Evander Holyfield vs. Larry Holmes

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1992-06-19 : Larry Holmes 233 lbs lost to Evander Holyfield 210 lbs by UD in round 12 of 12

It Wasn't Pretty, but Holyfield Still Retains Title
By Phil Berger, New York Times, June 20, 1992

LAS VEGAS, Nev., June 19 — Call it winning ugly, but call it a victory for Evander Holyfield.

Holyfield outworked a cunning former champion, Larry Holmes, tonight and scored a unanimous 12-round decision to retain his undisputed heavyweight title at the outdoor ring at Caesars Palace.

All three judges -- Carol Castellano (116-112), Chuck Giampa (116-112) and Glen Hamada (117-111) scored the bout for the 29-year-old champion from Atlanta.

But it wasn't easy for Holyfield. The 42-year-old Holmes, who held the heavyweight title from 1978 to 1985, gained respect with his clever tactics.

For most of the fight, Holmes positioned himself against the ropes and invited Holyfield to throw his lead lefts. Holmes sought to counter Holyfield with chopping right hands and right uppercuts.

It never happened. Holmes did his best work with that spider's web tactic early. In the second round, he landed big punches as his cornermen shouted: "Chop the tree, big Jack. Chop the tree."

But big Jack, Holmes's nickname, simply didn't have the ax to swing. He did have the resourcefulness to make Holyfield look sloppy. He was able to parry many of Holyfield's punches with his gloves or lean away and take the punches -- particularly Holyfield's left hook -- on his shoulders. He fought a measured, smart fight, but it was not enough against a champion who simply did not stop throwing punches.

Holmes did his best damage in the sixth round when he opened a cut over Holyfield's right eye.

Larry Merchant, who did the color commentary for the Home Box Office replay of the bout, said replays showed the cut was caused when Holmes's elbow hit Holyfield on the follow-through of a missed right hand.

Although the cut bled from time to time during the fight, it did not appear to impede Holyfield's vision.

"He proved to be a classy fighter, and he has great defense," said Holyfield. "I hit him with a lot of good body shots. I wasn't looking to take him out with one shot. He fought a smart fight. It's hard to knock out a defensive fighter."

Holmes was a gracious loser.

"He's a great fighter," Holmes said of Holyfield. "He's a lot stronger than I thought."

"I didn't get knocked out like you guys said I would," Holmes told reporters at ringside.

Did he think he had won?

"I did," he said. "You can't keep a good man down."

He leaned over the ropes to shake hands with ringsiders and waved to the crowd.

"I couldn't get the jab to work," he said.

Asked earlier by a television reporter whether he would fight again, Holmes was noncommittal.

"I'm going to go fishing," he said.

Holyfield's plans call for him to face the winner of the July 18 match between Riddick Bowe and Pierre Coetzer at the Mirage here. That bout is said to be set for Nov. 13. With his victory Holyfield is undefeated in 28 bouts, 22 of which he has won by knockout. Holmes's record is 54-4 with 37 knockouts.

Holmes was guaranteed a reported $7.5 million for fighting Holyfield, whose guarantee was said to be between $16 million and $18 million.

Holyfield weighed in at 210 pounds. Holmes came in at 233 pounds.

For Holmes, tonight's bout was the culmination of his second comeback since he lost twice to Michael Spinks and then retired in 1986.

In January 1988, Holmes returned to the ring to take on Mike Tyson. Tyson overwhelmed Holmes, knocking him out in 4 rounds and prompting him to say he was retired again.

But Holmes changed his mind and last year came back again. In April 1991, he knocked out Tim (Doc) Anderson in one round and afterward engaged in an extracurricular brawl with former heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick in front of a Hollywood, Fla., hotel.

Holmes went on to score 1991 victories over Eddie Gonzales, Michael Greer, Art Card and Jamie Howe, none of whom was perceived as a threat to Holmes.

But this past February, Holmes took on a world-class opponent in Mercer. Mercer, who was undefeated at the time, jarred Holmes with a first-round jab that sent Holmes reeling backward. But Holmes recovered and thereafter outboxed Mercer for a surprising 12-round decision.

With that victory, Holmes suddenly found himself credible enough to be offered a title shot at Holyfield. [1]