By Ross Bayes @rossbayesss
Every boxing fan has a few favourite fighters, for whatever reason these boxers are the people whose fights you can watch countless times and still get excited with every punch landed, big shot evaded and perfect piece of footwork, my personal favourite is Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield.
Despite being born midway through the nineties when Evander was at his very best, I was always told by my boxing-mad uncle and brother that the nineties were a special era for the heavyweight division.
We are fortunate enough currently to be able to watch almost all fights throughout recent history, so that’s exactly what I’ve done and although the nineties had Tyson, Lewis, Bowe and Foreman, to name just a few, for me it was always Holyfield who stood out.
Born in 1962 in Atlanta Georgia, Evander started to learn the sweet science at the tender age of seven after joining a boys club aimed at keeping youths of the street. He soon realised he had an immense amount of power and talent. He says in his autobiography that because he was a young black kid fighting in the south of America, he had to always try to get knockout victories as it was too risky leaving the decision to the judges, this shone throughout his lengthy career.
Disappointing decisions from officials were something that plagued him throughout his amateur days, culminating in his disqualification in the semi final of the pinnacle of amateur boxing, the Olympic games, against Kevin Barry. With 6 seconds to go in the sixth round he unleashed a heavy two punch combo leading with a powerful right hand to the body and following up with a lethal left hook to the head which made Barry drop to the canvas. The referee quickly went over to speak to Evander and it was clear he had been disqualified, the crowd became enraged and so did Holyfield’s team, the only person who kept his composure was the one person who had the right to be screaming and shouting, Evander Holyfield. He would subsequently be awarded the bronze medal and capture the attention of the American press.
He turned pro shortly after the Olympics and fought only eleven times, with eight wins by knockout, before he got the chance to challenge for the WBA world cruiserweight title against Dwight Qawi, in what was stated by Ring Magazine as the “best cruiserweight fight of the eighties.”
Both Qawi and Holyfield looked to be on the brink of victory at least three times each over the course of the 15 rounds, only for the other fighter to rally round and start their own attack. Holyfield edged the fight with a split decision that made him World champion at the age of 24.
His next goal was to become undisputed cruiserweight champion, he did this by beating Ricky Parkey for his IBF belt via third round knockout. He then faced Carlos De Leon for all the belts and dealt with him in eight rounds in a classy performance, landing almost at will, until the stoppage.
After achieving all that is possible in the cruiserweight division, he focused his sights on the heavyweight division, a weight in which their was an extreme amount of talent. Being relatively smaller than most of the guys in the blue ribbon division, many wondered how just how effective Holyfield’s punch power would be. He would answer all the doubters very quickly.
Holyfield started out with six fights against relatively smaller names, albeit fighting and knocking out a former world champion in Pinklon Thomas. He had originally planned to fight Mike Tyson, as he was the number one contender but Holyfield instead fought James Douglas for all the belts.
Douglas came into the fight overweight and Holyfield came in perfect shape, this would soon show as Douglas was knocked out in the third round with a powerful counter right hand shot, leading Holyfield to become a two weight, undisputed champion of the world.
He would then beat Foreman, Cooper and Holmes before succumbing to a defeat to Bowe.
He beat Czyz and then had the long awaited fight against Tysonm in which he came in as a massive underdog, but shocked the world with a KO in the eleventh round. The rematch known as “the bite fight” has been spoken about enough and his legacy should not be remembered as such.
His last true interesting fights were against Lennox Lewis, in which he got a controversial draw and was then soundly beaten in the rematch. He would also beat John Ruiz for the WBA title and in doing so became the first four time heavyweight champion.
In short, he was a fighter who constantly lived up to his nickname, Evander Holyfield truly was The Real Deal.