Evander Holyfield Beats George Foreman This Day April 19, 1991
- Evander Holyfield 208 lbs beat George Foreman 257 lbs by UD in round 12 of 12
- Location: Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
- Referee: Rudy Battle
- Judge: Eugene Grant 116-111
- Judge: Jerry Roth 117-110
- Judge: Tom Kaczmarek 115-112
- World Boxing Council Heavyweight Title (1st defense by Holyfield)
- World Boxing Association Heavyweight Title (1st defense by Holyfield)
- International Boxing Federation Heavyweight Title (1st defense by Holyfield)
The fight between the 28-year-old Holyfield and 42-year-old Foreman was billed as “Battle of the Ages.”
The WBA, WBC and IBF had ruled that the winner of the October 1990 World Heavyweight Championship fight between Holyfield and James (Buster) Douglas had to fight Mike Tyson, the undisputed No. 1 contender. The WBA and IBF backed off the decree shortly after Holyfield knocked out Douglas to win the championship, but the WBC did not and threatened to strip Holyfield if he didn’t make his first title defense against Tyson. Holyfield sued the sanctioning body, and a judge ruled that the WBC could not strip him of its title.
The fight was co-promoted by Dan Duva’s Main Events and Bob Arum’s Top Rank.
The Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino was the live site promoter. Donald Trump paid $11 million for the fight. He paid Arum and Duva $1 million when the contract was signed on January 12, and he was contracted to pay them $2.5 million on February 9. The remaining $7.5 million would come from the live gate the night of the bout. The contract was amended on January 20 after the Persian Gulf War started. A provision was added that said the fight could be postponed due to an act of God or war. Shortly before the $2.5 million was due, Trump invoked the provision and tried to renegotiate the fee from $11 million down to between $5 million and $6 million. Trump said the war was preventing travelers, especially from the Middle East, from flying to Atlantic City. A source close to Duva said the war provision referred to “tanks rolling down the boardwalk, not whether a war inconveniences Donald Trump.” Arum said, “If there is an act of God or war that forces the fight to be cancelled, then the promoters have the right to postpone the fight, not him.” Arum and Duva threatened to move the fight to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, but they were eventually able to reach a deal with Trump. It was announced on February 11 that Trump had paid the promoters the $2.5 million he owed, and the fight would stay in Atlantic City. A source involved in staging the fight said he thought Trump would now only have to guarantee a portion of the remaining $7.5 million. “I think he would be guaranteeing about $5 million of that,” the source said. A source close to Trump’s bankers said, “What really happened was that his creditors took a look at the deal and got edgy. They made him try for a better deal.” Trump’s own economics had been shaky for some time. The previous year, he had narrowly escaped bankruptcy. “Before, he had the guarantee on the gate and he was concerned about that figure,” Duva said about Trump. “We adjusted the deal. The way the deal has been restructured, Trump has less risk and we can make more.”
The fight marked the launching of TVKO, which is now called HBO Pay-Per-View.
1.45 million households paid an average of $37.50 to watch the fight on TVKO, generating about $55 million in revenue. With 16.5 million homes having access to pay-per-view in 1991, the buy rate for the fight was 8.8 percent. It is still the highest buy rate of any pay-per-view event in history.
Adding to the pay-per-view pot was money from closed circuit showings ($6 million), foreign sales ($2 million), sale of rebroadcast rights to HBO ($4 million) and the live gate ($8 million).
Despite the high level of interest, the fight fell about 2,000 seats short of selling out the 19,000-seat Atlantic City Convention Hall. Kathy Duva, publicist for Holyfield and Main Events, cited two factors: extraordinarily high ticket prices, even by boxing standards, and a shortage of hotels. “A large share of the tickets were expensive ($800 or $1,000) because Donald Trump originally priced them that way to support his rights fee,” Duva said. Trump’s deal was later altered, lowering the site fee, but the ticket prices did not change. Duva said Atlantic City hotels ran out of rooms on the afternoon of the fight, reducing the usual influx of last-minute ticket-buyers. She asked rhetorically, “Who would want to spend a few hundred dollars to see a fight and then have to drive home the same night?”
Holyfield was a 3-1 betting favorite.
Holyfield was guaranteed $20 million. Foreman was guaranteed $12.5 million.
Holyfield was stunned in rounds two, five and seven. Foreman was hurt in rounds three, seven and nine.
Someone in the crowd set off a smoke bomb during the third round. It forced many of the spectators in the $1,000 ticket section to vacate their seats for a couple of rounds.
Foreman had a point deducted in round eleven for a low blow.
HBO’s Harold Lederman scored the fight 119-108 for Holyfield, giving Foreman only the sixth round. The Associated Press had it 118-110 for Holyfield, giving Foreman rounds three and five. The Ring had the fight much closer, calling it 116-113 for Holyfield.