“A lot of blood around the eye of Evander Holyfield and its target practice for Michael Moorer with that right jab.”
Steve Albert, seated ringside with Bobby Czyz and “The Fight Doctor” Ferdie Pacheco, was calling the intense blow-by-blow action of the fifth round in this Heavyweight unification bout.
Although competitive, Holyfield, a 12-5 betting favorite, again had his hands full with Moorer.
On Saturday night, November 8, fans inside the Thomas and Mack Center got more than their money’s worth when Holyfield (34-3, 24 KOs), the WBA Heavyweight champion, met Moorer (39-1, 31 KOs), the IBF Heavyweight titleholder.
Holyfield, 35, had won the WBA crown by defeating “Iron” Mike Tyson in November of 1996. After the now infamous ear bites in June of 1997, Holyfield had retained his title after dominating Tyson for much of the nine minutes of their return bout just over four months prior.
On this night, he was facing a man who evoked unkind memories, both in a loss via their first meeting and his subsequent retirement following health concerns related to his heart. Moorer, the 29-year-old IBF Heavyweight kingpin, took the vacant IBF crown with a split-decision win over Axel Schultz.
He would look to use his youth, power, and southpaw style to frustrate and defeat Holyfield for a second time. In a bout billed as “Return to Glory”, a slugfest was about to break out.
The year was 1997.
With 40 seconds remaining in the fifth round, Moorer pushed forward and blasted Holyfield into the ropes. Albert wailed, “Oh! A left hook by Michael Moorer and that stung Holyfield!”
As Holyfield moved back towards the center of the ring, Czyz and Pacheco began to debate whether Moorer simply had Holyfield’s number. Almost on cue, Holyfield answered the question by unloading a vicious three punch combination, snapping Moorer’s head back and sending him to the canvas.
Albert went ballistic, “Oh! A straight left by Holyfield and down goes Moorer! Out of nowhere!” The crowd rose to its feet in a combination of excitement of shock.
Moorer climbed off the canvas and referee Mitch Halpern signaled for the bout to continue. Holyfield threw a fierce barrage at Moorer in the remaining seconds until the bell sounded to end the round.
Round 6 picked up where Round 5 left off. The two stood at center ring and unloaded sweeping hooks and uppercuts. As Moorer began to reclaim tactical command, Holyfield’s right eye continued to leak blood, now dripping down the side of his face.
The crowd began to chant, “Holyfield! Holyfield! Holyfield!”
Now in Round 7, Moorer advanced behind a crisp, blistering right jab. Holyfield bounced on the balls of his feet, developing a rhythm behind his own snapping left jab. As Moorer tried to pin Holyfield against the ropes, the “Real Deal” launched a left hook, clipping the temple of Moorer.
The legs of Moorer buckled as the crowd again rose. Holyfield seized control, relentlessly bombing away with rights and lefts. With one minute to go in the round, a right uppercut floored Moorer for a second time.
Halpern again administered the standing eight count and the action resumed. The assault from Holyfield continued with Albert calling the third knockdown. “Right uppercut! Down he goes again! Can he survive the last 25 seconds? Moorer fighting back with all his heart! And there’s the bell!”
The tide and momentum had now completely shifted from Moorer to the ageless Holyfield.
With the bell sounding to being Round 8, Pacheco weighed in on Moorer, “I’ll tell you what, though, you can’t question his guts. People that thought they might see a dull fight can forget it. This is excitement.”
The eighth frame began by reverting back to a boxing match. Each man worked their jab overtime, moving, thinking, and trying to catch a second wind. Just when all appeared calm, a sizzling combination by Holyfield sent Moorer to the deck for a fourth time.
It was courage under fire as “Double M” again rose and motioned at Holyfield to keep coming. Holyfield accommodated his request by ripping another ruthless combination and dropping Moorer for a fifth time.
As Moorer lay flat on his back, part of his body under the bottom rope, Czyz screamed, “This is it! This fight is over!” But Moorer refused to succumb and again rose as the bell sounded to end the round. The crowd thundered its approval as did Pacheco, “What an incredible fight!”
While replays were being shown in the arena and at home, the Thomas and Mack Center unloaded a final roar as the bout was stopped.
Evander Holyfield, with five knockdowns, had stopped Michael Moorer by way of a TKO in absolutely brutal fashion.
Moorer would step away from the ring for three years, returning in November of 2000. His last action was in 2008, ending his career by winning nine of his last 10 bouts.
Holyfield would fight into 2011, retiring as the only four-time Heavyweight champion of the world. He will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this coming June, 2017.