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Heavyweight event packs a punch at Hard Rock Live

Terrance ‘Big Jim’ Marbra delivers a left hook to Ernest ‘Zeus’ Mazyck Sept. 5 during bout 4 of the eight-card World Heavyweight Champions Fight Night at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood. Marbra won the four rounds by decision.
Terrance ‘Big Jim’ Marbra delivers a left hook to Ernest ‘Zeus’ Mazyck Sept. 5 during bout 4 of the eight-card World Heavyweight Champions Fight Night at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood. Marbra won the four rounds by decision.

HOLLYWOOD — As an undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion in the early 1990s, Riddick Bowe didn’t share the spotlight with anybody. Nearly 25 years later, as he sat at a round table at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Bowe surveyed a ballroom chock-full of heavyweight boxing champions – some older than the 48-year-old and some younger – and gladly accepted the split attention he received.

Bowe’s right-hand, which helped earn him millions during his career, pointed to a sample of the other boxing greats in the room.

“You got Oliver McCall, Evander (Holyfield), Tony Tubbs,” Bowe said. “To me, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be with all the former world champions, and most of them are nice guys.”

Those “nice guys” were fierce competitors inside the ring during the peak of their careers, but they proved to be gentle giants Sept. 4 as about two dozen heavyweight champions – most retired – met in one room to reminisce, gather for a group photo in black-and-white tuxedoes and interview with the media and a documentary filmmaker.

In one corner, Mike Tyson sat in a chair while makeup was applied to his tattooed-face before the photo shoot. In another corner, 65-year-old Larry Holmes, who beat Muhammad Ali 35 years ago in Ali’s second-to-last fight, chatted with current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

Using a rolling walker for assistance, Leon Spinks, 62, entered the ballroom to hearty applause from his fellow champions.

For the group photo, Tyson and Holyfield – who were at the center of the sports world in a notorious 1997 fight when Tyson was disqualified for biting Holyfield’s ears – sat next to each other in the center of the front row.

The following night most of the boxers attended a full card of heavyweight fights at Hard Rock Live. The evening was highlighted by Shannon Briggs’ second-round knockout against Mike Marrone. Briggs’ victory wrapped up several days of boxing-related events organized by the Heavyweight Factory gym in Hollywood.

“I thought it was a great idea. I want to be here,” Bowe said.

Those sentiments were echoed in the ballroom by President Mitchell Cypress and tribal senior David Cypress. The Cypress brothers went from chatting with Holyfield one moment to mingling with Michael Moorer seconds later. Those fighters staged a memorable battle in 1994 when Moorer edged Holyfield at Caesars Palace with three heavyweight titles on the line. Three years later, Holyfield earned redemption with a rematch victory.

President Cypress said the boxing events in Hollywood will help grow Seminole Hard Rock’s recognition.

“For the Seminole Tribe, that’s a good promotion for Hard Rock, plus all these ex-fighters are here. It’s the first time it’s ever happened,” President Cypress said. “I’m thankful to (Heavyweight Factory owner) Kris Lawrence for getting everything here together so that way the whole world knows that Seminole Hard Rock is located in [Hollywood]. I think it’s fantastic.”

“It’s awesome,” David Cypress said. “It’s the best thing that could happen to the sport of boxing. It’s history.”

Holyfield said the gathering of legends should be the spark that reignites heavyweight boxing. The division’s popularity has waned since the 1990s when Holyfield, Bowe, Moorer, Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Roy Jones Jr., among others, ruled the ring.

“I truly believe this is an eye-opener for all the fighters,” Holyfield said. “For them to put this together, this is what boxing needs.”

How much momentum is gained from the boxing extravaganza remains to be seen, but Holyfield said at least it’s a step in the right direction.

“They did one thing: They got us here,” Holyfield said. “The next thing is how do they take the brilliant minds of everybody and use it to enlighten the game of boxing, to carry this thing forward.”

Holyfield was among the stars who strutted across a red carpet before a media crush during Fight Night Sept. 5. Some mugged in sure-footed poses and balled fists for the cameras. Others gave impromptu sound bites for video.

“The most important thing about tonight is that we finally are together for the first time in boxing history. Hopefully we can help change the future of boxing,” Holyfield said.

Several veteran fighters were still backstage when fighters on the night’s card filtered through after bouts. Brandon Spencer, of Atlanta, emotional after beating Dieuly Aristilde, of Boynton Beach, by unanimous decision, gave credit to the legends.

“You and all the other boxers here tonight, just watching you all, you put it in my heart to box,” Spencer said drenched in sweat and tears.

In the main event, Briggs, 43, with his fans chanting, “Let’s go champ,” sent Marrone, 30, to the mat in the first round with a right hook to the head. In the second, with 2:52 on the clock, Marrone crumbled to the canvas when Briggs delivered a knockout left to his head that ended the fight and concluded a heavyweight weekend.

Staff reporter Eileen Soler contributed to this report.

 

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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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