A dinosaur will fight a white buffalo at the Thomas and Mack Center Saturday night and the Nevada Athletic Commission is fine with that. This is not a sign of the end of society as we know it but it may be the end of the Nevada Commission as anything remotely resembling a regulatory body.
The sanctioning of a fight between 47-year-old Evander Holyfield, who is barely capable of still winning an argument let alone a fight, and 41-year-old South African Frans “The White Buffalo’’ Botha is absurd on the face of it but coming on the heels of the NSAC allowing so well shot he’s riddled Roy Jones, Jr. to fight in Las Vegas last weekend against moderately shot Bernard Hopkins makes one thing clear – the Nevada State Athletic Commission should be disbanded.
I mean, what’s the point? What are they regulating? Are they even still empowered to do anything but rubber stamp anything any promoter willing to bring two cadavers to ringside wants?
Jones was pathetic, an empty vessel who was out to sea and out of his element inside a boxing ring. Hopkins was not pathetic but you could see it from where he was fighting. Hopkins has much to be proud of but his performance against Jones, in which he took a knee as often as he took it to Jones, was shameful.
It was not, however, anywhere near as shameful as the performance of Keith Kizer and the commission he serves. While it is true he is simply the executive director and hence has no final vote on any matters, he is – or at least should be – a loud voice of reason when it comes to which boxers are allowed to ply their dangerous trade inside state lines.
Here are the facts about the dinosaur and the white buffalo. The former is 6-7-1 since 1999 and 3-8 in his last 11 fights. His last victory over a heavyweight other than someone who just happened to be a heavy man was nearly eight years ago, when he stopped Hasim Rahman.
He has not fought in 16 months, having lost an achingly boring decision to then WBA heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev on Dec. 20, 2008. That fight proved two things. Valuev couldn’t fight and neither can Holyfield any more. Yet Nevada is telling the same fighter denied a license in New York for being “non-competitive’’ 5 ½ years ago to, as Monty Hall would say, “Come on down!’’
As for Botha, he is a 41-year-old journeyman who would be considered a has been had he ever been anybody other than a jovial fellow from South Africa. Botha retired for five years but, like the rest of them, couldn’t stay away. Once he was knocked out by both Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko within two years. Those are his career highlights.
Since his return to boxing, Botha has won a split decision from Tino Hoffman and fought a draw in his last outing against Pedro Carrion. If you are not a limb on the Carrion family tree you are excused if you have no idea who he is.
Yet things have grown so dismal in Las Vegas that the town will try anything to attract a crowd. Last weekend it was two old geezers. This weekend it’s another senior tour event. The only problem with this is that there is no seniors tour in boxing and these kind of fights are about as entertaining as watching a pie eating contest but far more dangerous.
For reasons known only to the promoter, Holyfield-Botha will be staged in the Thomas and Mack Center on the UNLV campus. That is where the Runnin’ Rebels play their basketball games. It will be so empty Saturday night that any punch that lands will echo around the place as if they were fighting inside an echo chamber.
This is what it has come to for Holyfield, who was the best heavyweight of his time and truly “The Real Deal’’ for much of it. It has been a long, long time since boxing was anything but a bad deal for him and for the public. The public finally figured this out, which is why his last fight had to be staged in Switzerland. The Nevada State Athletic Commission still hasn’t. Or, if you are extremely cynical, they have and couldn’t care less.
Earlier this week Holyfield said, “I’m happy to have the opportunity to fight in Las Vegas again. Everything that’s happened to me has been here – in 1984 I had to win Saturday and Sunday to make the Olympic team. In 1990, 1993, 1996 and 2000 I won the heavyweight title here. Las Vegas has been the place that’s given me the opportunity to be the person I am.’’
Now it’s giving him the opportunity to be what Roy Jones, Jr. was a week ago which was a sad embarrassment to himself, to the sport he once ruled and to the commission that is sanctioning this kind of schlock.
“My goal has simply been to be undisputed heavyweight champion,’’ Holyfield said in the kind of statement that would have led Mills Lane to stop the press conference if he was still a boxing official.
“I’m a person – I think my attitude is good when people tell me I can’t do something -- I’m driven by what people say I can’t do to prove I can. I’m not disappointed by decisions. I felt I beat Valuev. I won’t quit seeking to do my best and Saturday night you’ll see me give my all. If not enough, I’ll make adjustments. I’m telling you, Saturday night, I’ll look better than I used to be.”
If he does there won’t be many witnesses.
As for Botha, he claims to be the WBF heavyweight champion. The WBF is one thing and one thing only. It is proof that there are too many letters in the alphabet for boxing’s own good. Sadly, four of them are now NSAC.
“I’m defending my title against one of the greatest legends of all-time,’’ Botha said. “This will make my resume perfect.”
Botha is right about that. If he can get knocked out by Holyfield he will have a perfect record of having been stopped by Holyfield, Lewis, Klitschko and Mike Tyson. It would be a quadfecta of concussions.
“The White Buffalo’ is roaming the prairie,’’ Botha (47-4-3, 28 KO) continued when speaking in Holyfield’s direction. “I’m going to end your career, make you retire.’’
We can only hope so.