In fact, he was sparring 2- and 2�-minute rounds; Duva and Benton just didn't tell him. Then they moved Holyfield up to four rounds, to six, to eight. No problem. Then they dropped him back to six—only they let the clock run the full three minutes. Again, no problem. "Since then," said Duva, "he's never complained about stamina. In fact, we have to slow him down."
As a professional, Holyfield started in the light heavyweight division, then moved up to the 190-pound junior heavyweight class. He won his first 11 fights, 8 of them by knockout. A $200,000 offer to Qawi brought a quick and positive reaction. Qawi, an ex-WBC light heavyweight champ with a 26-2-1 record, counted on an easy payday. When the champion went into training five weeks before the fight, he was 35 pounds over the limit.
At the same time Duva and Benton enlisted Tim Hallmark, a Houston-based fitness expert, to give their man, in Duva's words, "stamina, energy and mobility all at the same time." Hallmark further overhauled Holyfield's diet, reduced his between-rounds recovery time to 45 seconds, and began an intense six-day workout schedule.
One day Holyfield would do 30 to 45 minutes of sprints, intervals and plyometrics (explosive movement), plus a stint climbing a moving chain ladder, a sort of vertical treadmill. "We'd build his heart rate for 2� minutes and then do explosive movements for 30 seconds," said Hallmark. "At first, with 45 seconds of rest, his heart rate fell from 190 to 160. Now he gets as low as 140."
On alternate days, he would spend up to two hours riding a stationary bike, running on a treadmill, walking at a fast pace on an elevated treadmill, and stepping up and down from a bench.
That was just in the morning. In the afternoon, Holyfield would train normally with Benton.
"There were days when I just wanted to quit," Holyfield says. "I didn't think I could do it anymore. Then Tim gave me two days off and on those days I sparred for 15 rounds. It was like I was on vacation. I'd end up feeling like I could go 15 more. It was wonderful."
The battle plan was to fight Qawi in the trenches for six rounds and then step up the pace. "He's going to come right at you," Duva told Holyfield. "If he bangs you, bang him right back. Don't show him no respect. Keep the fight even for six rounds and then turn it on."
After six it was indeed even, although Qawi seemed to be taking control during the fourth, fifth and sixth. "O.K.," Holyfield was then told. "Now let's go to work. Keep jabbing and keep turning. Don't pull straight back. That's when he's catching you with the right hand."
Holyfield had begun the fight headhunting, exactly what his corner did not want him to do. Now, stepping up the already furious pace, he moved his attack downstairs, pounding Qawi's midbody, upper arms and shoulders. The champ continued to press forward, but always into Holyfield's accurate and untiring cannons. As Qawi said later: "Maybe I'm getting too old for this. Maybe I'd better start looking for something else to do."