30 Years Ago Evander Holyfield Defended Against George Foreman
30 years ago tonight, one former Heavyweight Champion of the World George Foreman was looking to regain the title against the unbeaten, former Olympic and previous Light Heavyweight Champion, Evander Holyfield. However, ‘Big George” would be denied by “The Real Deal’s” skill, conditioning, and chin.
April 19th, 1991 was the date and the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, was the site for the showdown between the 42 year-old Foreman and the 28 year-old Holyfield. Holyfield was recently off of his thunderous, one punch KO of James “Buster” Douglas in October of 1990 wresting the WBA, WBC and IBF belts away from the man who had upset Mike Tyson.
Speaking of Tyson, there was controversy as to whether Holyfield could defend the Undisputed Championship against Foreman that night. This, as the WBC was threatening to strip him for not fighting Tyson as their number one contender.
However, Holyfield successfully blocked the WBC in court, citing the fact that he did not have to have a mandatory title defense against Tyson, as he had just won the championship within the previous 6 months. And, Holyfield had been the number one WBC Contender before the Douglas win.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump (who had been financing Mike Tyson’s title fights for Don King in the late 1980’s) landed the Holyfield-Foreman fight with an $11 million bid. The new champ got a massive $20 million guaranteed, while Foreman got an amazing $12.5 million.
The fight was the first for HBO’s new PPV arm that they called “TVKO” for many years and they had over 1.4 million homes buy the fight representing over $50 million in revenue. (A College aged author watched this one on closed circuit at a downtown Memphis auditorium with about 1,000 others and they made nearly $6 million additional total revenue off that.)
Foreman had resumed his boxing career in 1987 after an 10 year layoff that was primarily due to Muhammad Ali having knocked him out in October 1974 in the famed “Rumble in the Jungle.” And make no mistake, even though George was no longer that young, he was still dangerous with big punches and he got Holyfield’s attention and even rocked him in a couple of the rounds.
The fight was actually delayed for a moment after someone set off a smoke bomb in one of the floor level bathrooms of the Hall during the third round and several sections of the floor seating had to evacuate for 2-3 rounds.
There was solid action, but no knockdowns in this one.
And in the end, Holyfield was much more durable, constantly scoring with combinations and using movement and his jab to keep Foreman away from him. Holyfield landed over 300 punches in the bout, including some 225 power shots to just 80 for Foreman, according to Compubox.
Amazingly, Foreman did last into the championship rounds, but Holyfield won virtually every one of the final rounds of the fight on all three judges cards. There was no drama, as Evander got an easy unanimous decision allowing him to retain the championship.
He would defend two more times against Bert Cooper and former champ, Larry Holmes before Riddick Bowe upset him by unanimous decision in November of 1992.
Holyfield later regained his championship by beating Bowe a year later in their rematch. Evander lost the title right back to Michael Moorer in his next fight in April of 1994. But, he later became only the second man (besides Ali) to regain the title a second time, as he upset Tyson by TKO in November of 1996.
As for Foreman, he famously regained the Heavyweight championship himself by knocking out Moorer (in his first defense after the Holyfield win) with one big straight right to the chin in November of 1994. Foreman remains the oldest Heavyweight champ in history at 44 years of age.
Both legendary fighters are in the international Boxing Hall of Fame and they tangled on the Jersey Boardwalk three decades ago.