On This Day: When Evander Holyfield And Michael Dokes Gave Us A Heavyweight War To Cherish

By James Slater - 03/11/2024 - Comments

Whether you prefer Evander Holyfield’s “Warrior” nickname, or his “Real Deal” ring monicker, there is absolutely no doubt Holyfield engaged in too many thrillers/wars/classic rumbles to be able to easily and quickly name. That said, plenty of Evander’s great fights will always be remembered.

In his epic slugfests with Riddick Bowe, George Foreman, Ray Mercer, Dwight Muhammad Qawi (THE greatest cruiserweight fight of them all), Mike Tyson, and Bert Cooper, Holyfield thrilled the world as he also cemented his place amongst the sport’s most ferociously determined warriors.

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It was on this day back in 1989, when Holyfield, still new to the heavyweight division, with the critics saying he was “too small” for the big men of the sport, gave us his first heavyweight epic. Facing the been-around-the-block, up and down Michael Dokes, a former heavyweight titlist, the former unified cruiserweight king was having his first real test at the new weight. And what a test “Dynamite” gave Holyfield.

The two collided in Las Vegas, the venue Caesars Palace. The fight was dubbed “A Date with Destiny.” A gruelling, physically damaging battle ensued.

Dokes, who has cleaned himself up after having fallen into a major drug habit, went right at Holyfield, the action red-hot from the get-go. Holyfield adopted counter-punching tactics. Dokes used a good deal of his dynamite in an effort at hurting Holyfield’s much slimmer midsection.

Dokes, 37-1-2, and the older man by four years at age 30, still had great hand speed. Holyfield, a perfect 20-0 but just 2-0 as a heavyweight, showed just about everything in the war. There were low blows from both, there was fierce trading, there were switches in momentum, there were second winds. And there was a leave-no-arguments finish. By the seventh session, fans were in no doubt: they were watching a heavyweight classic unfold. But youth prevailed in the end. Holyfield, who had been extended a real welcome to the heavyweight division by a fully motivated Dokes, showed he had the chin to handle a heavyweight shot, and Evander also showed that his own punches had an effect on a bigger man.

Dokes, who was unable to physically maul Holyfield, had his last great round in the eighth, with Holyfiel’s freshness serving him well after that. Dokes, who had been carrying a cut eye since the sixth, was cracked by several Holyfield left hooks in the tenth, with a follow-up right seeing Dokes, on the ropes, finally hit the mat just as ref Richard Steele made his move to stop the fight.

Holyfield had passed one massive heavyweight gut check. And we fans got a great fight. Was it really 35 years ago when this one went down!?

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