TODAY (July 12) in 1986, at The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia, two cruiserweights put on a truly unforgettable 15-round war of a fight that still ranks, all these years later in the opinion of many, as the finest to have been waged in the weight class. And though at the time the still relatively new cruiserweight division was both dismissed and mocked by many a fan and expert, the battle between Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Evander Holyfield went a long way towards getting the division accepted by all.
Holyfield, a 1984 Olympian who was having his 12th pro bout, was seen by many as too inexperienced for the tough, dangerous and crafty born-again Muslim who used to be known as Dwight Braxton. Holyfield, the critics said, ran out of gas after just a few rounds of warfare, and if that happened against Qawi he would be in a whole heap of trouble.
And for a time in his brave, maybe even impertinent challenge of Qawi, it looked as though the 23-year-old would indeed capitulate. Qawi, using all the experience he had gained in picking up his 28-4-1 ledger, allowed the man a decade his junior to let loose with his big shots in the early going.
By the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds it looked as though Holyfield was dead tired, his guns emptied. But, to Qawi’s shock and to the crowd’s delight, Holyfield got his second wind somewhere in the sixth and then picked up a third wind in the later rounds! Qawi hung with him, but the fresher, younger, faster fighter was, amazingly, boxing and slugging his way to glory. The action was breathtaking, the two taking turns stunning one another as they traded with barely a clinch to be seen. Holyfield, who had to go to the hospital immediately after the slugfest, reportedly lost something approaching a stone (14 pounds) of weight in fluids due to his heroic effort.
Qawi, who had trundled forward all night, his broad grin and the top of his head being pretty much all Holyfield had to look at for all 15-rounds, was bitter in defeat, feeling the split decision that went to Holyfield was unjust.
However no one who saw the fight will ever forget it.