My life simply would not have been the same had Evander Holyfield not knocked out Mike Tyson, on November 9, 1996 in round eleven of a scheduled twelve-round heavyweight title fight at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Finally…finally someone had stood up to that big bully Mike Tyson. This wasn’t the lazy, disinterested Mike Tyson who had lost to Buster Douglas in Tokyo, the one who had gone there believing himself to be invincible. This was the man who had seen his own destruction wrought in full through his own foolish pride and ill preparation, a man who had three long years in prison to think about it, a man who had countless hours to himself to mull it over in his mind, over and over and over again. This was the Mike Tyson who had flattened everyone he’d met in the ring since, each sad sack of a man looking terrified and bewildered as he took his slumping ride to the cold reality of the blue canvas. This was the Mike Tyson who had eaten, slept, breathed, and lived being the “baddest man on the planet” again. This was the Mike Tyson who could not be beaten.
My life simply would not have been the same had Evander Holyfield not cruelly cracked Mike Tyson on the temple twice, with coldly delivered left hooks that staggered him, had he not chased the madman down to the back of his heels into a corner, had he not ferociously rushed over to him as he winced in agony for the chance at landing a raging right-hand as the exclamation point to his victory over indestructibility.
Finally…finally I had a hero, someone like my dad had described to me in Muhammad Ali. Someone who had courageously chased his better years behind him only to find himself trapped inside the roped cage of gawkers with a scary madman, a butcherer of strong men who declared mayhem with his fists while violently drinking his opponents fear down deep. The men and women who had come to see the bout that night feared for Evander Holyfield’s life without shame, just as those did who had traveled to Zaire that night twenty-two years earlier to watch Muhammad Ali deny the royalty of George Forman. Regardless, both men left the ring afterwards as titans, proud conquerors that had recaptured the most fleeting prize in all of sports while their Goliaths in corners opposite to them hung their heads down low.
My life simply would not have been the same had Evander Holyfield not stood toe-to-toe with Mike Tyson, in the most important fight of either champion’s life, and outslugged the slugger for the heavyweight championship of the world.
Finally…finally he had done it. He had met the only other claimant to the title of greatest heavyweight champion of the era, in a fight that should’ve happened twice before but didn’t, and he had cut his heart out in the center of the ring. Finally, he had proven he wasn’t just a talented cruiserweight who had caught fire on a good run in the division. He had shown there is more to life than one or two-time accomplishments, that there is always more to be done no matter who says you can’t do it or shouldn’t do it or aren’t even good enough to try it. That there is more to accomplish no matter how big or scary or mean the monster standing in front of you may appear to be, that there is no barrier a brave man cannot break, that there is no road closed to hearts filled with travel.
My life simply would not have been the same had Evander Holyfield not been Evander Holyfield that night.
Finally…finally my dad and I had something to talk about again. It had happened before. When my parents divorced in 1990 and my dad moved out of our home, long court-arranged weekends taught us we didn’t have much to say to each other. Finally, he must of thought when he discovered his 11-year-old son shared an almost imperceptible interest in the sport of boxing, finally we have something to talk about. “Evander Holyfield,” I can remember him telling me, eyes lit like the sun with excitement, “Evander Holyfield is the guy who knocked out The Man who knocked out The Man! You know who Mike Tyson is? Well, Buster Douglas knocked Mike Tyson out and Evander Holyfield knocked him out!” Such a small thing, really. Such a small moment in time with such few words, but oh how much it meant, and oh what it began. There was something left undone, though. While Evander Holyfield became to me almost immediately what Muhammad Ali had been to my dad years before, the affirmation of his status among the pantheon of heavyweight greats, like our relationship, remained incomplete. Before he knocked out Mike Tyson on November 9, 1996, he had never really been The Man to my dad. Not after Tyson was put away for committing crimes against humanity. Not after Buster Douglas had slipped quietly into the night of history as a flash of lightning that disappeared the moment it was seen. Without beating Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield was no more The Man to my dad than a 17-year-old with a smart mouth and slew of teenage issues. Our relationship had devolved to what it was six years earlier; we simply didn’t have much to say to each other.
My life simply would not have been the same had Evander Holyfield not knocked out Mike Tyson, on November 9, 1996 in round eleven of a scheduled twelve-round heavyweight title fight at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and given us something to talk about.