This Day In Sports: A ‘normal’ bout in Tyson-Holyfield I

November 9, 1996: Evander Holyfield becomes only the second boxer ever to win a world heavyweight championship three times when he upsets Mike Tyson, a 5-to-1 favorite, in Las Vegas. It was the first meeting between the two fighters, with Tyson defending the WBA title he had won for the first time just two months earlier. Holyfield was victorious via an 11th-round technical knockout, setting up an infamous rematch between the duo in 1997.

Holyfield was uber-prepared for this matchup and used his physicality to surprise Tyson, actually wearing him down. Tyson landed some blows in the first round but never seriously threatened any damage again. At the end of the 10th round, Holyfield sent Tyson staggering across the ring, with many observing that Tyson was out on his feet. His corner wanted him to keep going, though, and early in the 11th a Holyfield combination saw Tyson careen into the ropes, and referee Mitch Halpern stopped the fight.

Tyson and Holyfield staged a rematch in June of 1997, and that’s the bout that lives on in boxing’s Hall of Shame. Tyson had become the youngest world heavyweight champion ever when he captured the WBC belt in 1986 at the age of 20. Five years later he was the most feared boxer in the sport. But a 1992 rape conviction sent Tyson to prison for three years. His reputation was not good. And it especially suffered after the sequel against Holyfield. That’s the night Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s ear, losing the fight one the spot (and, for a while, his boxing license).

Only the legendary Muhammad Ali had previously claimed the world heavyweight crown three different times. He first won the title with a legendary victory over Sonny Liston in 1964. Shortly thereafter, he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and became a Black Muslim. Ali continued to fight (and win), but when he refused to be inducted into military service at the height of the Vietnam War, he was stripped of his title. Ali was reinstated in 1970 and finally recaptured the heavyweight title in 1973. He won it for the last time in 1978 with a victory over Leon Spinks, who had stunningly upset him earlier in the year.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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