering the fight at the age of 43, his grit and determination was a sight to behold, and he put forth an effort respectable of any fighter against a Champion in his prime, getting the attention of Evander throughout the fight, landing some serious leather that hurt Holyfield a couple times. Evander though just had too many tools in the bag, and he relied on his slide-stepping and combination punching to belt Foreman over and over again, but George refused to budge, even though Evander in a couple rounds hit him with some devastating combinations that would have ended the night of any other Heavyweight, so they fought till the final bell. Both men in a way won apparently, with Holyfield winning the fight by Unanimous Decision, and Foreman not only gaining more respect as a fighter by that point, but it got people to stop laughing, to where people finally started taking his comeback bid serious due to the determination that was displayed in that ring on April 19th, 1991. Next Holyfield fought tough Philly fighter Bert Cooper, who had Holyfield in fits of trouble in the 2nd round, nearly knocking out Evander, but Evander as he was accustomed to doing, endured the punishment, turned the tables, and delivered his own menace, eventually getting the stoppage against Cooper in the 7th round. Following, he would face another legend, thee Heavyweight of the 80’s Larry Holmes, who was still a damn good boxer despite being 42 years of age. Holmes fought him well and showed some great veteran tactics and ring generalship that gave Holyfield some problems, but at the end of the day, Evander did what he needed to do to get a jump on the cards and come out of it with a contested unanimous decision victory.
A mega fight was on the horizon, with #1 ranked challenger Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe making a huge impression on the boxing public during his come-up, and a 50/50 fight was expected of it. In what was a great fight, Bowe took command of the mid-range and boxed more effectively than Evander did. Every once in a while Bowe would try to rough up Holyfield and open up his arsenal, so Holyfield decided to do the same, and in the midst of a solid boxing match, we had great action back and forth. Round 10 was one of the greatest rounds in Heavyweight history, as Bowe damaged Holyfield badly with an uppercut to the chin and punished the Champion as he remained wobbled for about half the round. As Bowe punched himself out, Holyfield kept digging, and kept digging, firing a wide barrage of left and right hooks, pushing the bigger man back and showcasing his enormous toughness, completely shifting the course of the round. Unfortunately for Evander, that was kind of a last hurrah as he ran out of gas down the stretch, and Bowe was the far fresher man, knocking Evander down in the 11th round and finishing the fight strong to snatch the crown, becoming the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. While this was Holyfeld’s first loss, his notoriety actually increased because of his performance. The rematch with Evander and Riddick Bowe happened a year later, and it was a memorable one, perhaps for all the wrong reasons (laughs). Holyfield trained under Emmanuel Steward for this one, and as a result, he fought a smarter fight, now allowing himself to get tempted into a war, instead using his superior boxing ability to keep Bowe off-balanced. Though not as good the first fight, it was a quality one, but it was overshadowed in a sense. During the 7th round, a Paraglider came crashing down at ringside, and got his equipment stuck in the lights at Ceasar’s Palace. Not knowing what was happening, a melee broke out in the front row, with them beating up the individual as Holyfield and Bowe were confused what was going on during their timeout. It took a long time for the fighters to get back to their fight, but word got out that Riddick Bowe’s pregnant wife sitting ringside had to be escorted to the hospital. Perhaps that played a role in Bowe’s performance for the rest of the fight, it’s only natural to worry in that circumstance, no matter how focused a fighter you are. Evander executed better down the stretch to once again become Lineal Heavyweight Champion of the World, and evened up the score with Bowe 1-a-piece.
THE ODD YEARS – There was a strange point in Holyfield’s career where he just didn’t physically look right, and it showed up in his performances. His next fight was against Michael Moorer. Though Holyfield didn’t put up a good performance to his normal standard, Moorer was very sharp, and he earned his way to an upset victory here, taking Holyfield’s titles and becoming the new Heavyweight Champion of the World. After losing his titles, he defeated iron-clad Gold-Medalist Ray Mercer in a challenging fight, and got his rubber-match with Riddick Bowe. Holyfield came into the fight the more muscular that we had ever seen him up to that point, and he looked very determined to win the fight, but he still didn’t look like what he used to look like. What he could do at the time was offer up 10-20 second pockets of brilliance, and he did just that in knocking down the big man for the first time in his career in a surprising development. As Bowe got to his feet, Evander emptied his bullets trying to get him out, but he didn’t have much of anything left in the tank to throw, even though he continued firing. Bowe caught Evander coming in, and put him to the canvas, half of it having to do with the punch, and the other half being extreme exhaustion. Officially Riddick secured his victory, and bragging rights to winning the trilogy over Evander. At this point, considering what we had been seeing over the last few fights, people were concerned about Holyfield’s health and hoped that he would retire from the sport.
THE RESURGENCE – Evander looked better against talented Bobby Czyz in the bout immediately after the 3rd Bowe fight, and stopped Czyz in 5 rounds. What was to follow was Evander’s ultimate onset goal all along. The boogeyman “Iron” Mike Tyson was back in the mix after being locked up for almost 4 years, and was hellbent on reminding the boxing world of the power he possessed in both fists. While Tyson himself didn’t look the same as he did in the 80’s Pre-Jail, he was still the most dangerous fighter in the world to contend with, and Evander finally got his shot at him in 1996. Typically before the fight, boxers were intimidated dealing with Mike, but Evander promised to pundits that he wouldn’t be intimidated, and was coming in there to fight, and to win. After the opening bell, Mike rushed him as he always does, and had Evander uncomfortable early on, but after tying Mike up a few times, and letting Mike know that he was just as strong as he was gave Evander a psychological boost, and he started coming at Tyson with thudding power shots, and pushing him back, something that you never really seen with Mike. In just that first round, the tone of the fight was set, with Evander letting Mike know that he couldn’t be bullied. Mike kept trying to land the big bomb, but he couldn’t find his mark, and Evander made a point of emphasis to take Mike out of his comfort zone, imposing his strength and his will on Tyson, and outboxing him middle distance in doing so. When the 6th round came, Holyfield had a big moment and put Mike down. Though Mike wasn’t seriously hurt, you could see his confidence and activity start to wane as Evander continued to get stronger. The second half of the fight in large part was all Holyfield’s, leading up to the 10th round. In the last part of the 10th, Holyfield hurt Mike badly with a cross, and wailed on him. Mike understanding he was in trouble tried to fire a strong right hand, but he was perfectly timed by an Evander right hand of his own that sent the menacing Tyson staggering 12-15 feet back into the ropes, with Holyfield chasing him down and completely unleashing his arsenal, nonstop hooks and uppercuts to the bell ending the 10th, one of the standout moments in boxing’s history. Mike in between rounds looked like he was done, and Holyfield knew what type of opportunity was in front of him. In the 11th, he staggered Mike again, and never let up his onslaught. With Mike out on his feet, Evander landed a haymaker right hand that forced Referee Mitch Halpern to stop the fight, one of the loudest moments I ever witnessed, both in my house, and the roar of the crowd, understanding the historical significance of this win, and considering where Evander was just a couple years back. Eight months later, Holyfield would give a rematch to Mike Tyson. A much more subdued version of Mike Tyson entered the ring, and appeared to be intimidated at the pre-fight introductions during their stare down, the shoe being on the other foot as far as Tyson is concerned being that his opponents are normally intimidated coming in. The first 2 rounds, Evander showed Mike who was boss in the ring, and had a jump on Mike’s timing. In the 3rd round Mike was having the best round out of his 14 rounds shared Evander, then the inexplicable happened. After a series of Holyfield headbutts, Mike officially snapped, and bit a piece of Evander’s ear off. Holyfield doing 360’s jumping in the air had us confused as to what happened, especially being that most didn’t initially see what happened. After 2 points were deducted, Mike bit Holyfield’s ear again, and in a fit of anger, Holyfield met Mike’s rage, and they threw some fiery exchanges at the end of the round that was probably the best back-and-forth action from their fights. As the round ended, so did the fight, as Mike was disqualified for his actions. This was arguably the strangest moment of Holyfield’s career, nonetheless it showed up as a victory on his record…the more telling thing to take from ths fight was that Evander was able to cause Mike’s mental meltdown, which was a perfect microcosm of how Holyfield had handled the big bad beast of the Heavyweight division.
Later in 1997, Evander Holyfield wanted to exact his revenge against former conqueror Michael Moorer. What turned out to be a reversal of fortune was arguably Holyfield’s greatest performance, and certainly his best as a Heavyweight, dominating M.M. from the opening bell and putting him on the canvas a total of 5 times to become Unified Champion once again. After defeating Vaughn Bean, we would finally get the fight that we were all clamoring for, that being Holyfield against Lennox Lewis for the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship. In their bout, Lewis was in full command, taking control of the ring and offering a steady diet of jabs that Evander had problems getting around, with Lewis finding opportunities to get his right hand in. As the fight concluded, many felt that Lennox had pulled it off in a clear win, but a stunning twist, the judges ruled this one a Draw. Holyfield was very fortunate to not have that “L” on his record, but there was unfinished business between the two, not just in regards to collecting all the belts, but in proving who was the best Heavyweight of their era, so he ran it back in a rematch with Lennox Lewis. Holyfield put up a much stronger, more spirited effort, though he still had his issues against the bigger, rangier boxer. While the scorecards were closer, the tone of the match-up didn’t change, and this time the judges got it right. By way of Unanimous Decision, Lennox became the WBA/WBO/WBC Heavyweight Champion of the World, and fulfilled his long-term goal.
From this point on, Holyfield started to regress. He fought a 3 fight trilogy with John “Quiet Man” Ruiz, yet the official score of their rivalry was equally split, with both having a 1-1-1 record against each other. Evander at this point in his career was motivated in becoming Heavyweight Champion of the World one more time. He defeated Hasim Rahman via technical decision as one of the worst sights of swelling ever seen in boxing manifested on Rahman’s forehead, nearly resembling the size of a baseball, forcing the stoppage of the fight to go to the scorecards where Holyfield put in the work to secure the decision. Following that fight, Holyfield was fed a dose of reality as he was outboxed by slickster Chrys Byrd, and knocked out by James “Lights Out” Toney. At this point, it appeared that Evander had nothing left to offer to the sport, but he continued to hold on to his dream of becoming Heavyweight Champion once again. Fast forward 3 years, he got his shot against WBO Champion Sultan Ibragamov, but he was outboxed. He would get one last opportunity at it against giant Russian Heavyweight Nikolai Valuev, who held the WBA title. As delusional as Holyield may have seemed, he was the freshest that he had been in the last 5 years, and actually did enough in the minds of many to complete his pursuit of once again holding a World Title, and becoming the oldest Heavyweight to win a World Title at the age of 46, however the fight was ruled a draw, and Valuev kept his belt. Holyfield would never get another opportunity at a Championship, so he fought a total of 3 more times before finally capping a 26½ year career of unforgettable moments, triumphs, pitfalls and perseverance. Here are a list of his accomplishments. 🖼️
– 2X Undisputed Champion (Cruiserweight, Heavyweight)
– 3X Lineal World Champion (Cruiserweight, Heavyweight 2X)
– 11X World Champion (LINEAL, WBA, WBC, IBF)
– Won 7 Fights Over 5 Hall-of-Famers
– 16 Wins in World Title Bouts
– Defeated 19 Fighters Who Were World Titlists
– 1987 Ring-Magazine Fighter of the Year
– 1996 Ring-Magazine Fighter of the Year
– 1997 Ring-Magazine Fighter of the Year
– 1992 Ring-Magazine Fight of the Year (Holyfield/Bowe I)
– 1996 Ring-Magazine Fight of the Year (Holyfield/Tyson I)
– 1980’s Ring Mag Cruiserweight Fight of the Decade (Holyfield/Qawi I)
– 1980’s Ring Mag Heavyweight Fight of the Decade (Holyfield/Dokes)
– 1996 Ring-Magazine Upset of the Year (Holyfield/Tyson I)
– Only Boxer to Become Undisputed Cruiserweight & Heavyweight Champ
– Became (At the Time) the Youngest Cruiserweight Champion All-Time
– Became the Fastest Cruiserweight Champion All-Time
– Widely Regarded as the Greatest Cruiserweight of All-Time
– Universally Heralded as one of the Best Heavyweight Boxers
– Revered as one of the Toughest Men to Ever Grace the Ring
– International Boxing Hall-of-Fame (Inducted First-Ballot in 2017)
SIGNATURE MOMENT – Out-hustling and standing up to the boogeyman Mike Tyson, severely staggering Mike in the 10th round, and stopping him in the 11th in front of a crowd of ecstatic fans.
NOTABLE WINS – 🇺🇸Riddick Bowe, 🇺🇸Mike Tyson (2X), 🇺🇸George Foreman, 🇺🇸Larry Holmes, 🇺🇸Michael Moorer, 🇺🇸Buster Douglas, 🇺🇸Ray Mercer, 🇺🇸Dwight Muhammad Qawi (2X), 🇵🇷Carlos DeLeon, 🇺🇸Bobby Czyz, 🇺🇸Pinklon Thomas.
NOTABLE DRAWS – 🇬🇧Lennox Lewis (Disputed in Lewis Favor), 🇺🇸John Ruiz, highly disputed draw to 🇷🇺Nikolai Valuev (in Holyfield’s Favor).