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Holyfield KO’s Brazilian in 2nd, Seeks Tyson Bout

Times Staff Writer

The right fist moved swiftly through the cool, crisp air, landing on Adilson Rodrigues’ right temple. He froze momentarily, as if shocked by the impact.

Rodrigues kicked his left leg high and crashed to the deck on his back, where he remained for 90 seconds after being counted out.

With that one punch, and a right uppercut that set it up midway through the second round, Evander Holyfield appeared to have set up an early 1990 showdown with heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who will fight Carl Williams Friday night in Atlantic City, N.J. Holyfield, who has now won 22 consecutive pro fights after a Yugoslavian referee threw him out of the 1984 Olympics, has stopped four heavyweights since moving up from the cruiserweight class last summer.

For four minutes, before about 5,500 fans at Caesars Tahoe’s outdoor stadium, Holyfield didn’t look like the prohibitive favorite he was made by oddsmakers. In fact, many ringsiders gave Rodrigues the first round based on his fast start.

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“What you saw in that first round was what I envisioned for the whole fight,” said Rodrigues’ trainer, Angelo Dundee.

“Unfortunately, Evander had other ideas. When you can KO a big heavyweight with one punch like that . . . that speaks for itself.”

Dundee wasn’t nearly as diplomatic during the fight. In the first round, from the corner, he called Holyfield a “two-dollar bum.”

Holyfield, who at 207 pounds came in lighter than expected, caught the slightly puffy-looking, 221-pound Rodrigues at center ring. That silenced several hundred Brazilians, who were on their feet waving blue-green pom-pons and cheering wildly after their man’s impressive first round.

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Rodrigues began the second quickly, too, starting Holyfield off with some more jolting left jabs. But 30 seconds into the round, Holyfield caught the Brazilian on the ropes, where he landed some telling body shots.

Rodrigues, rocked for the first time, scrambled away, seeking refuge at center ring. But Holyfield caught him there with a right to the face that landed with a thud.

Rodrigues came apart in about five seconds. First came a short, right uppercut to the jaw that snapped his head back and caused him to back up a step. But Holyfield didn’t immediately follow up. Instead, he stepped in, threw an inconsequential left, and then reached back for the winning right.

It was thrown quick and hard, slightly over the top of his shoulder, and caught Rodrigues high on the right side of his head. By the time Rodrigues (35-3) got up, the TV guys were in the ring, setting up for interviews.

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Through a translator, Rodrigues talked to reporters afterward:

Question: “Adilson, have you ever been hit harder than you were by that punch?”

Answer: “No, that was the hardest.”

Q: “Which one, the uppercut or the straight right?

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A: “Both of them.”

Rodrigues, who was the World Boxing Council’s No. 2-ranked contender (behind Holyfield), praised his conqueror afterward but wasn’t ready to concede him the heavyweight championship.

“I still think Tyson is the best, but Holyfield is very good. I didn’t see the last two punches. That happens, sometimes, when heavyweights fight.”

Holyfield said he decided in the first round to let Rodrigues have his way.

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“He surprised me by starting so fast, so I decided to slow down a little and try to throw off his rhythm,” he said.

“Also, I got thumbed slightly in the first. Usually, I start the fastest, but I’m working real hard now on patience, watching for the other guy to make a mistake. It’s part of the art of boxing.”

The word is that Tyson-Holyfield won’t come about until early 1990, in part because it’s believed that Sugar Ray Leonard will fight Roberto Duran or Thomas Hearns in November, and promoters don’t like to crowd the calendar.

If Tyson-Holyfield goes on hold, Holyfield would probably take a tuneup.

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“We want to fight someone soon,” said Holyfield’s manager, Atlanta auto dealer Ken Sanders. “Tyson, preferably, but if not him, someone else.”

And what does Tyson think of all this?

“I’m sure he (Tyson) was watchin’,” Holyfield said, smiling. “I try to get better in every fight, and I’m sure he understands now I’m getting better.”

Said Sanders: “Evander is going to be the heavyweight champion of the world because he’s a better fighter than Tyson and a better person.”

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No one else in the audience seemed willing to concede all of that, but Holyfield did seem to have made his point about improvement. And he does seem to hit harder than he did a year ago, when he stopped but couldn’t knock James Tillis or Pinklon Thomas off their feet.

Saturday night, the soles of Adilson Rodrigues’ size-12s were clearly visible for a minute and a half, and the view seemed to impart a clear message.


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