Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield is one of the three most dominant Heavyweight fighters in Boxing
in the last 15 years despite the fact that he's a natural Cruiserweight
Holyfield's amateur career was good enough to get him to the Olympics. Though he dominated his opponents throughout the tournament he was robbed in his last fight when it was ruled that he threw a late punch. He was greatly disappointed to return the US with only a silver medal.
"The Warrior" began his professional career in the Cruiserweight (under 190 lbs) division in 1984. In less than two years he was fighting for the WBA Cruiserweight title against Dwight Qawi. He defeated Qawi (twice) and 5 others on his way to a match against Carlos DeLeon for the Undisputed Cruiserweight Championship. By KO'ing DeLeon Holyfield had "cleaned out" the Cruiserweight ranks and had no choice but to move up.
As Holyfield quickly rose through the Heavyweight ranks it was obvious that he was on a collision course for one of Boxing's most intimidating opponents: Mike Tyson. Everything was on schedule until Mike was involved in the biggest upset in Boxing History versus Buster Douglas. It would take Holyfield only 3 rounds to KO Douglas to become the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World in 1990.
With Tyson out of the picture Holyfield posted wins against the aging George Foreman and Larry Holmes. In 1992 Holyfield faced one of his greatest challenges in his first fight with Riddick Bowe. After 11 rounds of grueling action Holyfield was floored. Showing tremendous heart he struggled to his feet and finished the fight, losing by decision. One year later Holyfield would face Bowe again in another grueling fight from which he emerged the victor by decision.
These fights seemed to take something out of Holyfield and in his first defense of the title he lost to Michael Moorer. He then defeated Ray Mercer on his way to a third difficult fight with Riddick Bowe. Holyfield knocked Bowe down in the sixth round but Bowe came back battering Holyfield into submission in the 8th round.
Mike Tyson's return to Boxing immediately generated buzz for the long awaited bout that was dubbed "Finally!". On November 9, 1996 Holyfield entered the ring with Tyson for the WBA Heavyweight Title. In probably his greatest performance ever he out boxed Tyson throughout the fight on the way to an 11th round TKO. Holyfield followed this up by appearing in his strangest fight ever in a rematch against Tyson. Supposedly in retaliation of Holyfield headbutting Tyson chomped down on Holyfield's ear in the 3rd round. Judge Mills Lane allowed the action to continue but Tyson repeated the act and actually removed a large chunk of flesh from Evander's ear leading to Tyson's DQ.
Holyfield's goal was to now unify the belts once again. To start he got his revenge against Michael Moorer in an 8th round TKO. With the WBA and IBF belts in hand Holyfield entered the ring with WBC Champ Lennox Lewis in 1999. After 12 tough rounds, in which many people felt Lewis dominated, the fight was scored a draw. They fought again later that year and Lewis was able to clarify his dominance over the much smaller Holyfield.
Lennox Lewis was stripped of his WBA belt for not facing mandatory challenger John Ruiz (he had more interesting things to do). Evander seized this opportunity and won a close decision over Ruiz in 2000. In the rematch Ruiz knocked Holyfield down on the way to winning the decision. A horribly boring third fight ended in a draw, letting Ruiz keep the belt.
Despite three bad performances and his increasing age Holyfield still insisted that he could become the Undisputed Heavyweight Champ again. In 2002 he faced off against Hasim Rahman, who had KO'd Lewis and then been KO'd by Lewis. This WBA Heavyweight Eliminator turned bizarre after a headbutt in round 7 caused a hematoma over Rahman's right eye. By the middle of round 8 the swelling had reached grotesque proportions. Rahman later said it looked like he had a head growing out of his own head. Holyfield handled the fight well and when they went to the scorecards he was announced the winner.
The win over Rahman set up a fight for the IBF (once again a belt stripped from Lewis) Belt against the equally sized Chris Byrd. Though Holyfield put out a tremendous effort and won the support of the crowd he was unable to solve the puzzle of the elusive Chris Byrd. Evander's performance was also marred by a torn rotator cuff in the first round.
Unfortunately, it seems certain that Holyfield's story will end in tragedy. He is completely convinced that he can unify the Heavyweight title again. He stated that he would continue fighting even if he lost to Byrd. At the age of 40 Holyfield's speech is already starting to slur a little. He has at least two very tough fights ahead of him to accomplish his insane goal. Unless someone can stop him he seems doomed to become our generation's "Mohammad Ali". But, then again, you never know. Boxing is a bizarre sport sometimes. It just doesn't seem likely that Holyfield will be able to pull off what "Big" George Foreman did and keep his brain intact. Regardless of this, Holyfield will probably be remembered as a tremendous fighter who defeated many of the best fighters of his day even though he was smaller than many of them.
Updated: December 17, 2002