An overpowering champion isn't truly interesting until he's beaten. A guy wins and wins, establishes a dominance that ought to be appreciated for itself, and instead gets criticized for the regularity and one-sidedness of his victories. He's boring. What's more, his sport is boring. It's uncompetitive, it's a rip-off, it's a waste of time and money. The fans love winners but, it turns out, only up to a point.
Heavyweight boxing was getting to be like that. Mike Tyson's fights were so one-sided that critics thought the bouts should have been overseen by consumer advocates. They were worse than boring. Given the suspect abilities of Tyson's opponents, the bouts seemed a swindle of the pay-per-view audience. The opponents were fainting in the ring. In the early rounds. Tyson's menace, entertaining at the start of his comeback, was no longer good value.
And then, on Nov. 9 in Las Vegas, up stepped Evander Holyfield, a 34-year-old former two-time champion who had been used up by his sport. Holyfield had terrific name recognition and would be a good draw in Tyson's perfunctory march to a unified title. Otherwise, he was the worst kind of opponent for Tyson: He hadn't the good sense to be afraid.
The protracted beating never happened, did it? Holyfield's fans, hoping he would faint and thereby escape mortal injury, were stunned to see him swarm the shorter Tyson. Well, they knew Holyfield would display a certain confidence; the fellow was almost annoying in his certainty. But in what round would his confidence be destroyed by a series of short right hands?
Holyfield's confidence destroyed Tyson instead. His bald head untroubled by doubt, he finished Tyson in the 11th. The upset seemed good for both men's careers. Each was suddenly interesting again though hardly in a way anybody would have imagined.