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Fantasy Boxing Matchup: Joe Frazier vs Evander Holyfield

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We go back to the heavyweights today with legends of different eras: “Smokin’” Joe Frazier and Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield.

Photos by Focus on Sport/Getty Images and Getty Images

It’s time for another fantasy boxing matchup! We’re doing this Monday through Friday for the time being, and there’s a page where you can follow along and look back on anything you missed. All votes are open for one week from the day they were posted, so if you missed anything within that last week you can still vote on those, too.

Today! A heavyweight showdown between two legends from different eras, “Smokin’” Joe Frazier and Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield. Who wins?

Joe Frazier vs Evander Holyfield

If you had this fight today, these guys would both be small heavyweights, of course. Evander came along at a point where we were starting to see the division taken over by really, really big guys, but he was a natural cruiserweight (and maybe the greatest cruiserweight ever) before moving up to heavyweight in 1988 and eventually becoming the undisputed champion.

Holyfield also arguably did that at the perfect time. Mike Tyson’s bubble had been burst in Tokyo in 1990, and then Tyson wound up doing time. That left Holyfield with a chance to take the belts from Buster Douglas in ‘90, and his first three defenses were against very old versions of George Foreman and Larry Holmes, with Bert Cooper in between, before he was valiantly battered (while giving plenty back in return) in a legendary 1992 fight against Riddick Bowe, one of the rising giants.

But Holyfield had a rare mix of determination and toughness that helped him become a real star and a recognized heavyweight legend. He fought Bowe twice more, winning the middle bout and losing the rubber match. Then he beat the returning Tyson two times in 1996-97, the latter the infamous “Bite Fight” but the former just Holyfield wearing Tyson out. Then he got pretty old, then he got REALLY old, and he hung around through 2011. He probably should’ve been able to claim some sliver of the heavyweight crown again in 2008, but judges gave Nikolay Valuev a majority decision in Switzerland, robbing us all of a minor historical happening with several asterisks attached.

Frazier had that legendary crab-like style where he was constantly making himself small and short, arms in, with a vicious left hook often popping up from a crouch. He had a certain craft you just don’t see anymore, and I often wonder if we’ve tinkered so much with the science of these things that we’ve pretty much eliminated the chance of an up-and-coming fighter finding an odd style that works for them in favor of failing while being more textbook, sort of the way you don’t really see any or at least many of those flailing, swinging, old-time pitcher windups in baseball. At some point we decided it HAD TO BE done this way, and that’s how everyone was taught.

But anyway, like Holyfield, Frazier was tougher than a two dollar steak, too. And like Holyfield, you might could make the case his rise to the championship came at a time when something wild had happened to the previously recognized king, with Muhammad Ali out of the sport for a few years. Like Holyfield later beating Tyson, Frazier did beat Ali when they met in 1971 after Ali’s return. They’d fight twice more, with Ali winning both. They were great, brutal fights, and I don’t recall any biting.

(Also, saying Frazier and Holyfield won the titles at times that were, in a way, lucky for them is not really meant as a shot at either guy. They were great fighters and champions, period.)

Holyfield is officially listed at 6’2½” with a 78-inch reach, and at his real best was weighing 210-215 or so. When he had that old guy body, he was only getting up into the mid-220s. He was naturally lean, a muscular guy with an athletic build. Frazier was 5’11½” with a 73-inch reach, and at his best was weighing 205-210. He didn’t have the shred of Holyfield, but he had a compact and powerful build, and his power was tremendous.

Who has the advantage here? Personally, I imagine this being a war pretty much from the get-go. Both guys were fearless in the ring, true warriors, but had craft and intelligence, too. It wasn’t reckless aggression with them.

Your call: who wins?

Poll

Who wins, Frazier or Holyfield?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Joe Frazier
    (403 votes)
  • 53%
    Evander Holyfield
    (466 votes)
869 votes total Vote Now