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Evander Holyfield

The Fight of His Life

July 12, 1986 – Atlanta, Georgia

Evander is often asked, “What was your best fight ever?”

It’s a difficult question for someone who has fought so many legendary bouts and so many legendary fighters: Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe…

But Evander would tell you that his greatest fight ever wasn’t against any of these giants of the ring. It was against a man named Muhammad Qawi, the “Camden Buzzsaw.”

Originally named Dwight Braxton prior to his conversion to Islam, Qawi was a tough, seasoned veteran and the reigning WBA cruiserweight champion of the world. Since becoming a cruiserweight himself, Evander had fought seven fights and won them all, the last six by knockout. But he’d been so devastating that he’d reached the eighth round only once and the fifth only twice, and trainer Lou Duva had a strong feeling that Qawi was going to take him a lot further than that. Lou hired Houston conditioning expert Tim Hallmark to get Evander into long-distance shape.

The fight had historical significance. It occurred two years after the L.A. Olympics and was the first time one of the American boxers from those Games was fighting for a world title as a professional. A lot of Evander’s teammates from that “Class of ’84″ were there to cheer him on, like celebrated gold medalists Pernell Whittaker, Tyrell Biggs, Mark Breland and Meldrick Taylor. At the fight they kept calling out to Evander as “Real Deal,” something they’d started doing at the Olympics. When they did it in public, it stuck and became Evander’s pro nickname.

The fifteen-round fight was to go down as one of the most grueling bouts anyone could remember. Both fighters were exhausted by the eighth round but neither was willing to give an inch. By the time the final bell mercifully rang, Evander was so spent he could hardly get an arm into the air when the judge’s decision was announced that he was the new world champion. Only later in the ER was it learned that Evander had become so dangerously dehydrated during the fight that he’d lost fifteen pounds and his kidneys had begun to shut down.

Evander went on to completely dominate the cruiserweight division. He knocked out every one of his next six opponents and in less than two years became the division’s first undisputed, undefeated world champion by knocking our Carlos deLeon. To honor his mastery as a cruiserweight, to this day championship belts still bear his likeness.

DeLeon was Evander’s last cruiserweight opponent. It was time to move up and see what he could do as a heavyweight.

© 2011 by Steeplechase Run, Inc. All Rights Reserved — Posted by permission of the author