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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
End of an era
Evander Holyfield and Ray Mercer during their gruelling battle in 1995
Mercer (left) gave Holyfield plenty to think about

It was the summer of 1988 and Mike Tyson was a man without purpose.

After months of negotiating and wrangling had set up a meeting between him and Michael Spinks, the much anticipated showdown had lasted less than two minutes.

Tyson knocked out the previously undefeated Spinks with a savage right hand in what would turn out to be his finest night as a professional fighter.

But his list of challengers was hardly inspiring. Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, Carl "The Truth" Williams and Frank Bruno had all been exposed during the 1980s.

Past that trio, the class of fighters in the 1988 Seoul Olympics included Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer and a certain Lennox Lewis.

  The heavyweight era
Best fight: Bowe W12 Holyfield
Biggest upset: Douglas KO10 Tyson
Most bizarre event: Oliver McCall crying during his second fight with Lewis
Worst decision: Lewis D12 Holyfield

Evander Holyfield was moving up to heavyweight, but it was thought that his time, along with that of Bowe, Mercer and Lewis, was in the distant future.

Regardless of their pedigree, everyone decided that Tyson was in a class of his own.

But boxing's glamour division has always offered surprises and the class of the 1990s was no different.

It was a decade that featured a man parachuting into a ring, an ear bite as well as the first British undisputed heavyweight champion.

The incarceration of Tyson was not the first time that a boxer was forced into prison during his prime - but Tyson was certainly the most high-profile case.

With more money at stake than ever before, boxers began to feel the pressure.

Bowe, Mercer and even Holyfield endured personal problems, while a whole book could be filled with Tyson's erratic behaviour.

Yet it all combined to make heavyweight boxing the showtime package that many feel it should be.

There were some gripping fights as well.

The 10th round of the first fight between Bowe and Holyfield stands comparison with the greatest rounds of all time and the rest of the fight was very exciting as well.

Bowe's fights with Andrew Golota were hardly aesthetically pleasing - both ended in disqualification wins for Bowe - but they were exciting nevertheless.

And the first fight between Holyfield and Tyson was a memorable collision between the irresistible force and the immovable object.

Evander Holyfield pours forward as Mike Tyson stumbles to the ropes
Holyfield and Tyson produced an unforgettable battle
There were explosive knockout performances as well, delivered by Lewis against Ruddock and Golota.

And there was the heart-warming story of George Foreman winning back the heavyweight title in 1994 at the age of 45.

Where this posse of heavyweights fits in with the great heavyweights of the past is difficult to say.

For many, the class of the 70s, which included Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and a young Larry Holmes were the best.

But, after that, it is quite possible to make a case for this era being a good period for the unlimited class.

Aside from Ali, the best champions prevailed during times when there were not great challengers - Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey and Holmes all suffered from a lack of young, distinguished opponents.

It always seems easy to reminisce about the good old days and hopefully, one day, this passage of time will be remembered as a grand period in boxing.

A look at the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight

Lewis stuns Tyson

Our man in Memphis

Clickable guides

Background features

Statistics

SPORTS TALK
Links to more Lewis v Tyson fight stories are at the foot of the page.


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