Riddick Bowe became Undisputed Champ nearly 30 years ago
It was a thrilling night in the Las Vegas desert nearly three decades ago as unbeaten, Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield put his titles on the line against unbeaten contender Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe. And in the end, the younger bigger and harder punching Bowe wore down the champ and be came ‘the King,” himself.
November 13th, 1992 was the date and the Thomas and Mack Center just off the Las Vegas Strip was the site, as Holyfield was defending his Undisputed Championship for the fourth time. Having dethroned Buster Douglas with a single punch to capture the crown November of 1990,
Holyfield had followed up by beating legends George Foreman and Larry Holmes by 12-round decisions. He also put forth a lacklustrer title defense, including being knocked down, by journeyman at “Smokin’ Bert “Cooper before stopping Cooper to retain the belts.
Meanwhile, Bowe came in as a former U.S. Olympian and a rising star, who had earned the WBC’s number one ranking by defeating South African Pierre Coetzer, to earn the title shot. The 6-5 235 lb. Brooklyn-bred challenger was also known for his massive right hand.
And on this night, he would score with it repeatedly against the champion on his way to making history.
HBO Sports had the call on their TVKO Pay Per View with Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Foreman himself, at ringside. The fight sold over 900,000 pay-per-views true HBO and generated more than $30 million dollars in revenue.
And, from the outset, Bowe dominated the action by landing more frequently with his left jab and the right behind it. Holyfield was able to get inside and occasionally land is trademark left hook, but Bowe withstood much of the punishment.
It appeared the challenger was ahead going into the championship rounds and in the 10th he rocked Holyfield with a big uppercut which staggered the champ and had him on the verge of going down for the first time in the fight. Amazingly, Holyfield weather the storm and even hurt Bowe later in the tenth with a left and a right uppercut of his own. The two fighter traded big punches in the final 30 seconds to end a thrilling round 10.
The 11th round saw Bowe catch Holyfield again early on with an uppercut and eventually, hammer him with several punches, including the big overhand right hand along the ropes to the side of the champ’s head. Holyfield crumbled onto both knees and took the mandatory eight count for the first knockdown of the fight.
Incredibly, with more than two minutes to go in the round, Holyfield somehow was able to hang on and recover enough to even rally and throw some punches back at Bowe. Still, Bowe had won the convincing 11th round by two points and now appeared well on his way to a decision victory.
To his credit and with his right eye swelling almost shut, the champion was not going to leave without at least trying something dramatic in the 12th. And, Holyfield did land several significant punches on Bowe. But, Bowe was still fresh and able to land a couple of big right hands of his own that staggered Holyfield, again.
The fighters traded big punches in the final 15 seconds of the fight with the crowd on its feet roaring at the final bell.
In the end the decision was a lopsided one, as Bowe won unanimously by scores of 117-110 on two of the cards and 115 – 112 on the other.
And, the 7 to 5 Underdog had outlanded the champ in punches 357 to 242 to have his hand raised in jubilation as the new Undisputed heavyweight Champion of the World.
Ring magazine voted it their “Fight of the Year for 1992” and it would lead to a rematch a year later. That’s when Holyfield out-slugged the heavier for the rematch, Bowe and even survived the bizarre incident of a fan on an electric paraglider crashing into the ring apron during the middle of one of the rounds of the fight.
After a 20-minute delay, Holyfield regained his composure and repeatedly scored on the inside on Bowe to regain his championship by majority decision. The fighters would meet a third time later on in their careers with Bowe winning by 8th round TKO in the rubber match.
Bowe would finish with a 43-1 career record, with the Holyfield rematch being his only pro loss.
Holyfield continued his Hall of Fame career in the 90’s by losing the title to Michael Moorer in 1994, but regaining the title a second time, by beating Mike Tyson by TKO in 1996.
Still, a thrilling fight and the biggest moment of Riddick Bowe’s career came in that first fight, 28 years ago, when “Big Daddy” Bowe became the Undisputed Champ of the World.