On Friday, September 4, 2015, twenty World Heavyweight Champions gathered in Hollywood, FL at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Michael Moorer, Shannon Briggs, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali Klitschko, Oliver McCall, Hasim Rahman, Riddick Bowe, Michael Spinks, Leon Spinks, James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Michael Bentt, Ray Mercer, Tim Witherspoon, Lamon Brewster, Chris Byrd, John Ruiz, Mike Weaver, Bruce Seldon, Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tubbs, Tony Tucker, and Larry Holmes all attended the event. The atmosphere was light as the heavyweights, dressed in tuxedos, clowned around with one another, joked, and reflected on their careers.
“Everything I’ve done has come from sticking to the basic principle that my mom taught me,” said four-time World Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield. “Set goals and believe in yourself.”
Lennox Lewis took some time to reflect on his post-boxing career.
“The transition to commentator came naturally to me because I’m a boxer,” explained Lewis. “However, I really like the old style of commentary wherein the announcers wait until between the rounds to comment on what’s just occurred. I’ve always loved Howard Cosell.”
At that moment, Oliver McCall ran over and began throwing faux punches at both Lewis and this writer.
“I love my new role in helping young boxers,” said the jovial McCall, who took Lewis’s WBC title by TKO in 1994.
“I just worked Molina’s corner for the Wilder fight,” McCall continued. “Deontay won, but I really enjoyed the experience and would like to continue doing that.”
“It’s natural for us,” added Lewis, who avenged his loss to McCall with a TKO victory in 1997. “Whether I’m commentating on television or watching another fighter in a gym somewhere, when a boxer drops his right hand as he throws a left, I’m going to notice that immediately and I will say something. I have to say something when I see that.”
John Ruiz, who became WBA World Heavyweight Champion in 2001 with a unanimous decision over Evander Holyfield, similarly enjoys mentoring young boxers in retirement.
“I do not miss being in the ring boxing myself,” said Ruiz. “But I train young people now and I really enjoy it.”
Hasim Rahman, who knocked out Lewis for the heavyweight title only to have Lewis return to avenge the loss, took a few minutes to share his thoughts on how boxing has changed in his lifetime.
“Too many belts and titles,” said Rahman. “Interim titles, super champions. And these catch weights have to go too.”
Larry Holmes, who successfully defended the World Heavyweight Championship twenty times, also shared his thoughts on the state of boxing.
“It has changed so, so much,” said Holmes. “The best fighters used to fight the best fighters. We wanted to fight the best. We had to fight the best.”
Lewis shared his fellow champions’ complaints about the current state of the sport.
“I’m glad I retired when I did. What’s the point in going back, after accomplishing so much, and fighting a guy who has three losses? That proves nothing, and it’s something I never would have done,” Lewis expounded in an apparent jab at Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s decision to fight Andre Berto.
Mike Tyson, perhaps the most famous Heavyweight Champion since Muhammad Ali, was present but short spoken.
“I don’t,” Tyson replied when asked how he compares being a boxer to being a boxing promoter.
When Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko arrived together, their towering size was noticeable even among eighteen other heavyweights.
“I was smaller than the other heavyweights,” said Chris Byrd. “But those Klitschko brothers took the size of the heavyweight division to another level.”
Byrd has unique perspective on the Klitschko brothers. After going up in weight an astounding three weight classes, from super middleweight at his pro debut to heavyweight shortly after, Chris Byrd eventually boxed both Klitschko brothers back to back. He beat Vitali in 2000 to claim the WBO title and lost the same title to Wladimir six months later.
“Vitali is smarter in the ring,” explained Byrd. “But Wladimir hits three times as hard. Three times. No joke.”
Vitali Klitschko recently retired from boxing and is now the mayor of Kiev, Ukraine.
“Boxing is easy because it is clean, not dirty,” the elder Klitschko brother explained. “Politics is dirty. Politics is really dirty.”
Wladimir Klitschko, reigning WBA, WBO and IBF Heavyweight Champion, remained focused on his next opponent, Tyson Fury, who he is scheduled to defend his belts against in Germany on October 24, 2015.
“Tyson Fury,” said the reigning champion when asked which fighters he was interested in fighting. “He is my next opponent and all of my focus is on Fury.”
Event administrators indicated that Michael Moorer was responsible for the historic gathering of heavyweights. However, Moorer was quite humble.
“This was a group effort,” said the former WBO, WBA, and IBF World Heavyweight Champion. “Many people worked very hard to make this happen.”
Administrators and Moorer both indicated that the gathering was part of a documentary that is being filmed, but gave no further details.
Shannon Briggs will face Michael Marrone on Saturday, September 5, 2015 in a ten-round heavyweight bout at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, FL.
Bill Barner is a former certified “USA Boxing” Judge, Referee, and Trainer. He is a former sparring partner for several amateur and professional fighters and currently practices criminal and immigration law in South Florida for Barner Legal PA. He has appeared in The Ring Magazine, Bleacher Report, VOICE Magazine, Youngstown Vindicator, USABF, and is a regular contributor to East Side Boxing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @BarnerBill.