30 Years Ago Today: When Michael Moorer Made History And Evander Holyfield Suffered A Heart Attack!

By James Slater - 04/22/2024 - Comments

We seem to often forget who the very first southpaw heavyweight champion of the world was. Michael Moorer, a vicious banger of a nasty light heavyweight, is the man, and it was 30 years today when he did it. Moorer, who had worked with Kronk and the great Emanuel Steward, had piled on the pounds to go to heavyweight, with him also going to new trainer Teddy Atlas. And against Evander Holyfield, Moorer and Atlas won the big one.

Moorer, who had won fights at heavyweight since moving up – included here a slugfest of a win over Bert Cooper, and another one over Alex Stewart, both men having also shared a ring with Holyfield – had changed his fighting style as well as his trainer. Against Holyfield, Moorer was a cautious, calculating boxer-puncher, not a KO-minded killer.

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The two met in Vegas on April 22 of 1994, and Holyfield – who had recently regained the title from Riddick Bowe in a brilliant tactical fight that was masterminded by Steward – entered the ring against Moorer whilst carrying a shoulder injury. Fans got a fight that could perhaps politely be referred to as interesting if not too exciting. Holyfield decked Moorer early, in round two, but he never came close to taking Moorer out.

Instead, his damaged rotator cuff bothering him, 31 year old Holyfield was outworked, just about, by his 26 year old foe. Moorer inflicted a cut above the defending champ’s left eye in the fifth, and Holyfield relied on his own new trainer, Don Turner (who had replaced Steward, who had replaced the George Benton, Lou Duva partnership) to attend to the cut whilst also giving him advice in the corner.

Holyfield, way below par, still managed to keep the fight close, but Moorer was edging the rounds. Famously, Atlas, angered at the way his charge was just doing enough and was “not digging,” at one point sat in Moorer’s corner during the pre-fight rest period, bellowing at his fighter how he would swap places with him if he didn’t start fighting as hard as he could.

“You start doing what we trained to do, otherwise don’t come back to this f*****g corner,” Atlas would yell at Moorer on another occasion during the fight. Moorer nodded and he tried to up his output.

At the final bell it was close, as Atlas had felt was the case. Moorer walked away with a majority decision win. Had the knockdown Holyfield scored in round two been scored a 10-8 round in his favour by all three judges, Evander would have retained the crown via a draw. Instead, Jerry Roth somehow made the decision to score the 2nd round 10-10. An appeal was launched, to no avail.

Moorer, a perfect 35-0(30), was the new heavyweight king. After the fight, however, the biggest talking point was Holyfield’s hospitalisation, the former champ supposedly having suffered a heart attack. Holyfield’s career was over. Or was it? Instead, Holyfield was “healed,” and he would box on for many years, even becoming champion again twice over.

Moorer would make his maiden title defence against a living legend named George Foreman.

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