See a young Holyfield star in two divisions

Dan Rafael reviews five timeless Main Event fights airing on ESPN Classic and appearing in ESPN Motion.

Updated: April 18, 2005, 5:01 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Editor's Note: Each night this week from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, ESPN Classic will air seldom-seen Main Events-promoted boxing matches as part of "Classic Fight Nights", a week-long programming lead-in to the ESPN Pay-Per-View boxing event on Saturday, April 23. In addition, ESPN Motion and ESPN 360 will air highlights of these bouts. ESPN.com senior boxing writer Dan Rafael takes a look back at the five Main Events classics that also can be seen on ESPN Motion.

The "Classic Fight Nights" lineup, with dates and air times on ESPN Classic:

Dates, air times: Monday, April 18, 9 p.m. (re-airs April 19 at 12 a.m., April 20 at 10 p.m. and April 21 at 1 a.m.)
Fighters, result: Sugar Ray Leonard TKO14 Thomas Hearns I
When: Sept. 16, 1981
Where: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Why it's important: In an unforgettable summit meeting, two all-time greats met in their primes for the undisputed welterweight title in what was the 1981 "fight of the year." Hearns almost had been knocked out early in the fight but had come back to pummel Leonard's left eye and take command of the action-packed bout their legends were built on. That led Leonard's Yoda-like cornerman, Angelo Dundee, to utter one of his most famous quotes as Leonard sat on his stool following the 12th round: "You're blowing it son, you're blowing it!" That prompted Leonard to turn up the heat in the 13th round and he hurt Hearns with a right hand. Then, with a barrage of punches, Leonard knocked Hearns into the ropes. Hearns sagged against the ropes and it was ruled a knockdown. In the 14th, Leonard finished matters with another onslaught, ending the first mega-fight of the post-Muhammad Ali era. Eight years later they returned to Caesars Palace and met again in a super middleweight title bout, and although Leonard was knocked down twice, he escaped with an unpopular draw.

Dates, air times: Tuesday, April 19, 9 p.m. (re-airs April 20 at 12 a.m., April 22 at 10 p.m. and April 23 at 1 a.m.)
Fighters, result: Evander Holyfield W15 Dwight Muhammad Qawi I
When: July 12, 1986
Where: The Omni in Atlanta
Why it's important: This is where the Holyfield legend began. Long before the epic trilogy with Riddick Bowe and memorable fights with Michael Dokes, George Foreman and Mike Tyson, Holyfield was a 186-pound 23-year-old battling for his first world title in the cruiserweight division – then called junior heavyweight – in his 12th professional bout. Fighting in front of his hometown crowd in Atlanta, Holyfield and reigning champion and future Hall of Famer Qawi put on a scorching display of non-stop punching in what is easily the greatest cruiserweight fight in the history of a division that started in 1980. Holyfield pulled out a split decision in one of the last great 15-round fights. This launched his career as one of boxing's most beloved warriors. As a postscript, Holyfield knocked Qawi out in four rounds in a rematch a year later.

Dates, air times: Wednesday, April 20, 9 p.m. (re-airs April 21 at 12 a.m.)
Fighters, result: Aaron Pryor TKO10 Alexis Arguello II
When: Sept. 9, 1983
Where: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Why it's important: Ten months after their epic first confrontation – which Pryor won via a 14th-round knockout in one of the greatest fights in history – the future Hall of Famers met again with Pryor's junior welterweight title again on the line. This one wasn't as competitive as the first and Pryor more or less dominated Arguello, who simply couldn't handle Pryor's strength. However, this would be the last time either fighter would be in a major fight. Pryor would fight only six more times over the next seven years and never again reach the heights to which Arguello propelled him. Arguello would fight just four more times – once in 1985, 1986, 1994 and 1995 – before finally retiring.

Dates, air times: Thursday, April 21, 9 p.m. (re-airs April 22 at 12 a.m.)
Fighters, result: Michael Moorer W12 Evander Holyfield I
When: April 22, 1994
Where: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Why it's important: Holyfield, who had regained the heavyweight championship from Riddick Bowe in their rematch five months earlier, took on hot contender Moorer in his next fight. Holyfield looked like he might have an easy night, too, as he knocked Moorer down in the second round. But Moorer got himself together with the help of fiery trainer Teddy Atlas, and pulled out a majority decision to become the first southpaw heavyweight champion. Four days after the fight, Holyfield's doctor announced that Holyfield had fought in a state of heart failure, clouding his ring future. Moorer and Holyfield would meet again in a 1997 unification match, and Holyfield would gain revenge with an eighth-round TKO.

Dates, air times: Friday, April 22, 9 p.m. (re-airs April 23 at 12 a.m.)
Fighters, result: Evander Holyfield TKO10 Michael Dokes
When: March 11, 1989
Where: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Why it's important: Holyfield had conquered the cruiserweight division, becoming the undisputed champion. But was he a legitimate heavyweight contender? In his third bout over 200 pounds and facing a former champion in Dokes, Holyfield resoundingly answered the question "yes" in this slugfest. Dokes fought dirty by hitting Holyfield low several times, which finally cost him a point in the sixth round. Holyfield cut Dokes in the sixth round and finally stopped him in the 10th round of a memorable fight that set the stage for his future heavyweight heroics.

In addition, ESPN Classic is airing the Roberto Duran vs. Ken Buchanan fight (a non-Main Events bout) on Monday, April 18 at 10 p.m. and the Pernell Whitaker vs. James "Buddy" McGirt bout on Tuesday, April 19 at 10 p.m. (not appearing on ESPN Motion).

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

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