The Heavyweight Division. It used to define the sport of boxing when talents like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, and “Iron” Mike Tyson, were running things. Yes, for about four decades, all was well. Then the talent shifted to lower weight classes, and it’s pretty much been a ghost town since Tyson walked away from the squared circle. However, if you grew up in the 1980s and ’90s, and you’re feeling a little nostalgic, you might be surprised to discover that a few of the old-timers are still mixing it up (one way or another). Here are the five heavyweights that you won’t believe are still boxing.
1. Riddick Bowe
Bowe was flying high in 1993. Tyson was out of the picture, and he’d strung together 34 consecutive victories, including one against Holyfield, whom many think was the pound-for-pound guy at the time. Yes, everything was going great until the rematch. That’s when a better-conditioned “Real Deal” turned the tables and won back the lineal championship. Bowe followed that loss with a cheap shot against Buster Mathis, Jr., that resulted in a No Contest. After that, Bowe put together more wins; in fact, he never lost again and finished 43-1. However, two of those “victories” had major asterisks by them. In back-to-back fights with Andrew Golota, Bowe was physically abused. The only reason he won? Golota had no desire to win the fight. He just wanted to punish Bowe. Despite being ahead on the cards in both fights, the Polish heavyweight teed off on Bowe’s gonads in the later rounds. The first time it was in the seventh round; the second time, the ninth. Bowe never was the same after that.
Fast Forward: Bowe officially retired (for good) in 2008, but then set his sights on the world of Muay Thai kickboxing. On June 14, 2013, he faced Levgen Golovin, who proceeded to knock down Bowe five times with leg kicks. The fight was stopped midway through the second round. We’re not sure what comes next for Bowe. Hopefully not more Muay Thai!http://youtu.be/xCa7JOTNCGw
2. Andrew Golota
Yes, Golota is still boxing, and it’s not pretty. First, a bit about who he was, other than the guy who took the wind out of Bowe’s sails (and testicles). Golota was a promising, talented fighter with an attitude every bit as nasty as Mike Tyson. In fact, that whole biting-the-ear thing that Tyson would become known for — Golota did it first, except it wasn’t the ear, and he didn’t get as good of a piece of Po’uha as Tyson did Holyfield (see video, around 18-minute mark). In a fight against talented journeyman Samson Po’uha, a gassed and battered Golota tried taking a chunk out of Po-uha’s neck while in a clinch. The referee didn’t notice it, and the fight continued until Golota was able to get the TKO in the fifth. (Great fight, by the way.) Golota’s later career was plagued with half-assed efforts, including one fight in which he just up-and-quit against Tyson in round three. (That was the second time he did that against an opponent, by the way.)
Fast Forward: Golota was largely inactive after 2009. But last year, on February 23, he stepped back into the ring against Przemyslaw Saleta in his native Poland and lost in the sixth round via TKO. It was his third consecutive loss and his 21st year of fighting professionally.
3. Evander Holyfield
Holyfield makes this list by way of his own words. More on that in a moment. But first, a bit about Holyfield, though anyone with a Man-Card should know who he is. Holyfield was probably the best fighter of the Mike Tyson era. He started as a cruiserweight and managed to unify the crown there before making the jump to heavyweight. While the dream match with Tyson happened post-rape conviction, and thus Iron Mike defenders contend it would have been a different story had the fight gone down a few years earlier, the reality was that Holyfield was just a better boxer. He wasn’t intimidated by Tyson. He was stronger and more cerebral in the ring. He realized that if Tyson couldn’t beat you with a look, then you stood a good shot of getting the upper hand. And that’s just what he did when the two met on September 11, 1996. After imposing himself on Tyson through 11 rounds, referee Mitch Halpern put a stop to it. The fight was followed by the rematch, which would live in infamy for Tyson taking a plug out of Holyfield’s ear. (Tyson did this to “save face” because he was getting punished by Holyfield again, and the outcome would have likely been the same as the first fight.) What’s odd about the first Holyfield-Tyson fight is that Tyson was the favorite with most commentators and analysts seeing him as a washed-up has-been. He would go on to win the heavyweight championship twice more after that and fight 21 more times with his last fight a 2011 TKO victory over Brian Nielsen.
Fast Forward: Some say Holyfield has to keep fighting until the day he dies just to pay what he can on his backlog of child support. We’ve got a feeling he would be fighting regardless. While he has spoken of retirement since the Nielsen fight — and he hasn’t fought since — he recently admitted that he stays in shape in case “anyone wants to try the old man.” He insists that he isn’t retired, only getting choosier with his fights. Basically, he’s holding out for a title shot, which will probably never come. Holyfield’s pro debut was in 1984. He fought consistently for 27 years, and we fully expect him to fight again.
4. Bert Cooper
Like Holyfield, Cooper started out as a cruiserweight before advancing to the heavies. He was basically the Roy “Big Country” Nelson of boxing in that he rarely won, but he always put on a heck of a show. A contemporary of the other men on this list, Cooper lost almost as often as he won. (His current career record is 38-25.) One of his most famous fights was against Holyfield. It was supposed to be an easy one for “Real Deal,” who’d seldom been hurt and was 27-0 at the time. Cooper had other ideas. Despite being dropped in the first round, Cooper got up to put the champ down for the first time in his career during the third round. The rest of the fight was a slugfest until Holyfield finally ended it in the seventh via TKO.
Fast Forward: Like Holyfield, Cooper’s first fight came in 1984. His last one was in late 2012, another TKO loss, this time against Carl Davis. He’s yet to officially announce his retirement.
5. Oliver McCall
At 56-13, “The Atomic Bull” has had his share of losses, but he hasn’t been stopped since Lennox Lewis TKO’d him in 1997 — revenge for the second round TKO he suffered three years earlier. McCall was always tough but never really had a mind to be one of the greats. While his victory over Lewis in the first fight did give him a share of the championship, he was never the undisputed titleholder, and he lost what he had after one successful defense to a vastly inferior British heavyweight named Frank Bruno. He’s since won four baloney belts, the last of which was something called the WBF Inter-Continental title in 2011.
Fast Forward: Currently, McCall is suffering a two-fight losing streak — both unanimous decisions. The last was against Krzysztof Zimnoch in May 2013.
[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]