Holyfield was devastated. He had never before been beaten, much less beaten up. Worse, the scores suggested that "I wasn't even in the fight," he says. He announced his retirement, canceled plans for his estate and got involved with his eight-year-old son's football program.
Bowe, meanwhile, was enjoying the spoils of championship, the whole kit and caboodle. Newman took him on a world tour, to visit Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, the starving children of Somalia. This was well beyond the usual victory lap. This was Ali-level excess. Also, Bowe finally financed his compound, which was just a nice house, with a gym-playroom for himself and his kids and a 12-car garage for his growing collection of automobiles.
It was a heady time. The summer after he'd beaten Holyfield, Bowe stood in an upstairs bedroom, contemplating his success. Champion of the world. "I said to myself, What more can you ask?" he recalls.
From a distance of 10 years, even he can recognize the hubris. "Now, why did I say that?" he says, laughing.
Newman got him some soft touches, Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson, whom Bowe flattened in a round each, earning $15 million for the two. HBO dangled a $100 million contract, and, well, what more could you ask? Bowe was riding so high, he no longer required official sanction of his happiness. At Newman's instigation, he shed the WBC belt, unceremoniously dropping it into a garbage can before the assembled press. And you could say his already marginal self-discipline was further eroded by success. "To make a long story short," Bowe says, "yes, I did eat all the Twinkies I could. Not to mention that my momma now lived down the street and would cook me an apple pie whenever I wanted it. I deserved it. I worked so hard."
Holyfield did not retire for long. His thing, as he says, is not to quit—even when logic dictates surrender. He contacted Steward about training him for a rematch, and Steward did not sugarcoat it. "He's a better boxer than you," he told Holyfield. "He fights better inside, weird as that is, and even more incredible, has a better jab. This will be your most difficult assignment yet." Pretty much everybody agreed; Holy-field was a 6-to-1 underdog.
Steward, knowing that Holyfield was a nimble dancer, hatched a plan that would win the rematch and the two remaining heavyweight titles. It was all footwork. Bowe, having again blown up to more than 280 pounds before camp, weighed in at 246,11 more than for the first meeting almost exactly a year before. But all anybody remembers from the second fight is Fan Man, a motor-propelled paraglider who dropped into the outdoor ring behind Caesars Palace in the seventh round. The paraglider, James Miller, later complained that even though there were two great heavyweights in the ring, he was "the only guy who got knocked out." Bowe's handlers pum-meled him good, and, disentangled from his flying apparatus, Fan Man was removed from the ring on a stretcher.
Looking back, both fighters attribute the disruption to a conspiracy, although their versions are entirely different. "If you look at certain individuals around the ring," says Bowe, "they had walkie-talkies. [Fan Man] knew exactly when to come into the ring. We get to stand around 20 minutes in the cold, and here's what kills me: Holyfield's corner has covers, blankets and sheets. C'mon, man! Please! It took me five minutes to get warm again. That's not a conspiracy? You tell me, what fight you know, somebody has a quilt at ringside. I was bamboozled, hoodwinked."
Holyfield has been thinking about it all these years too. "I was hitting him at will," he says of the pre-Fan Man rounds. "I was busting him up. And what I heard later was that if I'd knocked him out early, a lot of people would have lost money. What I heard, woulda broke the bank. Broke the bank! And you know, he did float up there a long time. Why he come down then?"
In any case, it was an extremely close fight, with a draw on one of the cards and Holyfield winning by just one point on the second card and two points on the third. If it substituted intrigue and paranoia for the first fight's magnificent 10th round, this rematch was no less noble. The two men were still standing at the bell, clawing at each other, their desperation now obscured in history, but no less real. "An easy fight?" says Holyfield. "Nooooo!"