The first fight between the two in July 1986 is recognised as the division’s greatest, with Holyfield taking a split 15-round decision to win the WBA belt, his first world title.
But there were always calls for a rematch and we finally got that wish on December 5 1987, when the two clashed at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, with Holyfield’s WBA and IBF straps on the line.
They appeared on the same card three times that year. The sequel should have happened in August but Qawi lost a contentious majority decision to Ossie Ocasio in May at Caesars Palace, on the same night as Holyfield destroyed Ricky Parkey in three rounds.
The August shot instead went to Ocasio, who was beaten in 11 in France, whilst on the undercard Qawi eventually earned his rematch with a six round victory over Lee Roy Murphy.
The circumstances of the rematch were much different to their opener. Holyfield was not the novice that Qawi had fought before and he had found his “championship form”, which was unfortunate for the “Camden Buzzsaw”.
Qawi, who had no amateur background whatsoever compared to Holyfield’s illustrious vested career, had never been dropped or stopped, but he suffered both eventualities the second time around as Holyfield was exceptional, his aura growing with every performance.
“The Real Deal” had nearly a nine-inch height advantage on the 5ft 5 1/2inch Qawi, who was been soundly beaten as we entered the fourth round.
He suddenly found himself on the canvas for the first time in his career, before rising. He never recovered though and Holyfield waded in to stop the fight with another knockdown in the same round to put any chance of a third fight happening to bed.
Qawi lost his next fight to George Foreman, who was making his comeback and way back up the rankings, after his original retirement in 1977. He would also fight for one more world title, his old WBA cruiserweight in 1989 against Robert Daniels, but he lost another split decision.
He would eventually retire in 1998, as a two weight world champion with a record of 41 victories, 25 coming early, 11 losses and 2 draws, and was inducted into the IBHOF in 2004.
Holyfield was only just beginning to reach his pinnacle and he would unify the cruiserweight division and enjoy incredible success at heavyweight.
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