7. Riddick Bowe Vs Evander Holyfield I
November 13, 1992
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Thomas and Mack Center
After knocking out Buster Douglas to become the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, Evander Holyfield’s first three title defenses were against Bert Cooper and over-the-hill greats George Foreman and Larry Holmes. The 30-year-old champion would next defend his title against 25-year-old Riddick Bowe, one of the most talented big men the sport had ever seen. Both my father and I agreed that Bowe was too big and too powerful for Holyfield to defeat. What we didn’t know was just how much of Holyfield’s warrior mentality would make this one of the greatest fights in heavyweight boxing history.
Bowe had the best jab in the division and we expected him to control Holyfield with it and land everything else off of it. But in round one, it was Holyfield who was moving and landing a more effective jab. That all came to an end in round 2. Rounds two through four saw the two heavyweights stay inside and land one bomb after the other. My father and I were shocked that at 6’5” how great of an inside fighter Bowe was against the three inches shorter Holyfield. Bowe landed the harder and more significant punches, especially his right uppercut and left hook. Holyfield’s bombs were not moving Bowe. Bowe was hurting Holyfield, but Holyfield’s warrior mentality kept him coming.
Holyfield went back to boxing and utilizing his jab in the fifth round. Bowe looked very fatigued in the fifth and was outworked. Bowe came back strong in the sixth, as Holyfield was now fatigued as well and the fight stayed inside. Both men, visibly tired, took turns in rounds seven through nine, landing one vicious combination after another. After nine rounds, both fighters’ right eyes were dangerously close to being closed.
Bowe started round 10 by landing a stiff left jab and two pulverizing right uppercuts that had Holyfield in deep trouble. Bowe then landed over 35 consecutive shots to Holyfield’s head and body. I could not believe that Holyfield stood up against this brutal onslaught. After his barrage of punches, Bowe had punched himself out. Still hurt, Holyfield stunned Bowe with a right uppercut of his own and then again with a tremendous right cross. The round ended with both men landing huge combinations at the bell. It was one of the greatest rounds in the history of boxing.
Holyfield jumped on Bowe right away in round 11, sensing that Bowe was still hurt. Holyfield walked into a crushing left hook that staggered him and then seconds later Bowe landed a clubbing right hand that finally knocked the champion down. Holyfield got up and was both very hurt and tired. Bowe decided not to take a chance and instead used his jab to keep Holyfield at bay for the rest of the 11th and entire 12th round. Bowe won a decisive unanimous decision and was now the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Bowe would lose his title back to Holyfield a year later in the infamous “Fan Man” fight, a fight that was almost as great as their first fight. On November 4, 1995, Bowe would knock out Holyfield in the eighth round to complete one of the great trilogies in boxing history. Unfortunately for Bowe, that was the last great victory of his career. In 1996, he would absorb an inordinate amount of punishment in two brutal disqualification victories over Andrew Golota. Bowe would retire at age 29, but his post fight career would be strife with controversy. He kidnapped his estranged wife and children while crossing state lines, resulting in Bowe spending 17 months in federal prison. Bowe would return to the ring and fought three times between 2005 and 2008. Bowe won all three fights against three stiffs but showed none of the skills that made him champion. Today, Bowe is in severe physical and financial trouble. Another sad victim of boxing.
On the other hand, Holyfield was thought to be finished after his third fight with Bowe. Almost a year later, he stopped Mike Tyson in the 11th round in a shocking upset to once again hold a version of the heavyweight title. He would lose a unification title fight with Lennox Lewis in November of 1999, but continued to fight way past his prime. Holyfield finally retired at the age of 50 in 2012. He currently runs his own boxing promotion and is an outstanding ambassador to the sport.