by Fox Doucette
We should probably make ‘Ste Coughlan of the Mythical Boxing forum an honorary member of the Temporal Commission at this point, because when he asked the what-if question that is our main event tonight, your columnist’s instant reaction was “damn, why didn’t I think of that?”
So your main event tonight is Ron Lyle, in via time machine from the Earnie Shavers fight, taking on Riddick Bowe, who comes in after the third and final fight with Evander Holyfield, the only one of the three to end in a knockout. Lyle, at this point in history, had just lost to Muhammad Ali and was about to lose to George Foreman in the 1976 Fight of the Year; his surviving the best of Shavers sets him up nicely to take on the hard-punching Bowe, who himself survived a knockdown at the hands of Holyfield at a time where—coincidence being a hell of a drug—Foreman was, before that point in the sixth round, all but demanding that Joe Cortez stop the fight before Evander went out in (George’s words here) “a pine box”. Which would prove, if not completely prescient, at least certainly relevant to Holyfield’s endurance two rounds later when Bowe ended the fight.
Your co-feature? It’s another old-vs-new, as Matthew Saad Muhammad, in off his knockout of John Conteh in their second fight, takes on Sergey Kovalev, who needs no introduction to a time machine because he’s certainly not old or dead by any means in 2016. Kovalev will look to put the crushing (or “Krushing”) right hand through the guard of Saad Muhammad; the legend of the past will try to control the fight as more of the boxer. Who will win? That’s to be decided after we remind everyone that…
From the Historical Fight Night Arena Presented By You, If You Donate On Patreon, in San Dimas, California, these fights are scheduled for 12 rounds using the Unified Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Scoring is on the 10-point must system, there is no three knockdown rule, no standing eight count, only the referee can stop the fight, and a fighter cannot be saved by the bell in any round including the twelfth and final round.
Now, for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching from around the world…
Let’s Make History.
Matthew Saad Muhammad (3/29/1980, 25-3-2, 17 KOs) vs. Sergey Kovalev (3/5/2016, 29-0-1, 26 KOs)
Kovalev has fought for a world title eight times. He has seven knockouts, and the eighth guy is Bernard Hopkins, the craftiest fighter who possibly ever lived, and even Hopkins looked in danger of being blasted out in the opening frame before Kovalev did to him what Trevor Berbick did to Muhammad Ali over the remainder of the fight.
The man once called Matt Franklin? He was similarly impressive during his championship run, in which he won nine fights (before Dwight Muhammad Qawi stopped him twice and effectively ended his career), eight by knockout. And the one guy who took him the distance (Conteh) couldn’t last four rounds against him in the next contest.
What I’m saying is there weren’t a lot of people betting on this one going 12.
Muhammad came out somewhat hesitant, testing range and staying on his back foot, throwing rangefinder jabs and respecting the power of the right hand that could come back at him if he were to mix it up too soon.
Kovalev, for his part, was more than content to let Muhammad be overly cautious; he wasn’t going to chase him and put himself in position to eat a right hand of his own. Kovalev parried the jab when it came in, occasionally trying with varying degrees of success to time it and counter with a hook.
For a fight between two powerhouses, this one sure got off to a slow start. The feeling-out process continued through the second round; Muhammad landed a few jabs, Kovalev landed a couple of hooks, and the crowd started to get a little restless.
Finally, Kovalev got a right hand in that backed Muhammad up a bit. Krusher gave chase, backing Muhammad into the corner, and he continued to pound away with the right, landing it in some spaces, forcing Muhammad to cover up in others, and generally beginning to establish dominance and physicality moving his opponent backward.
Krusher was starting to look like he did in the Cornelius White fight. This had the potential to get real ugly.
Kovalev’s counter punching drew Muhammad out of the cautious stance he’d adopted, and he squared up, moving forward and trying to test Kovalev’s chin. Krusher has been down once in his career, against Blake Caparello in the opening frame of a fight that Sergey won in two rounds. Saad Muhammad, however, had been on the floor against Billy Douglas, and he too had come back in the very next round, in his case the sixth after falling in the fifth, to reverse his fortune and complete a KO victory.
Still, when Muhammad ran into the power of Qawi, who ultimately wasn’t exactly a 175-pound version of Mike Tyson (Qawi, at light heavy, knocked out only 12 of his 22 opponents, and that drops to 10 of 20 when the two fights with the Philadelphian are removed), he crumbled.
Kovalev finally had the range he wanted, and he landed a flush right hand right on the nose of Muhammad, who went down for a five-count and took the eight on his feet. With two minutes left, Kovalev had his man hurt, and there are few fighters active today who are better finishers than Sergey Kovalev.
Once the Krusher had his prey wounded, it was an easy kill. The right hand, some combinations, and some devastating power delivered with laser-like precision proved too much, and the man once known as Matt Franklin was sent back to his own time with one hell of a ding on his Historical Fight Night record.
RESULT: KOVALEV KO4 SAAD MUHAMMAD
Ron Lyle (9/13/1975, 31-3-1, 22 KOs) vs. Riddick Bowe (11/4/1995, 38-1, 32 KOs)
To watch Ron Lyle’s career is to watch the basest essence of what makes boxing such a brutal sport. Lyle was not a man whose skills were envied or his fights ever described as “sweet” or “scientific”. He was a man who was determined to punch you in the head until you fell down and could not get up or until you did the same to him. The fourth round of his fight with George Foreman is one of the greatest three-minute stretches in boxing history, the kind of round where if you’re assembling a fifteen-round montage of the greatest rounds from one through fifteen in the history of the sport, it is one of the few rounds that is decided as soon as you decide to make the list. It is as indelible as round 1 (Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns), 8 (Saad Muhammad-Yaqui Lopez), 9 (Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti), or 10 (Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo.)
Meanwhile, Riddick Bowe might well have been the most underrated fighter of the 1990s, with the likes of Moorer and Holyfield and Lewis and even Tyson getting all the press while Bowe was either accused of ducking or else couldn’t crack the list of guys who could fight the all-time greats more than a couple of times (sure, he fought the trilogy with Holyfield, but legacies aren’t otherwise built against the likes of a way-past-his-prime Michael Dokes or Jesse Ferguson or Herbie Hide.)
So who wins this one? The guy who fought some of the greatest fighters in heavyweight history but lost? Or the one who fought the mediocre dregs of a heavyweight dead zone and was rarely considered more than a paper champion but who only lost once in his career?
One thing was for sure, we weren’t going to wait long for these two to get into it. Lyle came out on the attack, and in the words of Howard Cosell, “it’s not artistic, but it’s slugging.” Lyle’s left hook clearly bothered Bowe from the word go, as Lyle landed it over a lazy jab that Bowe was trying to use to establish distance.
Holyfield hadn’t been able to outmuscle Bowe in their third fight, using the inside in a way that baffled commentator and home viewer alike, but Ron Lyle was a bigger 220 than Holyfield’s puffed-up-cruiser 216. Even though Bowe came in with a 20-pound advantage in weight for this fight, he would not be able to lean in to discourage Lyle from closing in on the five-inch difference in reach between the two men.
More to the point, however, Lyle’s tendency to stand straight up allowed him to fight as tall as his 6’3″ at the risk of stability when he got hit. But in the first round, it was one-way traffic, Lyle coming in at will and laying into Bowe with everything he had.
Bowe began to fight back in earnest in the second round. With Lyle insistently coming forward, Bowe shortened up his shots, bringing the uppercut and trying to bait Lyle into leaning forward and exposing his chin. The fight degenerated into an old-fashioned brawl in a phone booth in the middle of the ring, Lyle throwing the hook up top, Bowe throwing the uppercut underneath it, defense abandoned to the wind.
The men continued to pound away at each other the way an angry chef lays into a piece of meat that will on the following day invite a furious argument with the butcher after the chef has to salvage the service with gratuitous use of a meat mallet.
Something had to give. Bowe, trying to re-establish distance and hit without being hit, the voice of Eddie Futch going full Gordon Ramsay in his ear between rounds, started once again to use the jab. He was able briefly to keep Lyle off him until, coming forward and trying to throw heavier shots, Lyle came back with a honey of a straight right hand that landed right on the bean.
The straight right had a hook behind it and Bowe was in trouble. Lyle began to pour on the power shots, trying to fell the man in front of him, a lumberjack chopping away trying to make kindling from a mighty redwood.
Bowe desperately tried to recover as the assault continued, and when Lyle had a momentary lull in his assault after for the moment punching himself out, Bowe returned to the attack, bringing a right and a left and an uppercut, chasing Lyle back into the corner and returning the state of the fight to the slugfest in close quarters that it had become in the first two rounds.
Nothing “had to give” quite yet. That would have to wait through another break in the action.
Score it however you like. This was beyond all illusion of a boxing exhibition and had turned into two men trying to erase each other from history in a place where neither man was in his time.
Again the men slugged away at each other, and at some point the ability Lyle had to withstand the assault of Earnie Shavers would come into play here.
Again, Bowe chased Lyle back, trying to attack him from distance and land the shot he needed to land, and again, Lyle lured Bowe in and clocked him with a big right hand. Again, Bowe was chased back in his own right, and this time, he would not escape.
Lyle landed a monster left hook and down went Riddick Bowe. Referee Arthur Mercante, who had been fished from the Joe Frazier-Buster Mathis fight (where Bowe’s trainer Eddie Futch was in Frazier’s corner, and Mathis’ son would be hit whilst down to cause a no-contest with Bowe in a fight in which Mercante was the referee), reached the count of seven before Bowe rose to hear the last of the mandatory numbers read off in sequence.
Lyle went after Bowe, who had the same problem with Lyle’s left hand in this round than he’d had with Holyfield’s left hand in the sixth round of his time machine fight. Lyle landed another big left hook, Bowe went down a second time, and we had ourselves a 10-7 round as Bowe came up at the count of six as the bell sounded to finish the round.
Lyle was out for blood. It was time to finish this. He pressed forward, looking to continue to land that big left hook, hoping to finish this once and for all.
Bowe met Lyle with his guard up, simply trying to weather the storm as Lyle probed his guard trying to find a weakness the way George Foreman would later do to him. When Lyle momentarily had to stop and allow his arms to recover from the bicycle-like motion of throwing punches for what felt like an eternity but was in actuality about 15 seconds, Bowe went on the attack.
A big right hand landed, followed by a left hook, and it was Lyle’s turn to taste the canvas. Mercante, as drilled in the act of counting as a cloth-and-strings vampire or the preschoolers learning basic numeracy from the vampire’s recitations after several repetitions and some practice, again got to eight during which time a fighter rose to his feet (at four in this case) to hear the latter portion of the count.
To the actual fight, however, this was not simply a counting exhibition. There was a fight going on, and this time it was Bowe’s turn to try and finish his opponent. He came forward launching a big right hand over the top…which missed.
The off-balance Bowe was left open for a flash…into which Lyle dropped a murderous left hook, which landed flush. Bowe staggered. Bowe was groggy. And after tasting the right hand-left hook-right hand three-punch combo that Lyle loaded up on when Bowe was without his bearings, Bowe was once again down, for the third time in the fight.
This time, Mercante’s count would not be arrested at eight; he reached the count of ten, and we had ourselves a winner. As he had against Shavers, Ron Lyle took the biggest shots a power puncher had to throw at him, and he came back and emerged victorious.
RESULT: LYLE KO5 BOWE.
In my never-ending quest not to get bogged down in just having my own favorite fighters on here fighting each other (regular readers of this feature have probably noticed that there are plenty of guys who make repeat appearances), I’m once again giving one to the fans.
Next week’s card comes courtesy of friend of the show (and Boxing Tribune News writer) Danny Howard, who suggested Michael Moorer vs. Roy Jones at heavyweight (well sure, I’ll throw a crazed Teddy Atlas as trainer into Historical Fight Night, what could possibly go wrong?) and Paul Williams taking on Vernon Forrest at 154.
Moorer-Jones is the main event. The show goes live Saturday, March 12, right here on The Boxing Tribune. And in the meantime, by all means, follow me on Twitter @RealFoxD and give me your suggestions/requests for future episodes.
And thanks for reading!