Evander Holyfield vs. Carlos De Leon

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Holyfield De Leon 161753137.jpg

1988-04-09 : Evander Holyfield 190 lbs beat Carlos De Leon 188 lbs by TKO at 1:08 in round 8 of 12


Holyfield Batters DeLeon but Can't Put Him Down--as Tyson Looks On
By Earl Gustkey, Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1988

LAS VEGAS — If you hit an opponent in the head 200 or 300 times with every punch in the book, which is what Evander Holyfield did to Carlos DeLeon Saturday night, they're going to call you a power-hitter, a guy who lands a lot of clean punches, right?

Sure, except this is a guy who wants to be the first guy to beat Mike Tyson.

Based on what happened Saturday night at Caesars Palace, the question still remains: Holyfield may now be the undisputed cruiserweight champion, but does he carry enough sock to hurt Tyson?

Holyfield hit DeLeon with every punch known but never knocked the courageous Puerto Rican down. Finally, after Holyfield cut loose with a fearsome 20-punch barrage in the eighth round and with DeLeon helpless on the ropes, referee Mills Lane stopped it.

Holyfield, who is 18-0, may be the best combination boxer-puncher today in the heavier weight classes. He may also be the sport's sharpest puncher. He's tireless and, his people say, an exceptionally hard worker in the gym.

So when the inevitable question arose at the postfight news conference, Holyfield's trainer, Lou Duva, bristled.

The question: "Evander, you hit DeLeon a couple of hundred times with clean shots and you didn't knock him down. How can you hope to hurt Tyson?"

Duva: "Hey, hasn't it occurred to you that this guy had a pretty good chin?"

Sure. But so does Tyson, who watched from Row 1. As Tyson left, someone heard him say: "He (Holyfield) looks ready for me." One thing about the heavyweight champion, he's polite to a fault.

Anyhow, here's the game plan: Holyfield makes his debut as a heavyweight in July at Caesars Tahoe, most likely against James (Quick) Tillis. After that will come two or three more ranked heavyweights, then Tyson in early 1989.

Holyfield, who stands 6 feet 1 inch, is projected at between 205 and 210 pounds as a heavyweight. Saturday night's fight, his last as a cruiserweight, was at 190.

Holyfield weighed in a quarter-pound over that Saturday morning and came back 40 minutes later to make 190.

The Holyfield camp expected DeLeon to use a lot of lateral movement and a good left jab Saturday night, and he did neither. At the first bell, DeLeon came out and threw some stiff punches at center-ring for about 30 seconds, then retreated to the ropes.

And, unexpectedly, that's where he remained for the rest of the bout.

From midway through the first round, Holyfield whacked DeLeon repeatedly with straight rights, short rights, left hooks, uppercuts, left jabs, and occasional rights and lefts to the body.

Repeatedly, bravely, DeLeon fought back. But as the rounds went by, his counter punches off the ropes became steadily softer, steadily late, steadily less frequent. Amazingly, DeLeon--who weighed 188--had an unmarked face until Holyfield's final barrage. One of Holyfield's last right hands opened up a gash on DeLeon's left eyelid.

Holyfield agreed afterward he'd landed plenty of scoring blows, but not the punch he needed to put his foe away.

"I got him with good shots, but never on the button," Holyfield said.

"He takes a good shot and he really wanted to win. I was careful with him, I didn't want to get caught with anything from him off the ropes. He's got a good chin. When I got in close on him, he jammed up a lot of my punches by crowding me.

"I probably did too much head hunting. I probably should have thrown a lot more jabs and gone to the body more. But he was tough to hit in the body, the way he leans."

DeLeon indicated he left his best fight in the gym, when asked why he remained on the ropes all the way.

"Something happened in training the last few days, I don't know," he said, through an interpreter. "My legs weren't right. My plan was to box him in center-ring, move side-to-side and use my left jab, but I just couldn't."

On the three judges' scorecards, two judges gave Holyfield every round except Dalby Shirley, who gave DeLeon the first. The Times' card had Holyfield ahead after seven, 70-60.

After the sixth, when Holyfield closed out the round with a savage barrage of eight unanswered punches that rocked DeLeon, it seemed at that point DeLeon had no chance to win the fight but that he might go the 12-round distance.

And up to that point, DeLeon had been fighting back bravely, from the fog of an impending knockout. But now he wasn't. Also at that point, it seemed as if Holyfield was running the risk of breaking a hand on DeLeon's head.

In the end, Holyfield saluted DeLeon, who is 43-4-1.

"DeLeon was a true champion," he said. "He was brave and he fought with dignity. He wasn't about to lose on one or two punches."

And neither will Mike Tyson.