Visit by boxing champs a rare sports opportunity

Published 8:47 am Thursday, January 12, 2017

The history of heavyweight boxing can usually be broken down into different eras. There was the golden age of the sport in the 1920s and 30s. There was the era of bruisers like Rocky Marciano and Ezzard Charles in the 1950s, the second golden age of the 60s and 70s with legends like Ali and Frazier, and the 1980s when Mike Tyson plowed through everybody.

And then there were the 1990s. Hoo boy, the 1990s.

If you’re too young to remember or didn’t quite follow boxing, the collection of heavyweights vying for the title in the 1990s was like the video game “Punch-Out!!” come to life.

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There was ancient George Foreman, the vaguely evil German Axel Schulz, and Andrew Golota’s passion for punching people in the groin.

You had former cruiserweight Evander Holyfield rising up to be one of the greatest champions the sport has ever seen, and Tyson returning to strike terror in the division before Holyfield slayed the beast. The best fights from the decade are remembered more for the bizarre happenings during them than the action in the ring, like the infamous “Fan Man” fight and Tyson eating Holyfield’s ear for dinner.

It was a fun time, and on Friday night Vicksburg’s residents can relive some of them with four of the decade’s best fighters.

Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer and James Toney won’t be fighting, but will meet and greet fans on Friday night at Ameristar Casino ahead of their turn as grand marshals of the city’s MLK Day parade. The meet and greet starts at 7 p.m. in Ameristar’s Bottleneck Blues Bar, and admission is $10 at the door. It’s not a bad price to shake hands and swap stories with four guys who have held some version of the world heavyweight championship more than a half-dozen times among them.

Holyfield and Bowe alone could probably spend the entire two hours talking about their epic trilogy that included a guy in a homemade aircraft parachuting into ringside in the middle of a round, and the 11th round of their first fight that’s been called one of the best in boxing history.

Toney is one of only three former middleweights to rise up and become heavyweight champion. Mercer was an Olympic gold medalist in 1988 and later won the WBO heavyweight championship.

It’s a rare opportunity to meet a legend in any sport. Getting to meet four of them in one place, especially in a small town like Vicksburg, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you’re a boxing fan, don’t miss it.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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