The first fight (see absolute war) cruiserweight kings Evander Holyfield and Dwight Muhammad Qawi engaged in, ranks as perhaps THE greatest, most action-packed fight in the division’s history. In the summer of 1986, the tougher than tough Qawi, defending his WBA title against 1984 Olympian Holyfield, lost a 15 round split decision in a fight (see absolute war) that took a whole lot out of both warriors.
Holyfield went to the hospital, where he was immediately hooked up to an IV, his body weight having dropped by an alarming amount due to the sheer hell the young fighter had put his very being through during those 45-minutes of hell with the ever-rampaging Qawi. What the brutality took out of the decade older Qawi we did not know. But maybe we got an answer when the two greats hooked up again for the rematch, this in December of 1987 (36 years ago today).
Since the epic fight of July, ’86, Holyfield had grown as a fighter, his team having assured Evander – who wanted to quit after the gruelling Qawi encounter – that he would never again have to go through such an ordeal. Having retained his WBA belt and also winning the IBF portion of the cruiserweight crown, Holyfield was a man on a mission when he ran into Qawi in the rematch.
Perfect at 16-0, Holyfield was one of the best fighters in the world. Qawi, now aged 34, had gone 2-1 since dropping the close decision to Holyfield. But was Qawi still the same hell-bent, destructive force he had been? A former prison inmate who had made astonishingly fast progress as a boxer, Qawi perhaps gave us his last great fight against Holyfield the first time around.
That said, fans and experts strapped themselves in in anticipation of another epic ahead of the return fight. But this time, Holyfield, a master of his craft the way Qawi had once been, dominated things.
The fight took place in Atlantic City, and the action was pretty close for three rounds, if not anything like as hectic as the first fight’s early going. Then, in the fourth round, Holyfield dumped the 5’6” “Camden Buzzsaw” heavily on the seat of his trunks. Qawi got up and fired back, but a screaming Holyfield right dropped Dwight again, the second knockdown closing the show.
Holyfield was well on his way to proving he was not only the best cruiserweight in the world at the time, but very likely the greatest cruiserweight in boxing history. We must remember how Qawi – who fought on for over ten years after being starched by Holyfield – was only ever stopped by two men, these being Holyfield and, up at heavyweight, yes, heavyweight, George Foreman.
The first fight/slugfest between Holyfield and Qawi ranks as one of the greatest fights ever seen, regardless of weight class. The KO Holyfield scored in the rematch might rank as one of the most noteworthy the “Warrior” ever picked up.