Heavyweight great – and cruiserweight greatest – Evander Holyfield is likely to be putting the finishing touches to his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech right about now; “The Real Deal” set to be immortalized in Canastota in a few days’ time. If ever a fighter was/is worthy of going into The Hall, it is the former undisputed cruiser king and the former four-time heavyweight ruler.
Look at the Georgia warrior’s incredible accomplishments:
Winning the WBA cruiserweight title in just his 12th pro fight, by beating the tough and seasoned Dwight Muhammad Qawi, in what is regarded as THE greatest cruiserweight fight in the division’s history, Holyfield soon became undisputed champ; with fine wins over the likes of Rickey Parkey and the tricky Carlos DeLeon. But his real goal was to become a great world heavyweight champion. Holyfield achieved this dream and then some.
Holyfield first became heavyweight champion in 1990, by knocking out an out of shape Buster Douglas in one of Evander’s rare easy fights, and he would be crowned four times in all; Holyfield being the only four-time heavyweight champion in boxing history. Who can forget Holyfield’s epic heavyweight rumbles? “Too small” to make it as a heavyweight, Holyfield made mincemeat of such talk, as he met and defeated the following big men of the sport: Douglas, George Foreman, Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer and Mike Tyson.
The trilogy with Bowe is up there with Ali-Frazier, it was so bitterly contested, the action in each fight was so special. Holyfield, upon challenging Tyson, in an attempt at becoming a three-time ruler, was not only a huge underdog, many people feared for his health, his very life even. It was perhaps the November 1996 TKO win that best proved Holyfield’s ability at crushing both his opponent and the odds.
A win over John Ruiz saw Holyfield become a four-time king (the 2000 win also earning Evander the distinction of being the only boxer to have ruled as a world champion in three consecutive decades) while only a close, debatable points loss to the colossal Nikolay Valuev in 2008 prevented Holyfield from becoming a five-time heavyweight champion.
Evander was past his best by the time he held Lennox Lewis to a hugely controversial draw and was then closely out-pointed in the return, but by the time of these fights, he had achieved more than enough to go down as a great – and, as the Ruiz and Valuev bouts showed, Holyfield wasn’t quite done yet by 1999/2000.
Retiring, in 2011, with a less than extraordinary-looking 44-10-2(29) record, Holyfield’s place in the Hall of Fame was largely earned by him never being fearful of battling the best, the odds or the critics.
Those fans on hand to cheer Holyfield’s speech will pay tribute to one of the sport’s finest – in and out of the ring.