The 44 year old earned a 114-113 victory on two judge’s cards, while a third saw it 116-114 much to the delight of the strongly partisan crowd.
The victory took Holyfield’s record to 40 wins, eight defeats and two draws, with 26 wins by knockout.
Oquendo, who lost world title fights to Chris Byrd in 2003 and John Ruiz in 2004, fell to 26-4, with 16 wins inside the distance.
In the first round, the fight looked over just after it began when Holyfield sent Oquendo to the canvas with a hard blow to the head.
War of attrition
But the Puerto Rican responded with a punishing blow of his own, before the bout evolved into a slow-paced affair.
In the final moments of the sixth round, Oquendo went down again after Holyfield landed a series of blows at his belt, but US referee Laurence Cole saw no reason to penalize Holyfield for a low blow.
The ex-champ looked in good condition and look to have plenty left in the tank despite the fight going the distance.
“I feel good,” Holyfield insisted. “It’s not a new Holyfield. It’s the same Holyfield who won four world titles, and who is going for a fifth.”
Holyfield, who holds the questionable record of being the only man to lose the heavyweight crown four times, beat Jeremy Bates in August to launch his comeback bid.
Before that he hadn’t fought in nearly two years, but he now reiterated his desire for a title shot in 2007.
“My goal is to be champion again,” Holyfield said. “When I achieve that, I will retire.”
The peak of Holyfield’s career came in 1996 when he defeated Mike Tyson for the heavyweight title, then won a rematch by disqualification the next year when Tyson bit a chunk out of his ear.
Holyfield lost his crown to Britain’s Lennox Lewis in 1999, fighting Lewis to a controversial draw in Madison Square Garden before losing a rematch at Las Vegas.
He won back a World Boxing Association crown vacated by Lewis in 2000 but lost it in 2001 to Puerto Rico’s John Ruiz, a signal his best days were done.
Holyfield’s glory days began in 1990 when he defeated Buster Douglas to take the title. He beat George Foreman and Larry Holmes but was dethroned by Riddick Bowe in 1992 before avenging that loss to reclaim the throne in 1993.
Holyfield lost the heavyweight title in 1994 to Michael Moorer, who then surrendered the title later that year to George Foreman, who became at 45 the oldest man to win the heavyweight crown by beating Moorer.
Being 49 weeks shy of his 45th birthday, Holyfield would not be able to break Foreman’s mark as the oldest man to win the crown before August of 2008.