Evander Holyfield Beats Dwight Qawi This Day July 12, 1986
Evander Holyfield wins the cruiserweight title by 15 round decision.
Dwight Muhammad Qawi 189¾ lbs
Evander Holyfield 186 lbs
SD in round 15 of 15
Location: The Omni, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Referee: Vincent Rainone
Judge: Harold Lederman 140-144
Judge: Gordon Volkman 143-141
Judge: Neffie Quintana 138-147
World Boxing Association Cruiserweight Title (2nd defense by Qawi)
The Ring named Evander Holyfield vs. Qawi I the best cruiserweight fight of the 1980s.
The Ring ranked the fight as the 46th greatest title fight of all-time in 1996.
Holyfield made good on those words when he won the World Boxing Association junior-heavyweight title from the champion, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, winning a bruising 15-round split decision.
In victory, Holyfield became the first of the United States boxing medalists from the 1984 Olympics to capture a world title.
He did it by matching the persistence and firepower of the more experienced champion. Repeatedly fighting at close quarters, Holyfield would step suddenly to one side of Qawi and nail him with flurries that sometime sent a fine mist of sweat shooting off Qawi’s head.
For his part, Qawi, formerly known as Dwight Braxton, would shake off the punches and continue to pressure Holyfield, often pounding him with body shots or looping punches to the head. But spurred by the crowd chanting, “Holly, Holly, Holly,” the 23-year-old Holyfield, who is from Atlanta, outpunched the game Qawi in the end.
Judge Harold Lederman (144-140) and Judge Neffie Quintana (147-138) scored it for Holyfield. The other judge, Gordon Volkman, in a verdict that was soundly booed. had it 143-141 for the 33-year-old Qawi.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Holyfield. “He was tough like I expected. I did everything I could. Qawi kept pressing. I felt he’d get tired by the sixth or seventh round, but he didn’t. So I had to put out, put out, put out.”
Both fighters put out. After one man would unleash a flurry of damaging punches, the other would take his turn and let fly. But Holyfield’s jab was stiff enough, and busy enough, to keep Qawi at bay more often than not. A computer count of the punches had Holyfield throwing 1,290 (629 of them registering effectively, according to the computer). Qawi’s punch count, according to the computer, was 1,018 thrown with 562 landing effectively.
There were no knockdowns. Qawi’s mouth was bloodied in the 13th round, but Evander Holyfield was unmarked afterward. Qawi did not appear at the news conference following the bout.
The biggest doubt about Holyfield was whether, with only 11 pro fights, the longest lasting 8 rounds, he could go the 15 rounds. He answered that question by coming on strong over the second half of the bout. Quintana gave him 9 of the last 10 rounds, calling one round even. Lederman scored 7 of the last 10 rounds for the new champion and called one of those even.
Holyfield attributed his endurance to a conditioning program he undertook with the guidance of a Houston fitness specialist, Tim Hallmark. The regimen included the use of treadmills, stationary bicycles and an apparatus that simulated the act of climbing. “For each and every fight in the future,” said Holyfield, “I’ll be going back to Houston to get in shape.”
For beating Qawi, he reportedly earned $100,000. Mark Breland, Tyrell Biggs, Meldrick Taylor and Pernell Whitaker, some of his Olympic teammates, were at ringside, rooting him on.
With the victory, Holyfield’s record goes to 12-0, with 8 knockouts. Qawi’s record is 26-3-1, with 15 knockouts. Holyfield weighed 186 pounds for the fight; Qawi weighed 189 3/4, just a quarter-pound under the W.B.A. limit for the weight class.