THIS fight was refreshing for many reasons, not least that two unbeaten fighters were vying for the three major heavyweight championships on offer. Add that the bout was fought, atypically for the division, at a frenetic pace and that, while Bowe came out a pretty conclusive winner, both men had proved something by the final bell.
Bowe, by first matching then surpassing Holyfield’s workrate, showed he could fight for every minute of every round, while his victim refused to fold despite being floored late on by a man with a 30lb weight advantage. These were just some of the elements that combined to create the most exciting heavyweight duel in many years.
Prior to this match, Holyfield’s reign had been besieged by criticism. Points victories over ageing duo George Foreman and Larry Holmes sandwiched a stoppage of journeyman Bert Cooper. Meanwhile, young “Big Daddy” Bowe, the 1992 Olympic silver medallist, had been staking his claim, defeating a mix of sliding veterans and fringe contenders before Pierre Coetzer in seven rounds of a WBA eliminator four months previously. This was a chance for the “Real Deal”, a former cruiserweight king, to solidify his heavyweight status at the expense of Bowe’s youthful ambition.
Holyfield started well, his rapid-fire combinations stinging his opponent as Bowe adjusted to the hectic tempo. Riddick gradually gained a foothold with an effective jab, solid right hands – both aided by his three-inch reach advantage – and the gradual introduction of some dangerous uppercuts. His sporadic forays below the belt didn’t hurt either.
Surviving Evander’s initial onslaught, Bowe had already thwarted the detractors who questioned his intestinal fortitude. Surprisingly it was super-fit Holyfield who faded – ever so slightly – first in a furious battle that featured countless stirring exchanges. Bowe punished him mercilessly in the 10th as Holyfield embodied courage under fire to survive, before flooring the champion with a right hand in round 11. Holyfield showed typically immense heart to stay the course after that.
Bowe did not remain undisputed champion for long, his reluctance to face WBC mandatory Lennox Lewis costing him their title, but won his series with Holyfield – the only man to ever defeat him – 2-1. Evander would win versions of the title a further three times.
November 13 – Unlucky for Holyfield
Holyfield would lose his rematch to Lennox Lewis on November 13 1999, and his decline was confirmed on November 13, 2004 when he was widely outscored by Larry Donald.