He did not climb like a squirrel onto the ropes, brandishing a still- gloved fist, shouting "eat your words", as the young Cassius Clay did after turning the odds upside down against Sonny Liston all those years ago. Holyfield simply held up one hand and smiled.
Nobody ever had a better right. All but one of 42 reporters polled by a Las Vegas newspaper had agreed that Mike Tyson would win easily and quickly.
The image we shared was of Holyfield being borne from the ring on his shield, a noble warrior in one fight too many. A horrid thught was that he might end up in hospital.
When Tyson and Holyfield went to their corners at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on 11 November, most people considered the contest a mismatch. But before three rounds were completed you could sense that something quite remarkable was going of to happen.
Where Tyson had been expected to blast through Holyfield's short hooking style, he was being frustrated by hit and hold tactics. And it soon became clear that one of the most feared hitters in heavyweight history could not handle a rough contest.
Probably, doubt entered Holyfield's mind in the fifth when he was staggered by heavy punches. However, the next session altered things dramatically in his favour. A short left sent Tyson over and, when he regained his feet to take an eight count, a cut above the corner of his left eye was leaking blood.
It bled again in the seventh and, after sending Tyson to his corner for examination by a ringside doctor, the referee, Chuck Halpern, warned Holyfield, threatening to deduct a point unless he was more careful.
A curious thing came to me personally at this time. The further the contest went, the more Tyson appeared to shrink physically. By the eighth round, there was a smile on the underdog's face and he began speaking to Tyson, as though utterly confident of victory.
When the bell sounded to end the 10th round, all three official judges had Holyfield so far ahead that Tyson, who staggered back to his corner, could only win by a knock-out. Thirty seconds into the eleventh, Holyfield knew that he had pulled off one of the biggest upsets in boxing history when Halpern stepped in to end the contest.
To his immense credit, Tyson was gracious in defeat. "I want to commend you," he said to Holyfield. "I have the greatest respect for you. I want to shake you by the hand."
Was it that Tyson had not felt a serious blow to the head since before serving three years in prison - none of the four men he had subsequently fought landed a blow on him - or that he can no longer summon up those formidable powers that had spread terror throughout the heavyweight division? Was it simply that Holyfield fought above himself?
They will fight again to answer those prodding questions - and it will be a big one. The biggest.Reuse content