In the “Golden Era of Heavyweight Boxing,” two of the most prominent names tangled with each other on a June night in the Vegas desert in 1992.
That’s when reigning Undisputed Heavyweight Champ, Evander Holyfield, put his belt on the line against the man who held the titles for some seven years and over 20 successful title defenses himself, Larry Holmes.
June 19th, 1992, at the outdoor arena at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas was the date, as Holyfield made the third defense of his championships that he had won just two years earlier with a devastating one punch KO of James “Buster” Douglas.
The champ came in having beaten George Foreman in his first title defense by decision and then, stopped Bert Cooper in Atlanta the previous November to put him squarely in front of the iconic Holmes. Holmes was attempting to regain the heavyweight title, yet another time. This after Michael Spinks had denied him in their rematch in 1985 and then, the menacing Undisputed Champ, Mike Tyson, had destroyed him in a fourth round knockout in 1988.
Holmes had scored a significant win by upsetting former Olympic gold medalist, “Merciless” Ray Mercer in February of ’92 setting up the showdown with Holyfield.
However, the magic that the aging “Easton Assassin” had shown that night against Mercer never materialized against the young unbeaten, energetic Holyfield.
Holyfield was much more active with a heavy punch volume, landing frequently with left hooks and right hands, as Holmes waited to counter along the ropes throughout much of the fight. Holmes actually scored a couple of significant blows in the second round, drawing a rise out of the crowd. But, Holyfield immediately re-established himself in the second frame and continued to score more the more important blows, not just in that round but early on in the fight.
As things wore on, Holyfield clearly demonstrated that he was the superior fighter on that early 90s Summer night and never was threatened by the formerly lethal Holmes right cross.
In the end, the fight went to 12-round distance and the judges scoring reflected how Holyfield had dominated. Two cards were 116-112 ( 8 rounds to 4) and the third judge had it 117-111.
The Associated Press actually scored the fight even more lopsided at 118 – 110 for the 27-year old champ.
Watch the battle here:
Holyfield had now cashed in on his celebrity stardom and made a guaranteed $12 million for the fight with larger share of the pay-per-view and closed circuit sales making him closer to $20 million when it was over.
Holyfield would go on to battle Riddick Bowe that November in a tremendous 12-round bout, where Bowe upset the Undisputed Champ with a late rally to earn a decision and the claim the titles.
Holyfield won the rematch with Bowe a year later in November of 1993 with a brilliant performance. However, it was overshadowed by the bizarre incident of a fan on a motorized paraglider landing on the ring apron in the middle of the seventh round of the fight delaying things for almost 10 minutes. Holyfield re-focused and out fought Bowe capturing at 12 round majority decision.
Holyfield would go on to lose and regain at least a portion of the Heavyweight Championship twice more, including his two victories over Mike Tyson and later defeating John Ruiz in August of 2000 to become the only man to gain at least a portion of the heavyweight championship four different times.
Holyfield’s legendary career ended at 44 – 10 with two draws and 29 KOs and many, many memorable wins.
Holmes would fight on until 2002 with a 69 – 6 record in 44 KO’s, and received the ultimate all time boxing honor of going into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008.