WHAT IF Tyson Fought Holyfield in 1991? ...MARKARIAN
|Written by Raymond Markarian|
|Tuesday, 08 November 2011 22:59|
Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson had a contractual agreement to fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship on November 8th 1991. The highly anticipated event never happened because of an apparent Tyson rib injury and then later was delayed when Tyson went to prison, among other reasons.
Tuesday November 8th marked the 20 year anniversary of the planned Tyson/Holyfield fight date at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada.
A caption in the July 22, 1991 edition of Sports Illustrated: Heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield will finally fight Mike Tyson because, after much wheeling and dealing, that’s what both men what.
Mike Tyson, the 25-year-old, No. 1 contender fresh off of four dominating victories since the shocking defeat to Buster Douglas in February 1990, wanted his heavyweight title back. The above SI story said gross for the event projected over $100 million with Holyfield earning a guaranteed $30 million and Tyson $15 million guaranteed.
Tickets for the event ranged from $1200 to $200 dollars at the roughly 15,000 seat arena of Caesars Palace, where many high-profile boxing events were held at the time. Dan Duva, Holyfield’s promoter, and Don King who promoted Tyson, agreed--Tyson vs. Holyfield was to become the richest fight in boxing history.
At the time, before the handshaking and contractual finalities took place, and before the idea of prison for Tyson entered into the equation, two factors blocked Tyson/Holyfield from happening in 1991 – money and George Foreman.
Roughly twelve months before Holyfield and Tyson agreed to terms, George Foreman fought on the undercard of Tyson’s first bout since Douglas defeat against Henry Tillman in June 1990. The Tyson/Foreman twin bill idea meant to build interest for an eventual clash between the two sluggers. After Foreman’s brave losing effort versus Evander Holyfield in April 1991, Don King offered the 42-year-old former champ a $20 million purse to face Iron Mike.
Foreman and his promoter Bob Arum, refused, saying they wanted a rematch with Holyfield.
In July 1991, less than two weeks after Tyson beat Razor Ruddock for the second time, Holyfield/Tyson fight was made to the dismay of Foreman and Bob Arum. Immediately after Holyfield/Tyson signed an agreement for November 1991, Foreman with help from promoter Bob Arum filed a $100 million breach of contract suit against Holyfield.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Bob Arum received a letter from Dan Duva with contract terms for Holyfield vs. Foreman II on July 8th, 1991. Foreman was to earn $12.5 million. Arum learned the following day that Holyfield and Tyson had a contract to fight instead. An enraged Arum said, “They used (Foreman) like a fool.” Holyfield’s team had two offers for Tyson; they could accept the $15 million and fight in November or take $25 million guaranteed to face Holyfield in April, considered step aside money, allowing Holyfield to give Foreman a rematch.
Tyson took the $15 mil. Tyson told Don King, “Forget the money.” He wanted the heavyweight belt again by any means. The undefeated, undisputed champ, 29-year-old Evander Holyfield stood in his way.
Holyfield preferred Tyson over Foreman. Despite beating Douglas who beat Tyson, The Real Deal was not fully recognized as the heavyweight champion in the public eye at the time. Tyson’s loss to Douglas was viewed by many as a fluke. It seemed a matter of time before Iron Mike would be crowned king again. Leading up to the fight Holyfield said, “You can’t hide from the fact that Tyson’s the man. I wanted to fight Tyson because he was champion. Even if he was not champ now, I still want to fight him.”
The New York Times wrote that Tyson vs. Holyfield sold out in 14 days, breaking a Caesars Place record previously held by the 1987 Hagler-Leonard fight which sold out in 16 days. Although excitement was brewing for the heavyweight showdown, Tyson’s legal troubles began to surface.
The NY Times article says a representative from the Indianapolis Police Department expected a special grand jury to investigate the Tyson issue within the week.
Despite the potential roadblock of what was the richest fight in boxing history, Seth Abraham, of TVKO-PPV told the NY Times, “We are going forward, (and) awaiting developments.”
On October 20th 1991, The Chicago Tribune stated Tyson pulled out of his bout with Holyfield because of a rib injury. “The announcement came only hours after a request by Tyson to delay his rape trial was denied by Marion County (Ind.) Judge Patricia Gifford,” said the Tribune.
Meanwhile a frustrated Dan Duva told the Tribune that Tyson injured his ribs on October 8th, nearly two weeks before Tyson cancelled. Don King hoped to reschedule the event for January 20th 1992, one week before Tyson would go to trial for rape and eventually get convicted. Nothing came of it.
In the end, Foreman never got his rematch with Holyfield and Tyson had to wait four years to get another fight. But what would have happened if a close to his prime Mike Tyson took on an agile, quick, undefeated heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield? Some find pre-prison era Tyson too ferocious, others say the outcome would have been the same in ’91 as it was in 1996 and 1997 when Holyfield officially beat Mike Tyson twice. Tyson vs. Holyfield November 8th, 1991 is an argument that can never be answered but an argument nonetheless.
Evander Holyfield 26-0 vs. Mike Tyson 41-1
Jack Hirsch – President of the Boxing Writers Association of America
Had they met in 1991 when their first fight was scheduled to take place, it would have been a better Tyson for sure, but I still don't think it would have been enough. When you get past the charisma and mystique of Tyson, Holyfield was a better fighter and much stronger mentally. He always had this thing about wanting to prove he was superior to his great rival Tyson. Mike did not quite have the same passion about proving he was better than Holyfield, in part because he was made out to be invincible and probably bought into it to an extent.
Holyfield on points in a good competitive fight would have been the likely result, had the two squared off in 1991 as originally planned.
Robert Guerrero – Multiple division champ and pound for pound contender
Thomas Hauser – Chairman of BWAA Membership Committee/Award winning author
David Avila – West Coast Bureau Chief of TSS/Founder of Uppercut Magazine
Ryan Maquinana – www.Boxingscene.com
Lyle Fitzsimmons – www.CBSSports.com
Ryan Songalia – www.RingTV.com
Maybe Tyson doesn't get stopped like in the first fight years later, but I think Holyfield would have gotten him.
Tim Starks – Founder of www.Queensberry-rules.com
Martin Mulcahey – www.Maxboxing.com
Styles makes fights, but I think timing can play an equally important factor which is why I lean slightly towards Tyson in this time-frame. From late 1990 to late 1991 Tyson fought in three month intervals, which was key to keeping Tyson focused and sharp since his style was dependent on timing. Two good wins over Razor Ruddock and evisceration of Alex Steward showed he was sharp, while at the same time Holyfield was turning in sub-par performances against Bert Cooper and Larry Holmes. This version of Tyson defeats Holyfield, but only after surviving a furious Vander comeback in the championship rounds.
Mario Ortega – www.15Rounds.com
Virgil Hunter – Trainer of super middleweight champion Andre Ward
Ramon Aranda – Managing Editor of www.3morerounds.com