On this date in 1993, one of the most memorable heavyweight title fights in history took place, as Evander Holyfield edged Riddick Bowe by majority decision, to reclaim the heavyweight title of the world.
Bowe had defeated Holyfield a little less than a year prior, in what I consider one of the ten greatest heavyweight prizefights in history. The 1993 rematch may not have completely matched the original, but it was another all-time classic and, to my mind, stands as the greatest moment of Holyfield’s distinguished career.
Bowe started strong in the fight, winning the first three rounds. But the far-smaller Holyfield once more showed his true, pit bull nature and roared back to win Rounds 4, 5 and 6, to even things up.
Round 7 was an action-packed, razor close round, and also one of the most bizarre moments in boxing history. In the middle of a furious exchange, the action had to be called to a halt for 21 full minutes, when an attention-starved jackass I refuse to mention by name parachuted into the center of the ring, risking serious injury to both fighters and referee Mills Lane, as well as to ringside observers. The round ended up being scored for Holyfield by one judge, Bowe by another, and even by the third.
Holyfield dominated Round 8. Bowe fought aggressively in Rounds 9, 10 and 11, but Holyfield closed Rounds 10 and 11 with brilliant action, to take five of six judges’ decisions for those two rounds. Round 12 was a furious, back-and-forth finale. The majority-decision victory for Holyfield made him just the third fighter to regain the heavyweight title from the man who defeated him, following Floyd Patterson (over Ingemar Johansson in 1960) and Muhammad Ali (over Leon Spinks in 1978).
It’s worth noting that Bowe came in for this fight 11 pounds heavier than he had been when he defeated Holyfield the previous year. Bowe had also broken up the unified heavyweight title during the year between the two fights, when he tragically threw the WBC belt in a trash can, rather than defend it against Lennox Lewis.
In terms of historical standing, the decade of the 1990s was the second-best ever for great heavyweights, behind only the golden age of the 1970s. The Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe rivalry was a major part of that terrific era. For fans like me, not quite old enough to remember Ali-Frazier, Holyfied-Bowe was our consolation prize, and one worth being thankful for.