Evander Holyfield believes both George Foreman and Riddick Bowe hit him far harder than Mike Tyson during his fabled career.
The former undisputed cruiserweight champion made history when he defeated Buster Douglas to become heavyweight champion of the world in 1990.
However, in his first defence he was matched up against the fearsome Foreman in what as billed as ‘The Battle of the Ages’. Despite getting wobbled on several occasions, Holyfield prevailed and established himself as a genuine heavyweight.
But the ‘Real Deal’ met his match in Bowe and their trilogy of heavyweight fights are the stuff of legend. In fact, Holyfield still considers the first man to knock him out to be the biggest puncher he ever faced.
“George Foreman hit me with the hardest punch,’ Holyfield said in an interview with The 3 Point Conversion.
“But Riddick Bowe hit me more than anybody with big shots.
“In not winning my first fight with Riddick Bowe, I was kind of inspired by the people saying, ‘god damn, it’s one thing if you hit him, he’s not gonna stop coming’.
“I always remember that was inspiration that I could take something, everyone was asking, ‘what’s gonna happen if he gets hit by some big guy?’
“I guess the first heavyweight fight that was really kinda taxing was when I fought Michael Dokes. But after Michael Dokes I kinda grew into how to hang with guys who are bigger and had a little bit more experience than I.
“Once I knew I could be hurt… I remember at one point in time I thought I could never be hurt because it never happened to me.
“But the first time Bert Cooper caught me with a shot, they gave me my first eight count, then I realised, ‘wow’. “When he hit me I didn’t see the shot, all I remember is my legs rubber banding, I realised but I never got hurt again until I fought Riddick Bowe.
“The art of the game is you only get hit when you do something wrong. So even sometimes you may get by, you do something wrong and the guy didn’t swing, so you’re kinda thankful.
“Either you’re in a position to hit the guy or the guy is in a position to hit you. Either you hit the guy or you move, if you don’t hit the guy and you don’t move, chances are you’ll get blasted.
“If you miss the guy but you move, the guy tends to miss you.”
It was Holyfield who made Mike Tyson miss during their ill-tempered fights in 1996 and 1997, stopping ‘Iron Mike’ in round 11 of their first bout.
However, the rematch ended in controversy when Tyson BIT both of the champion’s ears before being disqualified.
After footage of Tyson training once again went viral earlier this month, Holyfield announced his intention to also return to the ring for he first time since 2011 and complete the trilogy.