Bowe defeats Holyfield for title New champ crowned for heavyweights by unanimous decision

November 14, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS GR PHOTO 1 — LAS VEGAS -- In a memorable championship bout that raised the echoes of the Ali-Frazier 1975 "Thrilla In Manila," unbeaten Riddick Bowe wrested the undisputed heavyweight title from Evander Holyfield, who survived the closing rounds on willpower and courage.

The youthful Bowe, who also proved he had the heart to match his obvious ring skills, staggered Holyfield in the 10th and floored him in the 11th. He could not finish the job, but the product of the same Brooklyn, N.Y., ghetto that spawned former champion Mike Tyson won the approval of the three judges by convincing margins.

Dalby Shirley and Jerry Roth each called it 117-110, and Chuck Giambra voted 115-112, giving most of the early rounds to the beaten champion, who, at 30, and with $80 million in the bank, may now decide to retire.

"I think I'm finished," the Atlanta native said. "I don't want a rematch. I feel relieved. Now I can spend more time with my kids. Boxing is just something in my life. It's a game. I realize it can't last forever. I did all I could."

Bowe commended Holyfield's raw courage in avoiding a knockout.

"I thought he was crazy. He wouldn't lay down. He just showed he had a great heart, the heart of a lion," Bowe said.

It was the first professional loss for Holyfield (28-1, 22 KOs), who had often been disparaged by critics as a "cheese champion" for having won the title two years ago by deflating a bloated Buster Douglas and defended it with 12-round decisions over boxing's "senior citizens," George Foreman and Larry Holmes, sandwiched around a knockout of journeyman Bert Cooper.

Bowe (31-0, 28 KOs), with a 30-pound pull at 235 pounds and a three-inch height advantage at 6 feet 5, was simply too big and strong for Holyfield, who has been called a bulked-up cruiserweight and repeatedly has has been accused of using steroids.

Holyfield, who was cheated out of a likely gold medal in the 1984 Olympics when he was disqualified for hitting on a break, was characteristically gracious in defeat.

"In the 10th round, he hit me with a lot of shots, knocked me pillar to post," Holyfield said.

"I thought he would tire eventually, and I'd have a chance to take him out.

"Everything I did, Bowe did better out there. He proved he was a champion."

But it was wishful thinking. Holyfield, who had wondered how Bowe would withstand the pressure of his first championship shot, was the one who wilted first before the near-capacity crowd of 19,000 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

"I thought Bowe would fold a bit," he said. "But he was able to use his jab and leverage. I just kept hoping I could get one good shot in to turn it around."

Holyfield hurt Bowe early in the fight, but his punches quickly lost their steam, and by the middle rounds, Bowe, who now makes his home in Fort Washington, Md., was firmly in command, fighting with bolstered confidence.

Bowe, who has often had his fighting heart questioned after losing in the 1988 Olympic final to Lennox Lewis, also showed courage in surviving Holyfield's early onslaught and seemed to grow in stature with each round.

"Are there any more questions about Bowe's heart?" his manager, Rock Newman, shouted to ring-siders as his protege joyously tried on his three championship belts -- the WBA, WBC and IBF -- for size.

Holyfield had grittily held his own in the first six rounds by scoring repeatedly with rapid-fire combinations, But there was no longer doubt about the outcome when Bowe stunned the champion with a short, chopping right early in the 10th round, causing his mouthpiece to fly across the ring and turning his legs to rubber.

Holyfield staggered drunkenly from corner to corner under a torrent of blows, but amazingly stayed erect. Bowe, reminiscent of George Foreman against Ali in the "Rumble in the Jungle," now seemed to grow arm weary from hitting his foe. The champion regrouped and carried the fight to Bowe in the closing minute of the round.

But he was only buying time. A crunching blow by Bowe behind the champion's ear sent Holyfield sagging to the canvas near his corner. Holyfield regained his feet and managed to survive the rest of the round. But now his crown was already knocked askew, only awaiting the official verdict to validate a new ruler of boxing's biggest prize.

"The difference between me and Foreman and Holmes was that I was bigger and stronger and able to finish the job," said Bowe, who pocketed an estimated $7 million to go with his new crown.

Bowe had dedicated the fight to Tyson, the former champion residing in an Indiana prison on a rape conviction. The new champion lacks the fury of "Iron Mike," but boasts power in both hands, landing 711 punches to Holyfield's 475 during the fast-paced bout and scoring with 357.

If things go according to plan, Bowe will face England's Lewis, who knocked out Razor Ruddock in two rounds last month in the other half of the revitalized heavyweight division's "Final Four" tournament.

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