ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., DEC. 5 -- Unbeaten Evander Holyfield knocked out Dwight Muhammad Qawi with a crushing right to the jaw in the fourth round tonight and retained his International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association cruiserweight titles.

After Qawi had his best round in the third -- when he shook Holyfield with a couple of right hands -- the champion came back to finish the rematch in the next round. Fifty seconds into the round, Holyfield, 25, hurt Qawi, 34, with four jabs and a right to the chin. Holyfield, then moving and jabbing, caught Qawi going backward with a three-punch combination. The final punch, a left hook, put Qawi down.

He struggled up at the count of three and took a mandatory eight count from referee Randy Neumann. Holyfield then went to work, and after missing a short left, nailed Qawi with a right to the head. Qawi went face down and was counted out at 2:30 of the round.

As the count reached seven, Qawi's corner shouted, "Get up! Get up!" Qawi shook his head.

Holyfield (187 pounds), who has announced his intention of moving into the heavyweight division to seek a fight with undisputed champion Mike Tyson, improved to 17-0 with 13 knockouts. Qawi (190) is 28-5-1.

The loss almost certainly finished Qawi as a major contender in either the 190-pound or heavyweight classes. The veteran from Camden, N.J., once held the World Boxing Council light heavyweight title, which he lost to Michael Spinks in 1983, and once held the WBA junior heavyweight title, which he lost to Holyfield on a 15-round decision on July 20, 1985.

In a preliminary fight, Holyfield's 1984 Olympic teammate, Mark Breland, score a one-sided, 10-round decision over Javier Suazo in Breland's first fight since he lost the WBA welterweight title to Marvin Starling on an 11th-round knockout last Aug. 22.