Evander Holyfield - "The Real Deal's" Five Greatest Victories

evander holyfieldby James Slater - Ahead of his unlikely world title fight with the colossal Nikolay Valuev this weekend, I thought it would be fun to look back at the legendary Evander Holyfield's five greatest ring triumphs: the five nights when he was truly an exceptional warrior. Some, if not most, say the 46-year-old former four-time heavyweight champ should not be getting this fight with the ruling WBA champion, and almost everyone agrees it will be nothing short of a huge upset if "The Real Deal" manages to win.

But, as the following list proves, Holyfield has shocked the boxing world before; many times!

Here, in reverse order, taking into account both his career as a cruiserweight (without a doubt THE greatest in the division's history) and as a heavyweight, are this writer's choices for Holyfield's five best wins..

5: WU 10 Ray Mercer, 20th May, 1995.

One year removed from his potential and at that time, assumed, final fight, Holyfield came back from both a mid-ring heart attack and a loss to Michael Moorer, to face teak-tough fellow warrior Ray Mercer. Many experts questioned whether we would see the 32-year-old Holyfield in the ring again after what happened in the Moorer fight, and these same people cringed when he signed to come back against such a formidable foe.

But, a successful trip to a faith healer later, Evander returned with a new nickname - "Warrior" having replaced "The Real Deal" - and a new, shaven-headed look to face the former WBO heavyweight champ.

Holyfield and Mercer went at it hammer and tongs for ten all-action rounds, where neither guy seemed willing to yield. With no sign whatsoever of any heart aliment, Holyfield had his usual great stamina and unbridled fighting instinct. Even managing to floor Mercer in the 8th round, "The Warrior" proved he was back. Winning via a tough, but well deserved, unanimous decision (one judge had it by just one point), Holyfield was hungry for another shot at the world title.

4: W TKO 10 Michael Dokes, 11th March, 1989.

A young and undefeated Holyfield had made the move up to heavyweight, and was having his third bout in the division. In search of a shot at heavyweight king Mike Tyson, Holyfield first met former (WBA) champ Michael "Dynamite" Dokes. This fight proved to be a very tough moment in Evander's newly chosen weight class.

Dokes was eleven fights into a winning streak that had followed his title-losing bout with Gerrie Coetzee, and his fine effort proved he was serious about becoming champion again. Giving Holyfield sheer hell in the middle and later rounds, Dokes pushed the former cruiserweight boss as hard as could be imagined. Evander later admitted this fight made him think twice about his decision to move up in weight, but he gutted it out and rallied to stop a badly fatigued but still game Dokes in the 10th. "The Real Deal" had passed his first real heavyweight test in a contest that was widely voted 1989's fight of the year.

3: WS 15 Dwight Muhammad Qawi, 12th July, 1986.

Going for his first world title, an 11-0 and 23-year-old Holyfield was seen by some as biting off more than he could chew, at least at this early stage. Going in with the solid Dwight Muhammad Qawi, a man who had all the experience in the world, Holyfield couldn't have met a tougher or finer cruiserweight to make his maiden world title assault against.

What unfolded that afternoon in Atlanta was a fight that is pretty much universally recognised as the greatest-ever cruiserweight title fight. 15 gruelling rounds set at a mind boggling pace later, Holyfield, in front of Olympic team-mates Tyrell Biggs, Meldrick Taylor, Mark Breland and others, had become the first of the great squad to have captured professional gold. It came at a price, however, as Evander reportedly lost over 12-pounds of bodily fluids during the tremendous battle. The result was a split verdict, and to this day Qawi maintains Holyfield had to have been taking an illegal substance. Still, Evander lists the win as the proudest moment of his pro career.

2: WS 12 Riddick Bowe, 6th November, 1993.

In coming back from his first ever pro defeat, Holyfield really did shock a good many experts. When defending his world heavyweight titles against the unbeaten Bowe the previous November, Holyfied had taken quite a pounding - even being sent to the mat late in the fight. Only sheer courage kept him from being stopped, and now "The Real Deal" wanted revenge. He got it.

Bowe, having enjoyed his year as champ, had gained over ten pounds and was not as toned as he was in his first clash with Holyfield. This should not take anything away from Evander's performance, however. Bringing in new coach Emanuel Steward, Holyfield approached the bigger man in a different way. As opposed to just tearing at Bowe, Holyfield gave him angles this time and wore him out. The tactics were working a treat, when a bizarre thing happened: enter "Fan Man," AKA James Miller.

Halting the fight for almost twenty minutes after his attempted landing in the ring with his power glider had failed, Miller angered many. The fight resumed after he'd been despatched to hospital (necessary after what some of the incensed fans did to him!) and the two heavyweights got back on with it. The action was not as fierce as it had been in the first fight, but it was still a damn good bout. Holyfield became a two-time heavyweight champion courtesy of a very close, but fully justified, points win.

1: W TKO 11 Mike Tyson, 9th November, 1996.

Quite simply the biggest sensation Holyfield caused in his entire career!

Not only was the 34-year-old Holyfield given no chance in this fight - by anyone - his actual health was being put at jeopardy. Or so the experts thought. Since his heart problems, Evander had shocked the odds and come back to beat a top name in Ray Mercer, he had also been KO'd for the only time in his career when he'd met Riddick Bowe in a rubber-match, and he had then looked poor in stopping former middleweight Bobby Czyz. It was this Holyfield that met the fearsome Tyson, himself having destroyed everything in his path since being released from prison, and to a man boxing fans saw "The Warrior" as a badly faded, yet still proud, force.

Would this pride see to it that Holyfield took a savage beating? No, it would see to it that he beat up the so-called "Baddest Man On The Planet." Taking the action right to Tyson, Holyfield out-punched "Iron" Mike and he took whatever came back at him with ease. Pretty soon Tyson grew discouraged and appeared to be looking for a way out. Holyfield caused a huge sensation when he decked the defending champ with a left hook in the 6th round, and then an even bigger one when he had Tyson reeling all over the ring in the 10th. The bell rang and Tyson's torment was briefly halted. But not for long.

A mere 37-seconds into the 11th round, an all-guns-blazing challenger put the finishing touches to his night's work and forced the referee (the late Mitch Halpern) to come to Tyson's rescue.

Holyfield had scored his career-finest victory!

Article posted on 17.12.2008

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