THIS ONE DIDN'T FAINT

December 30, 1996

An overpowering champion isn't truly interesting until he's
beaten. A guy wins and wins, establishes a dominance that ought
to be appreciated for itself, and instead gets criticized for
the regularity and one-sidedness of his victories. He's boring.
What's more, his sport is boring. It's uncompetitive, it's a
rip-off, it's a waste of time and money. The fans love winners
but, it turns out, only up to a point.

Heavyweight boxing was getting to be like that. Mike Tyson's
fights were so one-sided that critics thought the bouts should
have been overseen by consumer advocates. They were worse than
boring. Given the suspect abilities of Tyson's opponents, the
bouts seemed a swindle of the pay-per-view audience. The
opponents were fainting in the ring. In the early rounds.
Tyson's menace, entertaining at the start of his comeback, was
no longer good value.

And then, on Nov. 9 in Las Vegas, up stepped Evander Holyfield,
a 34-year-old former two-time champion who had been used up by
his sport. Holyfield had terrific name recognition and would be
a good draw in Tyson's perfunctory march to a unified title.
Otherwise, he was the worst kind of opponent for Tyson: He
hadn't the good sense to be afraid.

The protracted beating never happened, did it? Holyfield's fans,
hoping he would faint and thereby escape mortal injury, were
stunned to see him swarm the shorter Tyson. Well, they knew
Holyfield would display a certain confidence; the fellow was
almost annoying in his certainty. But in what round would his
confidence be destroyed by a series of short right hands?

Holyfield's confidence destroyed Tyson instead. His bald head
untroubled by doubt, he finished Tyson in the 11th. The upset
seemed good for both men's careers. Each was suddenly
interesting again though hardly in a way anybody would have
imagined.

COLOR PHOTO: KEN REGAN/CAMERA 5 [Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield boxing]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)