Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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Thomas & Mack Turns 25:

No. 10: Holyfield, Lewis set gate record

Heavyweights put fans in the T&M seats, leave them wanting more

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A poster for the heavyweight title fight between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis is displayed inside the Thomas & Mack Center.

Special section

Editor's Note: In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center's opening on Nov. 21, 1983, the Sun is celebrating the building's colorful history with a top 25 countdown - to No. 1 on Nov. 21, 2008 - of the biggest events held inside the arena located on UNLV's campus.

Evander Holyfield’s biggest storyline obviously came at the hands (make that mouth) of Mike Tyson, but the “The Real Deal” Holyfield had several other interesting bouts that didn’t require plastic surgery on his ear.

One of the biggest, at least financially, came against Lennox Lewis in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The pair’s first meeting — a bout in New York that ended in a controversial 12-round draw, despite a large contingent of fans and experts feeling Lewis won — created a big buzz for the rematch in Las Vegas.

The unification of Holyfield’s IBF and WBA heavyweight titles, along with Lewis’ WBC title and the vacant IBO belt only fueled the hype machine surrounding the American-British showdown.

And fight fans paid to see it. More than 17,000 packed the Mack on Nov. 13, 1999, creating the largest gate of $16.8 million in the sport’s history, at the time.

But whether those thousands of fans got enough bang for their buck is another matter. Lewis’ trainer, Emanuel Steward, said not so much.

“That was no superstar performance," Steward said, after Lewis' unanimous decision.

“It was disappointing to me. Lennox didn't do what I was hoping he would do, which is fight smartly and win by knockout."

Lewis still landed enough punches, 195 blows to Holyfield’s 137, to gain scores of 116-112, 117-111, 115-113 from the judges.

"It don’t get any bigger than this. Now I’ll go down in the history books forever," said Lewis, who became the first undisputed heavyweight champ since Riddick Bowe in 1992, and first undisputed heavyweight champion from England since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1897.

Holyfield said he wasn’t so certain of the decision.

“I thought this was closer than the first fight," Holyfield said. "The fight went the way it did and the result was left to the judges. It's up to the people if they want me to continue. We'll see. I could walk away at any time."

While last year’s Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight overtook Holyfield-Lewis as the top grossing fight of all-time, there was plenty to remember about the biggest fight in Thomas & Mack history.

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