AFTER mastering the cruiserweight division, Evander Holyfield was one step away from living out his boyhood dream after his tenth round knockout victory of ‘Dynamite’ Michael Dokes at the Caesars Palace in downtown Las Vegas in 1989.
The contest was for Dokes’ minor WBC Continental Americas strap, but the real prize Holyfield wanted was a shot at heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
Holyfield was inching at the point to face the then indestructible champ. He told The LA Times: “I saw him [Tyson] get hit on the chin and fall on his face,” Holyfield said. “He was beating the guy from pillar to post and jumped in with a left hook. He got clocked. That’s my biggest fear regarding Tyson, that somebody will do that to him before I get the chance.”
There were questions over Holyfield’s power at heavyweight. After wins over carefully matched opponents James Tillis and Pinklon Thomas, critics felt the 26-year-old’s power was ineffective at the weight because he failed to drop either of them. Holyfield pointed out that both men were instead pulled out by their respective corners. He stated: “If guys quit before Tyson could knock them out, what would you say about his power?”
Even with these doubters whistling in the air Holyfield was a 7-1 favourite. In contrast the 30-year-old Dokes was overly confident in derailing Holyfield’s boyhood dream of being heavyweight champion. The former WBA titlist even placed a $100,000 bet on himself to come out victorious. Dokes was entering the fight coming off the back of reported battles with both alcohol and drugs. He denied his problems to the New York Post: “I’m a fighter. I don’t participate in that sort of thing.”
Both men set a high pace from the outset, each fighter hurt the other with Dokes focusing his attacks on the body to wear down the smaller and musclebound Holyfield early, while the latter was finding a home for the his right hand to the head.
Several times in the contest Dokes was warned by the referee for hitting Holyfield low, which Holyfield said after the fight took a lot of the energy out of him. The third turned into a one of those classic boxing scraps between two men who didn’t dare to think about taking a step back. Dokes stunned Holyfield with monstrous left hooks that seemed to have him in serious trouble, only for Holyfield – with his ever increasing will to fight through pain – came back and hurt Dokes with a right hand later in the round.
Dokes was deducted a point in round six for repeated low blows and worse still suffered a cut over his left eye. Then in the seventh Holyfield knocked Dokes’ gum shield out with a wide left hook and followed it up with right hands that was causing the cut above the eye to worsen as blood started to stream through into ‘Dynamite’s’ left eye.
Suffering from a cut, a point deduction and down on the cards, Dokes tried his utmost to battle his way into a winning position but Holyfield was not going to be denied. In the tenth, Holyfield’s trusty left hook caught Dokes sweetly, effectively stopping him on his feet as the referee stepped in.
Afterwards, Holyfield’s manager Ken Sanders openly challenged Mike Tyson to a ‘winner takes all’ bout, pointing out his charge would be more than ready for such an event. He said “Evander Holyfield is the best fighter in the world. The only reason he isn’t champion is because he hasn’t fought Tyson yet.”
Holyfield was finally promised a shot at the title in 1990, coming up against the winner of Tyson vs unknown James ‘Buster’ Douglas. Douglas, of course, stunned the world by beating Tyson.