Imagine if he’d fought him when he was in his prime.
This was the feeling a good number of fight fans had at the conclusion of the heavyweight world title fight that took place in Las Vegas today in 1992. A primed and peaking Evander Holyfield made the third defence of his world title a successful one but he failed to win over those critics who felt he was too small, that the former undisputed cruiserweight king was merely “borrowing” the belts until Mike Tyson was released from prison.
Holyfield won a decision over ageing former ruler Larry Holmes, but “The Real Deal” did not look good in doing so. Holmes, 42 years of age but still carrying with him into the ring an effective mixture of experience, cunning and guile, boxed a fine defensive fight, during which the old champ managed to sneak in some decent shots; early on in the fight especially. Holmes also drew blood from the undefeated 29 year old, courtesy of an accidental elbow to the eye in round-six.
Holmes was never in any real danger of going down, of being taken out, but he was never really that close to pulling off the upset. Holyfield’s youth simply allowed his punch output to outdo that of his challenger. Both men knew they’d been in a fight at the end, however. Holyfield was a little tired and more than a little frustrated, while the sheer toll Holmes had put on his body forced him to vomit just as the final bell rang. Both men had earned their money, yet Holyfield had not won too much in the way of praise.
Ironically, this praise, and with it a good deal of respect, would come in Holyfield’s next fight – a loss, his first as a pro, to Riddick Bowe. For now though, fans, plenty of them anyway, had made up their minds: Holyfield was no great heavyweight and he never would be. But while it is true a peak Holmes would almost certainly have had too much for the warrior from Atlanta, Holyfield would, in time, prove he was indeed a special fighter.
So too was Holmes, even at his advanced age and after almost 60 pro bouts. It turned out that Holyfield, then 27-0, needed more time, more fights with which to win over his critics. Of course, this is something the young Holmes could have empathised with.