20 NZ Olympic Moments: No. 20, Kevin Barry 'beats' Evander Holyfield

By Dylan Cleaver

Herald sports writers Dylan Cleaver and David Leggat will count down 20 Great New Zealand Olympic moments, starting today with Kevin Barry's controversial win over Evander Holyfield in the light heavyweight semifinal at the Los Angeles Games.

First there was Ted Morgan, then there was ... Gligorije Novicic.

The Yugoslav referee barged his way into New Zealand Olympic boxing folklore when he disqualified eventual four-time heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield during his light heavyweight semifinal with Kevin Barry at the Los Angeles Olympics.

To call the bout a mismatch would be doing a disservice to Barry, the nuggety Cantabrian, but Holyfield was clearly the dominant fighter.

He did, however, have a habit of punching after the referee called break.

The final time he did it after a flurry of combinations, he knocked Barry out with a left hook, giving Novicic two choices: ignore Holyfield's late blows again, or award the fight to Barry.

He chose the latter, much to the disgust of the rabidly hometown crowd.

He did throw the punch late, but subsequent footage would show that Barry had not been shy of the odd late punch during the fight, which stopped just short of the end of the second round.

When Barry raised Holyfield's arm in the air the crowd went berserk, showering the ref with invective and detritus. He had to be escorted from the arena.

Fuelling conspiracy theories was the small fact that as Barry was ruled a knockout victim, he was unable to fight for 28 days, meaning he picked up silver but the gold medal went, by default, to Anton Josipovic from ... Yugoslavia.

In the spirit of goodwill, Josipovic would lift Holyfield on to the top step of the dais with him.

The kerfuffle somewhat overshadowed Barry's meritorious progress through the early rounds of the tournament. He thrashed Trinidadian Don Smith, survived a close 3-2 bout against Ugandan Jonathan Kiriisa and comfortably dealt to Cameroon's Jean-Paul Nanga.

He was offered money to fight Holyfield post-Olympics but, not surprisingly, declined. Instead he became better known as Samoan Olympic bronze medallist David Tua's manager and trainer, although that relationship would sour.

While Holyfield went on to fame and fortune, albeit with slightly less of the ear than he had before fighting Mike Tyson, Josipovic, a Bosnian Croat, became a sports journalist, covering many of Holyfield's fights. He was shot and seriously wounded at a bar after returning to his hometown of Banja Luka in 1997 for a boxing tournament.

- NZ Herald

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