Evander Holyfield beat and bloodied a determined Michael Dokes Saturday night before finally stopping the former heavyweight champion with two huge left hooks in the 10th round of a bruising heavyweight battle.

Holyfield, 208 and considered a suspect puncher by some observers, buckled Dokes' knees with a vicious left hook midway through the final round and unleashed a flurry of punches before a final left hook to the face left Dokes helpless on the ropes.Holyfield was still punching at the defenseless Dokes when referee Richard Steele stepped in to stop the scheduled 12-round fight at 1:41 of the 10th.

It was only the third fight for Holyfield as heavyweight, and Dokes was his toughest test yet. Holyfield was a 9-2 favorite.

Holyfield shook off several low blows early in the fight, punches that seemed to anger him, and cut Dokes over both eyes. But Holyfield never appeared to hurt Dokes until the first left hook in the 10th round sent Dokes backwards and buckled his legs.

The fight was marred by low blows from both fighters, and the two exchanged punches after the bell in several rounds.

The win furthwer cemented Holyfield's climb into the heavyweight ranks and moved him a step closer to a possible title fight against undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.

The victory wasn't easy, though, as Dokes traded punches freely with Holyfield and landed numerous shots of his own to the head of the former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion.

Dokes used a punishing body attack that visibly bothered Holyfield and seemed to slow his pace. Holyfield, though, landed frequently with sharp combinations of his own and was finally able to put Dokes away.

Holyfield's record is 21-0 with 17 knockouts after his eighth consecutive knockout. Dokes suffered only his second loss as a pro and his first since winning eight in a row in a comeback following a battle with cocaine addiction.

The fighters stood toe to toe and traded punches freely throughout the fight, much to the delight of a crowd of about 3,000 at Caesars Palace.

Dokes, 225, was warned twice in the first round for low blows, and a third low blow late in the round seemed to anger Holyfield. Holyfield came back with a low blow of his own that doubled up Dokes in obvious pain and forced Steele to halt the fight for about 30 seconds so Dokes could recover.

In the sixth round, Steele took a point away from Dokes after he hit Holyfield with another low blow. Dokes hit Holyfield after the bell ending the sixth round, and Holyfield answered with two punches of his own.

"Dokes proved a lot," Holyfield said. "He was strong throughout. It was my toughest fight yet."

Holyfield's manager, Ken Sanders, challenged Tyson to a winner-take-all bout. "Everybody's looking for a big payday (with Tyson)," Sanders said. "If we can't beat him, we don't want nothing."

Tyson, however, has indicated he will fight journeyman Jose Ribalta in his next bout, and a fight with Holyfield could be as much as a year away.

Dokes also said he would like to take on Tyson, despite the loss that dropped his record to 37-2-2.

"That would be the only way I could get up that way again," the 30-year-old Dokes.

Holyfield, of Atlanta, earned $750,000 for the fight, while Dokes, of Las Vegas, was paid $225,000.