LAS VEGAS -- Evander Holyfield stopped Mike Tyson at 37 seconds of the 11th round last night to win the World Boxing Association heavyweight title.
Holyfield, a 10-1 underdog who had been thoroughly tested by the Mayo Clinic at the request of the Nevada State Athletic Commission because of fears about his health, became the second man to hold a piece of the heavyweight title three times. The other was Muhammad Ali.
Just when Tyson (45-2) appeared to be in ascendancy in the heavyweight division again, Holyfield (33-3) sent him crashing to earth with a shocking upset that brought back memories of Tyson's defeat by Buster Douglas on Feb. 11, 1990 in Tokyo.
The 34-year-old Holyfield not only beat Tyson, he dominated the dominator. He knocked Tyson down with a left hook in the sixth round, cut him over the left eye in the sixth, had him in serious trouble in the 10th and stopped him with a nine-punch barrage in the 11th.
It was Holyfield who drew the biggest cheers from the capacity crowd of 16,325 at the MGM Grand Garden following the introductions.
Typically, Tyson roared out of his corner, trying to catch Holyfield with a roundhouse right. It landed too high to cause any real damage, and Holyfield drew a roar by immediately fighting back.
It was obvious that Holyfield harbored no fear of the menacing champion, standing his ground and momentarily shaking Tyson with a bristling combination.
The wild first round ended with a toe-to-toe exchange, and Tyson landed several blows after the bell. Referee Mitch Halpern had to pry the two apart.
But Holyfield had won the first test.
Tyson continued to be overanxious, striving for a quick finish. But Holyfield countered with a hard shot to the ribs. After catching Tyson on the ropes, he landed a vicious left hook. And the ex-champion seemed to quickly be growing in confidence.
By the end of the second round, Tyson seemed a bit shocked and confused by this startling turn of events.
It was Tyson who was forced to clinch as Holyfield continued his assault in the third round.
Tyson was also warned for hitting on the break. The mere fact that Holyfield had survived three rounds with Tyson drew wild applause.
When Tyson came out for the fourth round, it marked the longest he had gone in any of the five fights he'd had since being released from prison in March 1995.
The action slackened in the fourth round when there was repeated clinching. Tyson was now finding the mark with his wide hooks and right crosses. But Holyfield, who had tired badly in his last fight against Riddick Bowe, showed no signs of fatigue.
The sixth round really turned the fight in Holyfield's favor because in the fifth, Tyson had wobbled him and it appeared Holyfield might become Tyson's fifth comeback victim.
Tyson wobbled Holyfield early in the fifth round with two jolting uppercuts.
It was the first round that Tyson had won in convincing fashion.
But the brawling grew even more furious in the sixth round. Tyson suffered a slight cut over his left eye and the crowd began to chant in unison, "Holy-field, Holy-field."
Suddenly, Holyfield exploded a short left hook flush on Tyson's chin. The champion flew to the canvas, but beat the count. In the final 10 seconds, he fought back gamely, but looked the worse for wear.
The sixth-round knockdown was the second of Tyson's career, the other being when he lost the title to Buster Douglas in 1990. Holyfield fought with growing confidence in the seventh round, reopening the cut over Tyson's eye. Then the fight took a strange twist. The two fighters butted heads and the referee was forced to halt the action for 15 seconds. Holyfield emerged with a swollen left eye.
Tyson tried to mount a rally without success in round eight, with Holyfield still dancing on his toes and answering every charge.
Holyfield again rocked Tyson in the ninth round, scoring with short jarring rights. At the end of the round, it was Tyson who walked back to his corner, looking much older than his 30 years.
The 10th round started in spectacular fashion, with both fighters throwing head-jarring punches. Tyson landed a withering right, but Holyfield countered with one of his own.
Another brutal right by Holyfield sent Tyson flying against the ropes. He absorbed four more brutal punches, but, amazingly, Tyson remained erect to finish the round.
But Holyfield would not let him escape in the 11th. He again trapped Tyson on the ropes and pounded him relentlessly until Halpern signaled the end.
Pub Date: 11/10/96