Holyfield, 32, showed no signs of any heart problems that doctors first thought he had after losing his crowns last April but were later discounted by other doctors.
Holyfield knocked down Mercer, 34, in the eighth round with a left hook following a left-right combination. Just before the bell ended the round, Holyfield staggered Mercer with a right to the head. Judge Eugene Grant scored the fight 96-93, Eva Shain had it 97-92 and Jean Williams gave Holyfield the edge 95-94.
A cut from a head-butt opened up by Holyfield's right eye but the blood, although flowing freely, streamed down the side of his face and not into his eye. At the end of the fight Mercer raised his hands and shouted: "Yes. The real warrior."
But after the decision was announced he slumped over the ropes, his face twisted in disbelief. "I was able to hit him with some great body shots," Holyfield said, "but he's a vicious guy and it's hard to get him down with just one punch."Reuse content