When They Were Kings: Triller’s Old Guard Have Seen Better Days

Here are the greatest nights of Triller’s veteran sluggers
12:58, 08 Sep 2021

Propped up by a mixture of celebrities, retired fighters, influencers and the odd rising boxer, Triller presents boxing in a way we have never seen before. However, it is fair to say that most of those involved are below their peak by the time they end up on the service. The days of world championships and packed arenas are behind combatants like Evander Holyfield and Tito Ortiz, who will step into the Triller ring on Saturday. Even some of the commentators have got the peak of their careers in the rearview mirror, as former United States President Donald Trump will be commentating on Holyfield’s bout with Vitor Belfort.

Rather than splash the cash to watch these faded warriors recapturing something they left behind decades ago, it is far more inspiring to go back and watch these titans at their peak. Here are the greatest nights of Triller’s veteran sluggers.

 

Evander Holyfield (TKO11 Mike Tyson)

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Forget the ‘Bite Fight.’ Before Mike Tyson reminded the world he was truly unhinged, Holyfield reminded the world he was an all-time great heavyweight. ‘Real Deal’ opened as a 25-1 underdog, and was perceived to have lost a step after looking very poor in his previous fight against Bobby Cyz. On the other hand, ‘Iron’ Mike had been imperious since his release from prison, collecting four wins inside the distance and two world titles.

Evander did not just throw the formbook out of the window, he punched it into dust. His smart boxing, brave refusal to be overawed and a smattering of the ‘dark arts’ on the inside frustrated the favourite. Holyfield closed the show with a flurry of unanswered punches in the penultimate round. ‘Commander Vander’ would go on to enter the record books as the only fighter to win the heavyweight championship four times. Tyson would never hold a world title again.

Vitor Belfort (UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament)

The UFC veteran has enjoyed a number of career highlights. Belfort took the UFC Light Heavyweight title from the great Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture via cuts, blasted out Wanderlei Silva in 44 seconds, and scored the 2013 Knockout Of The Year against Luke Rockhold.

However, his UFC 12 heavyweight tournament win just edges it. During the early days of MMA, fighters would compete several times in one night in order to earn championships. Most impressively, Belfort won the February 1997 tournament by beating Tra Telligman and Scott Ferrozzo in a combined time of exactly two minutes. On this night, ‘The Phenom’ truly arrived in MMA.

 

David Haye (MD12 Nikolai Valuev)

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Already a unified cruiserweight champion, the ‘Hayemaker’ was seen as Britain’s greatest heavyweight hope at a time when Wladimir Klitschko ruled the division with utter dominance. It did not quite pan out that way, but Haye proved he belonged in boxing’s glamour decision against Valuev.

Facing the tallest and heaviest champion boxing has ever seen, Haye used clever movement and patient boxing to pick apart the giant, before coming within a whisker of knocking Valuev out in the final minute. Haye never quite scaled these heights again, but on this night he had climbed the mountain.

Tito Ortiz (TKO3 Ken Shamrock)

The moment UFC first crossed over from a fringe-sport viewed with suspicion to a fascinating variation on the fight game that could capture hearts in the same way boxing had. Tito Ortiz’s bitter feud with UFC champion turned WWE star Ken Shamrock would become the talk of combat sport by borrowing heavily from pro wrestling.

The trash talk and running storyline of Ortiz taking out members of Shamrock’s Lion’s Den training group left anticipation at fever pitch when the pair finally met at UFC 40: Vendetta. Ortiz weathered an early Shamrock storm, nearly being knocked out early, to dominate proceedings from that point. ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ wore ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ down before Shamrock’s corner threw the towel in before round 4.

The impact of the fight went far beyond the cage. UFC had tripled their previous PPV buyrate, gained mainstream media coverage, and it has been argued the fight saved the company from bankruptcy. Without Ortiz vs Shamrock I, there might not be a UFC today. The pair would run it back in a pair of rematches, the first breaking the company PPV record again, the second breaking their television rating record. Ortiz won both in the first round.

 

Anderson Silva (KO1 Rich Franklin)

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As the fighter with the second-most UFC title defences under his belt, and a highlight reel stacked with spectacular finishes, any number of fights could have gone here. But you never forget your first time, and ‘The Spider’ enjoyed quite the coming out party when he won the UFC Middleweight Championship.

Catching the champion with a brutal knee in the clinch, Silva honed in on Franklin and launched a barrage of kicks and knees. Sensing blood in the water, the Brazilian struck with one final, decisive knee to the skull of Rich Franklin, dethroning the champion and beginning a journey on which he would make history.

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