Holyfield floors Moorer in eight WBA champ adds IBF title, sending foe to canvas five times

November 09, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- This time there would be no talk of a failing heart, a sore shoulder, a cut eye or a lack of motivation.

Evander Holyfield buried the frustration of losing his heavyweight title to Michael Moorer three years ago and firmly established himself as the world's premier heavyweight by dropping Moorer five times last night before ring doctor Flip Homansky advised referee Mitch Halpern to stop the brutal bout at the end of the eighth round.

Holyfield, 35, the World Boxing Association champion, picked up Moorer's International Boxing Federation championship belt last night and now will strive to become the undisputed champion by challenging World Boxing Council champion Lennox Lewis next spring, if boxing's politics can be surmounted.

Holyfield said he was eager to complete the unification of the heavyweight crown.

"Don King is my promoter," he said. "If he can make the fight with Lennox Lewis, let's get it on."

The opening bell of the main event at the Thomas & Mack Center was delayed to 1 a.m. by a lengthy undercard of title bouts that failed to rouse the restless crowd.

Holyfield (35-3), who had become the "people's champion," by twice stopping the fearsome Mike Tyson, entered the ring as a 3-1 favorite despite his previous loss to Moorer (39-2), who had only lost to George Foreman before last night.

Holyfield also received the lion's share of the purses from promoter King, earning $20 million compared to $5 million for Moorer.

Holyfield, with his body builder's physique, weighed 214. Moorer, just days from his 30th birthday, scaled 223, showing slight flab around his waist. Emanuel Steward, who had trained both fighters, felt that Holyfield had worked too hard to maintain his sculptured body.

The cheers of the crowd indicated Holyfield, who spent Thursday leading a religious revival meeting at a minor-league ballpark, was the clear-cut favorite.

There were more questions surrounding Moorer, who had replaced longtime trainer Teddy Atlas as his principal cornerman by hiring Freddie Roach.

Atlas had been credited with motivating Moorer in his 1994 victory over Holyfield and when he reclaimed his title from Germany's Axel Schulz last year after suffering his only loss to Foreman.

Holyfield had vowed to put pressure on his left-handed rival from the opening bell, exchanged jabs in the first minute while Moorer looked to land to the body.

After Holyfield landed two crisp combinations, Moorer landed an overhand right square on Holyfield's chin that made the WBA king give ground, drawing a roar from the crowd.

As he did in the first encounter, Moorer was able to land his jab effectively, setting up his power punches. He shook Holyfield with another right in the second round. Halpern warned Holyfield for hitting low.

Holyfield looked more determined at the start of the third round. He pinned Moorer in the corner with a barrage of solid punches, but his momentum was stalled by an unintentional butt.

Halpern called time and Homansky examined a slight cut over Holyfield's right eye. Holyfield blinked a few times, but ended the round by landing a straight right to Moorer's chin.

The action turned up several notches in the fourth round with several furious toe-to-toe exchanges. Moorer had the best of it in the opening minute, but Holyfield closed strong, landing a five-punch combination that made Moorer briefly give ground.

The crowd of 13,200 began chanting "Holyfield! Holyfield!" as encouragement in the fifth round. But Moorer's supporters from Detroit soon answered back.

Holyfield began to box on his toes, but only briefly. Moorer caught him with several jarring lefts. Suddenly, Holyfield scored with a left and crushing right hand that sent Moorer flying to the canvas. Moorer gamely regained his feet and his eyes looked clear as the bell ended the round.

The pace slackened in the sixth as both fighters searched for openings. Holyfield seemed bothered by his cut eye, brushing it with his gloves. There were no telling punches landed in the round.

Holyfield took complete charge in the seventh round, dropping Moorer twice with a vicious uppercut on the point of the jaw. Moorer showed considerable fortitude in beating the count and surviving the round as the referee looked on with concern.

Moorer looked less willing to get into a war in the eighth round. Holyfield moved in looking to finish it, landing a wicked three-punch combination that dropped Moorer for the fourth time.

Again, Moorer showed a willingness to continue, only to walk into another crushing series of blows that put him down again. The bell sounded, but Halpern waved an end to the lively battle.

In earlier bouts, Wilfredo Vasquez of Puerto Rico retained his WBA featherweight championship over Genaro Rios of Nicaragua on a unanimous decision that was booed by the near-capacity crowd.

Rios (16-4) proved a willing challenger and pressured Vasquez throughout the fight, but the champion's punches packed more authority.

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