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Evander Holyfield’s Las Vegas Episodes: A Walk Down Memory Lane

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  • Evander Holyfield’s Las Vegas Episodes: A Walk Down Memory Lane

    Click image for larger version  Name:	holy.PNG Views:	0 Size:	205.6 KB ID:	19226

    By Arne K. Lang

    PART ONE OF A TWO-PART STORY. Evander Holyfield made his pro debut at Madison Square Garden in 1984 and had his final fight at a concert hall in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2011. In the interim he had 55 fights, 17 in Las Vegas.

    Many of his most celebrated triumphs happened in Las Vegas, but looking back Evander was only 6-6 in his last dozen Las Vegas engagements, including his only two losses by stoppage -- food for thought for anyone that would welcome Evander back into the ring at his advanced age (he’s 58).

    Holyfield’s third Las Vegas fight was a rip-snorter with Michael Dokes in the sports pavilion at Caesars Palace. It was Holyfield’s third fight since leaving the cruiserweight ranks. “He made me reach down deep inside,” said Holyfield after stopping Dokes in the 10th.

    Holyfield won the unified heavyweight title on his next visit to Las Vegas with a third-round, one-punch knockout of poorly-conditioned Buster Douglas at Steve Wynn’s Mirage. Twenty-six months later, after a hard tussle with George Foreman in Atlantic City and a seventh-round stoppage of late sub Bert Cooper in Atlanta, Holyfield was back in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace where he successfully defended his belts with a unanimous decision over a well-past-his-prime Larry Holmes who won a few rounds but was never a threat.

    That prefaced the first of his three fights with Riddick Bowe. The first meeting was the most entertaining. In fact, Bowe-Holyfield I was named The Ring magazine Fight of the Year.

    It was an accolade unsupported by the numbers. Bowe was the busier man and was credited with out-landing Evander 357-242. The judges had him winning by margins of 7, 7, and 3 points. (But, yes, it was a terrific fight, certainly one of the best of all time as far as undiluted heavyweight title fights are concerned.)

    After the fight, an exhausted Holyfield was asked if he wanted a rematch. “No,” he said, I think I’m finished.” But a rematch was inevitable.

    After out-pointing Alex Stewart in an intervening fight, Holyfield caught up with Bowe again. They met in the outdoor arena at Caesars Palace on Nov. 6, 1993, 51 weeks after their first encounter.

    All who were there will never forget it, but what they remember is the unscheduled intermission. The bout was held up for 21 minutes in the seventh round when “Fan Man” James Miller paraglided into the ring. The scene was surreal beyond description. (“The Chute Hits The Fan” read the front-page headline in the next day’s New York Daily News.)

    Bowe-Holyfield II wasn’t as violent as the first meeting. The match was tilting Evander’s way before the break and he held on to win a majority decision. The Associated Press correspondent scored the fight 8-4 for Riddick Bowe, but he had an off night. Neither Bowe nor his salty manager Rock Newman quibbled with the verdict.

    Holyfield’s first defense in his second reign as heavyweight champion took place at Caesars Palace. The man in the opposite corner was undefeated (34-0) Michael Moorer. A former light heavyweight champion who leapfrogged the cruiserweight division, Moorer was a KO artist, but against Evander in what was his second fight with new trainer Teddy Atlas, he fought with great composure and became the first southpaw to win a world heavyweight title. It was a majority decision that virtually everyone thought should have been unanimous.

    After the fight, Holyfield went to the hospital where he was treated for severe dehydration and a tear in his left shoulder. When he returned to his home in Atlanta, he had a more thorough check-up by doctors who determined that the 31-year-old boxer had a congenital heart defect, a faulty left ventricle that wasn’t pumping sufficient oxygen to his organs and tissues. The condition, said his personal physician, wasn’t life-threatening “as long as he assumes a less strenuous lifestyle.”

    This information was relayed to the press four days after his loss to Moorer at a news conference at Atlanta’s Crawford Long Hospital. After walking slowly to the podium, accompanied by a nurse, Holyfield said, “I am going to miss boxing, but life is more important.”

    “It is ironic,” said boxing promoter Dan Duva, “that what people will remember about Evander is that he had the biggest heart in boxing.”

    Evander Holyfield left the sport with a 30-2 record. It was speculated that with his competitive fire, he just might carve out a successful career in a sport like bowling. But hold the phone.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

  • #2
    I am filled with self-loathing that I did not think of this one myself.


    • #3
      It was absolutely surreal when I broke the news of Evander’s long overdue retirement up in Portland Maine and then watching the “boxing media” elites ignore that like it didn’t happen until a week or two later when the story finally caught up to them in NYC, them pretending like they were first when in reality they were not. I was covering a live show at the Portland Expo, a venue that once hosted Sugar Ray Robinson. Holyfield was seated next to me in pressrow. I started talking to him, asking questions. He told me he was done boxing, that he couldn’t find anyone to promote (give him) another title shot. So I put that out on social media etc and it spread like wildfire. As noted, a week or two later the “boxing media” elite were tripping all over themselves and on basic journalistic standards; acting like like were breaking big news, ignoring the origin of the story.

      Oh well, that’s just how they are.