For me, seeing Bowe fight last week in Mannheim and getting ready to head for Holyfield's hurrah in Zurich has been an emotional exercise in facing passed time and recalling two of my favorite boxers, both of whom I first encountered personally just after they had participated in the Box-offs and made their respective US Olympic Teams.
Whenever I start looking back with too glazed a vision, my wife starts singing Springsteen's "Glory Days", but now a melancholy song echoes about these particular times in a '60's tune by The Animals with the chorus: "When I was young things were more important, pain more painful, the laughter much louder.."
In case you haven't guessed, I'm not going to join the general chorus condemning or judging either old boy. No debates here either. To each their own, only best wishes at holiday time and all that.
That's not to say I don't understand the risks, falls from grace, or vastly changed status involved. I just hope both men find a healthy peace.
Holyfield had been much more in the public eye, so it was more of a double take moment when I saw Bowe in Berlin after the Vitali Klitschko - Samuel Peter fight. While almost an hour passed before Klitschko and his entourage made their entrance, I watched Bowe sitting over to the side, exchanging occasional greetings with the few people who recognized him. Bowe didn't look concerned about whether anyone noticed him or not.
As I drifted out I nodded to Bowe and he smiled the big grin I had seen before on numerous occasions, so I felt obliged to go over and say howdy.
"You look familiar," he said politely which showed he still had diplomatic sensibilty, since I'm sure he had no clue who I was but recognized my media affiliation. I told him I'd spoken with him during his Olympic training in Arizona and covered his early fights in Vegas, again, he nodded like he remembered. I'm honored if he did.
We talked a bit, but I didn't ask the most obvious question about what he'd been up to because I'd heard murmers of his plans and I was afraid of the answer. Besides, what right did I have to tell him I hoped he wouldn't come back.
Sure enough, I soon read he was fighting on the Klitschko-Rahman undercard.
Maybe the K2 people are simply trying to be decent to an old hero. I heard Bowe made around 20,000 euro (over 25k in US bucks), more than a fair payday for the match he was in. Maybe K2 smell any easy payday for one of their young lions like 13-0 Mario Preskar, who looked great on both brothers' undercards.
There was plenty of negative speculation about whether or not Bowe would actually appear in the ring. He did, for better or worse, against a limited fellow named Gene Pukall, now listed at 14-13-2 (12).
The arena was about half full, at about 5,000 folks when Pukall entered looking like a fella in pajamas who got up for a drowsy visit to the bathroom. Pukall came into the ring with a black eye. It was the only damage he left with.
When Bowe came in the excellent announcer shouted "Please welcome Mr. Riddick Bowe!" like it was Elvis. There was a decently loud ovation as Bowe appeared with a full beard, in a bright white robe that covered an ample gut. The robe had the logo of a financial investment firm, something Bowe probably should have employed long ago.
Bowe had streaks of silverish gray in his hair, a mixture of age and vaseline.
The line about Oscar de la Hoya being unable to pull the trigger was often repeated weeks before. During the opening minutes against Pukall, Bowe couldn't even find a trigger to pull.
Bowe never connected with a solid punch in the early frames but Pukall's face was red from the impact of his arms being pushed back by blocked punches. Pukall got emboldened and tried to throw inside more but action was scarce and the crowd was silent until Lennox Lewis was introduced after second round began. The image of Bowe throwing Lewis's eventual WBC belt into the trash came back to haunt the scene.
Bowe faced another small moment of truth as Pukall backed him to the ropes and won the second frame.
Bowe fired stiffer jabs after that, some pretty decent, as the first popgun exchanges of the bout occurred in round three. In the fourth, Bowe scored a knockdown with a good, short left hook and by the sixth his jab actually landed pretty well.
As the fight ended, there was even a weak chant going for Bowe, who smiled for a second like the old days. It wouldn't be a lie to call it an moral victory, but it would probably be false to call it a hopeful sign.
After the fight the positive spin was that Bowe looked OK against a guy almost ten years younger.
While this is in no way an endorsement of any such engagement, it looked like there's a decent chance Bowe could provide the audience with a more satisfying spectacle against one of the Klitschkos in a short, dramatic last stand than the petered out Peter or the rockabye Rahman.
In the often cruel terms of audience appreciation, witnessing a once elite world class fighter get creamed could be more bang for the buck than a drawn out, often monotonously unspectacular pounding like the Klitschko brothers' most recent outings.
When I saw Bowe cream Herbie Hide and Jorge Luis Gonzales, he was probably better than any big man I've ever seen except Larry Holmes, and as far as I'm concerned, on his best night Holmes could have taken anyone in the history of the division.
So after Bowe beat Holyfield, my hero, I figured Bowe could be the best of all time, including then great Mike Tyson, who looked awesome in fights against Frank Bruno or Trevor Berbick but not so against Tony Tucker or Bonecrusher Smith.
Back on the subject of classic tunes, the standard at many a new year is "Auld Lang Syne", meaning "long long ago" and believed to have been written by Scottish poet Robert Burns around 1788. One of the choruses could apply to Bowe and Holyfield.
We have run about the slopes And picked the daisies fine But we've wondered many a weary foot Since auld lang syne
I think about a few times I was sitting alone in tempory portable structures in back of the brand new Mirage Casino, talking about things besides boxing with team Bowe, which included the late, great Eddie Futch and Rock Newman.
There have been and will be many and many more damning indictments of Bowe and Holyfield, but I hear an old line in Donovan's song "Atlantis" - "..though Gods they were."
I hope someday Bowe and Holyfield are happy, relatively healthy old men undamaged by current pursuits, sitting in the proverbial rocking chairs looking back at the glory they shared.
Whatever they may be or become, in terms the sporting life's peaks, there ain't many others who can honestly say they deserve to sit in the same room at the old heroes home.
And yes, when they introduce Holyfield Saturday night, I'll do like I did when they introduced Bowe, breaking my usual neutral policy of press row silence, cheering for the old days.
Unable to answer his brain’s call to respond to a younger, stronger, faster more able foe, De La Hoya was reduced to a state of being that he’d inflicted on more than a few of his foes on his rise up the ladder from Olympic hero to boxing megastar, the primary revenue driver and boldface name guaranteed to prompt a nod of recognition from even the most sweetscience-ignorant of sports fans. Of course, being of the understanding that Oscar had drunk from the chalice of victory more often then not, and was extraordinarily well compensated even when the chalice contained loser’s brew, we didn’t shed a tear for the Golden Boy. There, are, after all, too many people and situations that deserve the shedding of a tear and our pity than the momentary ill fortune plaguing one of sports’ richest, most charismatic, most blessed competitors.
On Saturday, I fear I could see a similar situation play out, when Evander Holyfield, at age 46, may find himself hopeless and helpless and pummeled into a state that will force agents in his employ to do what he will be too stubborn and proud to do: wave the white flag. No, Nikolay Valuev isn’t half the fighter Manny Pacquiao is, but when we consider the tired adage “styles make fights” we realize that Valuev’s style, and more specifically, his freakish physique, will render Holyfield sadly ineffective against the 7-foot, 315 pound hitter. Holyfield’s punchstat numbers against Valuev, who will outweigh him by one hundred pounds, could make Oscar’s look positively robust in comparison.
Valuev will poke him with his jab, once, twice, three times, and follow with a right hand that will take more than a split second to arrive, but when it does, will bounce off Holyfield’s head and leave behind vibrations that will rattle the old fella’s brain. I think Holyfield could well land in the single digits, the low single digits, in every round that he is allowed to get off his stool, and guess that Valuev, who has inferior power for a heavyweight, may even be able to dish out enough abuse that Holyfield’ corner might prohibit him from accepting more of it after about eight rounds.
Do I want my scenario to play out? I do not. Do I think there is a chance that Evander pulls a Hopkins, and engages in some science fiction tomfoolery, and pulls a time travel performance out of his butt? I do.
Slim. Like, post stomach stapling slim chance. I think it’s distinctly possible that he takes maybe a round, maybe in the first or second, while his energy supply is topped off. But he was woeful against Sultan Ibragimov a year ago, and he ain’t wine, getting better with time. Of course, the nuetricuetical industry being what it is, could he have latched on to some super sensational supplement, like the stuff Lance Armstrong touts, that will enable him to mimic his 1988 self? Sure…we elected a black man President, fifty years after a black man wasn’t allowed to use the same drinking fountain as a white man, in certain mega-ignorant pockets of the nation.
My man Johnny Bos is of the same mind as plenty of our supremely knowledgeable commenters, so that counts for something. Bos lays out why he thinks Holyfield could shock and amaze us.
“As crazy as it sounds, I give him a shot,” Bos says. “He and Valuev are the same age and who the hell has Holyfield ever been afraid of? Yes, what makes you think Holyfield is ten years older than Valuev? Because they say so? Look at him, does Valuev look 35?”
But Bos, Holyfield looked shot against Ibragimov in his last scrap...
“Sultan Ibragimov would murder Valuev. Did you see the Bergeron fight? Valuev was lucky if he won three rounds. The only difference would be the amount of beatings Holyfield has taken, but he has had a long rest. If Holyfield was as good as he was against Oquendo or Sultan, look for a hard fight. If he looks like he did against Larry Donald or James Toney, good night Evander.”
The former prizefighter from Armenia graduated from UCLA and now dreams of not just boxing, but also a number of goals. On Saturday, Dec. 20, former junior middleweight world champion Roman Karmazin (36-3-1, 23 KOs) meets perennial contender Bronco McKart (51-8-1, 31 KOs) in the main event at Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood.
The fight card is promoted by Art of Boxing Promotions, began by Harutyunyan. He dreams of getting a law degree, giving Armenian prizefighters the exposure he never had, and of putting on the first pro boxing fight card in the city of Glendale.
A pro boxing card has never happened in that city that boasts the largest Armenian population in the country of more than 80,000.
“We have a lot of tradition of Armenian boxing,” said the articulate boxing promoter who won the NABO junior bantamweight title in 2005. “I want to give them the opportunities I never had. I was always the opponent who was supposed to lose.”
One year ago, he attempted to stage a fight card in Glendale and discovered that the city of Glendale had a ban on boxing that existed since World War II. That inspired him to lobby the Glendale City Council.
He succeeded. Early next year, his boxing promotion will be allowed an opportunity to put on the very first pro boxing card in that city.
“We got a solution. I got a conditional permit for a onetime event. We found out that the law has been there for 65 years,” said Harutyunyan, 26. “We had a lot of discussions with the mayor and city council.”
Even as a prizefighter Harutyunyan was not your average fighter. Despite a height disadvantage on most occasions, he fought current IBF flyweight world champion Nonito Donaire and gave him a rough time in losing by split-decision in Temecula back in 2006. It was also the same year he graduated from UCLA.
In June 2009, he plans to take the law school admissions exam.
On Saturday, a large fight card worthy of a big-time Las Vegas promotion takes place in nearby Inglewood. Harutyunyan does everything big.
“It’s always been my style to break the stereotypes,” said Harutyunyan, whose last pro fight was two years ago. “People think because I was a fighter I have no education or no intelligence. We can do many other things too.”
Highly regarded lightweight prospect John Molina signed a contract with Goossen-Tutor Boxing Promotions on Monday.
The hard-hitting undefeated Molina (14-0, 10 KOs) had been courted by several boxing promotion companies for the last two years and finally signed with the Sherman Oaks-based group that also has James Toney, Paul Williams and Riverside’s Chris Arreola.
Molina, 25, began boxing later than most pro fighters. He wrestled in high school and was trained up to now by South El Monte’s Ben Lira. Because of family matters Lira cannot train the Covina fighter so now Joe Goossen is taking over.
“We drive every day to Van Nuys to train with Mr. Goossen,” said Joe Molina, John’s father. “Ben Lira will always be a part of the team.”
Molina’s last fight was a knockout win over Fernando Lizarraga, but this past May, in Montebello, he knocked out rugged Mexican fighter Jose Lugo who went the distance with Philadelphia’s undefeated Danny Garcia and drew with undefeated Mike Dallas Jr.
“It’s time for me to move up in competition,” Molina said.
Bad news for the junior lightweights, as Molina has decided to give the 130-pound division a run.
“I fought at 130 and felt pretty strong,” said Molina. “Lizarraga hit me a few times and I didn’t feel a thing so I’m going to try it out.”
HBO.com has been featuring the Riverside heavyweight on one of its internet programs.
Arreola was the victor in a heavyweight showdown with Florida’s Travis Walker at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario two weeks ago. It was a knockdown fest with Arreola hitting the deck once and Walker floored three times.
Last Saturday, Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko knocked out Hasim Rahman and was asked who could be considered as possible opponents for the WBO and IBF titles he holds. The heavyweight world titleholder mentioned Arreola and England’s David Haye as strong possibilities.
“Of course we like that we’re considered by Klitschko,” said Henry Ramirez, trainer of Arreola. “Everyone wants Klitschko.”
Ramirez said that Arreola does not want to fight any more prospects and prefers a big name opponent or someone with a world title.
World Boxing Council Museum
A fund raising event for Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez has been planned for Jan. 17, 2009 at the WBC Legends of Boxing Museum in San Bernardino.
Former world champion Hernandez is suffering from a rare cancer located behind his right eye.
“He’s one of the great guys in the sport,” said Jaime Ochoa, the spokesman for the museum.
Hernandez, 42, only had two losses in his pro career and held the junior lightweight world titles twice. The losses came to future Hall of Fame fighters Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Now the likeable Hernandez works as a boxing and mixed martial arts analyst for television and radio. All proceeds will go to a fund to assist with the medical needs of Hernandez. For information go to www.wbclegendsofboxing.com
Fights on television
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Mike Alvarado (23-0) vs. Miguel Angel Huerta (27-9-1).
But one hope of making hay remains and that is if David Haye can make mince meat out of WBC champion Vitali Klitschko next summer at an arena somewhere in London. That, it now appears, is where the Hayemaker, Britain’s newest heavyweight hopeful, will challenge the elder of the two Klitschko boys for some portion of the biggest title in boxing.
This assumes the WBC cooperates, which may be a longer shot than the 6-7 Klitschko’s inseam but then again, who cares about the WBC or any of the sanctioning bodies that have conspired to turn boxing into an irrelevancy?
Haye announced to the world on BBC Radio this week that he and Klitschko had agreed to terms last weekend in Mannheim, Germany, where Haye had gone to watch Klitschko’s brother Wladimir waste too many rounds beating up Hasim Rahman.
In Haye’s opinion at least all that remains is to “dot the i’s and cross the t’s.’’ In most business deals that would not seem to be a major problem but this is heavyweight boxing, where everything is a problem including finding a heavyweight anyone wants to watch these days.
One could be the loquacious, undefeated former cruiserweight champion because David Haye possesses the things that sell in prize fighting – a dynamite punch, a dynamite smile and a chin that tends to explode like a stick of dynamite went off when hit. The former give him selling points. The latter gives him the sort of vulnerability that creates interest or at least mystery.
What Klitschko possesses is 1/4th of the heavyweight title (or 3/4s if you add his younger brother’s half share and make it a family affair), a long jab and thudding power. He also has a plodding style and far less athleticism than Haye, which makes it easy to see ways Haye could outbox and out brawl him. Then again, his chin has always seemed sturdy, even when struck by Lennox Lewis, so there is that to recommend him as well against Haye’s fusillades.
What is most important though is that this is the one heavyweight title fight paying customers might actually want to see, at least those who have heard of Haye. Haye labored in the long and unfairly ignored cruiserweight division for the past six years, piling up a 21-1 record and unifying the title in his last fight at that weight when he stopped Enzo Maccarinelli in two rounds. That came on the heels of unifying half the titles by taking out Jean Marc Mormeck in seven and led to a decision to move up and challenge for the heavyweight title.
Haye (22-1, 21 KO) has fought only twice at heavyweight, stopping journeyman former contender Monte Barrett in five rounds last month to set the stage for a dramatic step up in class and experience next year against Klitschko if all goes as agreed to.
The 28-year-old Haye could be the key to unlocking the long dormant interest in the heavyweights, who have gone all but unnoticed since the retirement of Lewis 5 1⁄2 years ago after stopping the elder Klitschko on cuts in Los Angeles.
Since then many have held various portions of the title but none in a way that captured the imagination of the public. Even with the firm backing of HBO’s money and publicity machine, neither Klitschko has been able to convince anyone outside of Larry Merchant’s living room that either are particularly great heavyweights. What they are, it has seemed, is fortuitous ones who came along at a time when there is little talent in the division.
But now Haye at least has the opportunity to create a spark of fever because if he can dethrone the elder Klitschko it would set up a logical unification fight with his younger brother that would carry with it the heat of a revenge factor for Wladimir, who would be out not only to unify the title but also to avenge his older brother’s defeat against a guy who not only can fight but also can talk.
“This is going to be the biggest fight since Lennox [Lewis] and [Mike] Tyson," Haye told BBC Radio Five Live this week. “I have said from day one I am going to be the undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight champion. I have not disappointed. I am not cherry-picking, I am going after the most dangerous fighter on the planet.’’
That might be a stretch but Klitschko (36-2, 35 KO) did come out of a four-year retirement without even a tune up fight and destroy Samuel Peter, a man formerly known as the Nigerian Nightmare until he quit on his stool after taking far more than he wanted from Klitschko for eight bloody rounds.
Now Haye has emerged not only to challenge Klitschko but, more importantly, to offer both a fresh face and a fresh start for a division badly in need of one. So badly, in fact, that even Klitschko’s long-time advisor, Bernd Boente, spoke well of Haye this week. Or at least well of the idea of what a Haye-Klitschko-The-Elder fight might do for the division.
“This will be a very big fight across the world," Boente said while confirming the agreement between the two parties and their representatives. “The Klitschkos are heroes in Central and Eastern Europe and it's a fight HBO and Showtime would be very interested in.
"David brings something new and exciting. He looked great against Monte Barrett, who [WBA title-holder] Nikolay Valuev took 11 rounds to stop. Haye KO'd him in five rounds. He's young, hungry and very fast. It's a huge fight."
Boente made clear Klitschko would not allow any shenanigans by the WBC, which is demanding he fight a mandatory defense against former cruiserweight champion Juan Carlos Gomez first, to interfere and he is quite right on that point. If Klitschko intends to fight a former cruiserweight champion there is only one the world will buy and that’s the 215-pound Haye.
“We'll talk to the WBC, but we'll go ahead with or without them,’’Boente said assuredly. “This fight is bigger than the WBC belt."
Actually it is bigger than any other fight in the division as well. Not because anyone fully believes Haye is the answer or even a proven commodity because he is not. In fact, he was wobbled by Barrett and has already been stopped once and down several times against various cruiserweights so the fact could be that his chin is simply too fractured to stand up against a 6-7, 250-plus pound opponent with 35 knockouts in 36 victories. Yet he also has shown what promoter Don King might call “double shock power’’ himself, the kind of one-punch force that makes heavyweight legends and sells heavyweight numbers of tickets.
With his proven power, suspect chin and charming charisma, David Haye is what the heavyweight division has been longing for. Now all he has to do is the dangerous part, which is avoid Klitschko’s power long enough to deliver a knockout blow for boxing. If he does it next June in London it will have resuscitated the division and set up a bigger match with Klitschko’s little brother.
If David Haye can do all that, he will have saved the heavyweight division from itself, which is more difficult than beating Vitali Klitschko, or his brother, will ever be.
“This is a disgrace to the sport,” said Johnson, the former light heavyweight champ who is currently the most avoided man in boxing. “Didn’t anyone watch the first fight? Do they think anything different will happen the second time around? HBO should have put this fight on a month earlier, so it could have been the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Part Two.”
Johnson, who is currently awaiting a fight against the winner of the WBC light heavyweight title bout between Adrian Diaconu and Silvio Branco, has good reason to be angry, considering that he has already beaten Tarver and that most objective observers believe he beat Dawson as well in their controversial April 2008 match. But neither will fight him again, opting instead to rehash a non-competitive October bout that saw Dawson knock Tarver down on the way to a 118-109, 117-110, 117-110 unanimous decision win. Now they want to do it again, and on HBO no less?
“I thought HBO really meant business when they put together great, competitive fights like Margarito-Mosley, Berto-Collazo and Marquez-Diaz for the early part of 2009, but then they agree to put on a rematch of a fight that wasn’t even competitive the first time,” said an incredulous Johnson. “It boggles my mind, especially when the only true rematch at 175 pounds is between Dawson and myself. This type of worthless rematch robs the fans, and are bad for the sport. Whoever at HBO decided to purchase this fight, should be embarrassed.”
Needless to say, a championship reign that started off with bold words and so much promise for Chad Dawson has denigrated into a money grab that will see him continuing to fight easy fights while avoiding the true contenders of the division.
“I thought Chad Dawson was going to live up to his boasts, and be a true fighting champion,” said Johnson. “But it looks like I beat the fight out of him in April. Just a word of advice to Chad – you may make money now, but people will remember you later for ducking me. As for you Antonio, you’re a better actor than we all thought – you actually convinced HBO and Dawson to give you a rematch.”
“Solo Boxeo was where fans got to see some of the brightest prospects in the business. It was where many fighters began their careers,” said Frank Espinoza who held several shows in 2001 in conjunction with Top Rank Promotions at the Soboba Casino. “The fights were so exciting. Most of the time they were more exciting than the ones on Pay Per view. The show will definitely be missed.”
Many of Espinoza’s fighters appeared on Solo Boxeo including Castillo, Vazquez, Enrique Sanchez, Mike Anchondo, Alex Valdez and Nick Martinez as well as some of his newest crop of well regarded prospects like Carlos Molina and Abraham Lopez.
Espinoza’s and Top Rank’s shows were a real challenge to produce since the series initially aired at noon. The shows took place in an outdoor venue in the desert hot spot of San Jacinto, California where temperatures reached into the triple digits on a regular basis. Without a shade or tarp to cover the area at that time, the June, July and August sun beat down on you mercilessly and keeping properly hydrated became a necessity. It didn’t matter, people still showed up to see Anchondo’s knockout power and Castillo’s slick boxing. As a true boxing junkie, I covered all the cards at the venue which was about an hour and half inland and usually twenty degrees hotter. The program eventually changed to a Friday night telecast.
Espinoza’s fighter, Miguel Angel Huerta, (27-9, 19 KO’s) will be headlining the last episode of the series against Mike Alvarado (23-0, 16 KO’s) in what should be a fan friendly shoot out. Huerta, a 135 pounder, is a gutsy brawler known for involving himself in dramatic fights. Alvarado, the hometown boy from Denver, is undefeated and looking to get past the Mexico City native who’s currently ranked number 10 by the World Boxing Council.
The world title winning effort of Martin Castillo against power punching phenom, Alexander Munoz, remains as one of Solo Boxeo’s many classic confrontations. It was a battle between a boxer and brawler which Castillo won with an unforgettable performance at the peak of his career. “That was a great fight and a brilliant showing from Martin,” Espinoza remembered. “The fact that such a high level fight was broadcast on Solo Boxeo shows you the kind of commitment to excellence that Telefutura employed.”
Solo Boxeo not only introduced future champions to its audience but it also introduced great broadcasters like Bernardo Osuna and Ricardo Celis. Ring announcer Lupe Contreras also became a staple of the program and is now considered one of the top announcers in the country. Wherever he announces, his familiar tagline before the main event is always heard begging the question. “Quien es mas macho?”
Reportedly, the lackluster economy affected the Telefutura network to the point where footing the 60,000 to 70,000 dollar bill for the license fee every week became less feasible. At this point, the TELEMUNDO network will be the only Spanish language channel still broadcasting boxing. They do it on a monthly basis and work exclusively with promoter Felix Zabala Jr. out of Miami.
So where will the up and coming prospects from companies like Golden Boy and Top Rank promotions be showcased? “That’s a good question. We don’t know yet. It’s definitely going to have a temporary ripple effect on the business,” Espinoza said. “It’s a blow to boxing but the business will continue to survive. I think eventually we’ll see another network step up.”
For true boxing fans, it’s the end of an important boxing era. “It’s sad that the show won’t be around anymore. It benefitted a lot of fighters and gave its audience plenty to cheer about,” Espinoza said. “We’re grateful to have been part of its history and happy to be on the last card. I think Huerta and Alvarado are going to deliver a great show. What else would you expect from Solo Boxeo?”
My purpose is to let my fans and all boxing fans around the world know my past and current boxing agenda.
I went from Denmark to America THREE TIMES in 2008 trying to drum up a big fight. I attended the Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor rematch, the Bernard Hopkins-Joe Calzaghe fight and the Roy Jones-Calzaghe bout. I enjoy both Las Vegas and New York but those were business trips. My dream is to fight big fights in the United States against the best of the best.
Bernard Hopkins. Joe Calzaghe. Chad Dawson. Winky Wright. Jermain Taylor. Kelly Pavlik.
Six great fighters, no doubt. And, starting with ring legend Hopkins, six fighters who all refused to seriously discuss fighting me this past year. I respect all of them as boxers and great competitors but, for some reason, I can’t get any of t hem to fight me.
Now I know some people say I’ve been hiding in Europe and not fighting the big names. That’s not fair and that’s not true. I regained my WBA title, which is important to me, against unbeaten Dimitri Sartison and then fought a required mandatory against Danillo Haussler. I didn’t make Haussler the mandatory challenger but I did cut him down in three rounds.
Naturally, I am extremely frustrated as I seek bigger game. I am hoping that 2009 will be different, that I will be able to match my skills in America against the likes of the Big Six.
I’m not here to call anyone names or issue childish insults. That’s not the Viking Warrior’s style, people know that.
But Hopkins says he doesn’t want to hear my name although I’d gladly fight him at 168 pounds for my title or at a catch weight.
Calzaghe beat me on points in an excellent fight and has been consistent in saying he will never give me a second chance. He’s a great one but I wish he’d change his mind. He said he never gives rematches yet he gave one to Mario Veit. It was Joe who suggested I fight Hopkins. I agree but Bernard doesn't like the idea.
Unbeaten Dawson is young and unbeaten. I would fight him at super middleweight or at a catch weight but he and/or his handlers are not interested.
As for Winky, I’ve been hearing his name all year, from January to December, but it’s clear he also wants no part of me.
Taylor will never fight me according to his guy, Lou DiBella. I’ve given up on getting Jermain in the ring.
Though he lost to Hopkins, Pavlik is still an excellent, rugged champion. He calls me a real beast and I say the same about him. That’s a bout I would really get excited about but it seems unlikely.
I’m not a guy to shout from the rooftops but everything I’ve said here is factual.
I just hope I can fill up my 2009 dance card with some or any of these reluctant but great warriors as listed above.
Thanks again to all the fans, in Denmark and elsewhere, who give me such great support. Know that I appreciate it greatly!
But there are other reasons some of us get into fightwriting. We might not consider them before we get into this biz, or even consciously ponder it much while we’re active. But as journalists following and dissecting and analyzing and commenting on the sport to which all others aspire, many of us realized from early on that boxing, being a sport in which fatalities and long-term brain damage are the norm, could always use an extra watchdog or two.
Our duty is not only to watch and report on the matches and personalities that make up the sport, but also analyze what has happened, and try to make sense of it all, and pass that on to you. But some of us—again, to varying degrees, believe that we have a duty of oversight. Boxing has no commissioner overseeing the sport, making sure that people, like promoters, and managers and programmers, are adhering to standards and practices that serve and protect the sport and the athletes who put themselves on the line to entertain us. Yes, there are athletic commissions which hold powers of oversight, and some fairly toothless federal regulations that were enacted to improve some of the lax conditions and standards that frequently do next to nothing to serve and protect the people who quite literally put their lives on the line to earn a paycheck and entertain us.
But often, in the absence of a boxing czar, someone disposed to act in the best interest of the fighters and the sport as a whole, it is left to the fightwriters to fill the breach.
On Monday, Ron Borges wrote a column called “He Was Once The Real Deal, A Long Time Ago.” In his typical pull-no-punches style, the veteran fightwriter skewered the Dec. 20 Evander Holyfield-Nikolay Valuev title fight, and saved his choicest phrases for the Real Deal. Borges doesn’t believe that at age 46, his prime far, far away in the rear view mirror, Holyfield should be fighting professionally. Borges offers ample evidence that Holyfield’s desire to stay active in the sport is a flawed folly, stemming from stubbornness, and a bleeding bank account. Fellow master fightwriter Bernie Fernandez has also weighed in on the subject, with a similar level of dismay bleeding into his copy.
Many commenters have flurried furiously at Borges, and vehemently defended Holyfield’s right to keep on punching for pay. “John Bobbitt” says the issue boils down the free will, and says that Holy should fight on til age 70 if he so desires. The lionhearted “Anonymous User” asks Borges if he will consider retiring if Holyfield pulls off the upset. “Gerard” believes the sanctioning bodies are there to protect the fighters, while “Pete Steward” calls Borges out for stating that Holyfield has next to no chance to defeat Valuev. “Robert Curtis” and “Pyler” both weigh in with their belief that Holyfield’s decision to box is his choice. As always, we appreciate TSS readers taking the time to contribute.
But with all due respect to anyone sizing up Evander’s decision to keep on fighting solely as a matter of freedowm of choice, you are dead wrong. Holyfield continuing to fight, at age 46, affects all of us fight fans. It speaks to the credibility of our sport. It speaks to the standards, or lack thereof, that the sport has in place, when a man who has shown in recent years to be a sad shell of his former self, is offered a title fight. It speaks to the adherence to the over-riding principal of profits over people in the fight game, which has been and will continue to be a PR drag on the sweet science. It speaks to the lack of imagination and depressed state of the heavyweight division, and to an extent the sport as a whole, that the best challenge that the promoters of the event can come up to challenge their monstrous champion, the 7 footer Valuev is the beyond-faded Holyfield, a loooong decade removed from his best days.
Human beings, left to their own devices, free from rules and regulations and other pesky, onerous restrictions placed upon them by the government and other entities designed to maintain order, have an inclination to enrich themselves, to the detriment of their fellow man. Sometimes, even with regulations (even minimal, easily evaded ones) in place, someone like New York hedge fund fraud Bernie Madoff can game the system, and act like the Grinch on a meth binge, stealing every damn dime in his line of sight, consequences be damned. In the US we’ve seen, and now felt the scorpion sting, of the result when regulations and oversight are junked, and “the free market” and “free will” have free reign. Wall Street does a Grinch imitation, and when their stomach explodes, and they need stitching up, they sop up the money of taxpayers, most of whom play by the rules, to stem their losses, and keep the bonus train rollin.’
At times, it seems like there are a precious few voices of reason speaking up, pointing out the holes in the system, pointing out all the greedmongers who enrich themselves to an obscene level, with outlandish bonuses and sweetheart stock option deals, while they sign off on massive layoffs. But in the fightwrite business, without guys like Borges, who speak up, and say what some people are thinking but are too fearful to say, have you pondered what the game would look like?
There is a really remote chance that Holyfield is able to pull off a Valuev-sized upset on Saturday. If that happens, I’d lobby any of you readers out there who are tempted to write Borges, and tell him to call it a day, and retire, to reconsider. Because he is fighting for the long term health of the sport, so all of us are not as frequently pressed into defending the sweet science, and forced to vainly try to explain why a statue like Holyfield is fighting for a title in his current state.
Borges is also fighting for the rights of fighters, believe it or not, by forcing promoters and programmers to consider, if not answer, the charge that they may be pimping out a man who could very likely be suffering considerable brain damage down the line from the punishment he absorbs…all in the name of selling tickets, and fattening their bottom line. On Monday, with his column, Borges “afflicted the comfortable” and I offer that we can’t have too much of that from our press.
Fightwriters, more in boxing than any other sport because of the way it is set up, without any central power looking out for the best interest of the sport, or any substantial union to attend to the fighters’ well-being, should function as watchdogs, and muckrakers and checks to power. Is it a slippery slope, when we publicly call for a man to hang up the gloves, and find another vocation? Sure it is. It’s a judgment call. But Borges was motivated, I’d offer, with the health and well being of the sport and the fighter in mind. Even if you don’t agree with his call, you can’t disagree with the validity and inherent worth of his reason for writing it.
Saturday evening in Zurich (sounds romantic until you read on), 47-year-old Evander Holyfield will challenge 7-foot, 324 pound World Boxing Association heavyweight belt holder Nikolay Valuev for 1/4th of the heavyweight championship of the world. There is no point in such an exercise, either for Holyfield or Valuev, except perhaps to make a few dollars, emphasis on the word “few.’’
If Holyfield wins, which he will not, it will serve only to prove how unworthy Valuev has been of holding the same title once claimed by Muhammad Ali twice in a career that has been more of a circus act than a boxing career. If Valuev wins, which he will, it will only prove that Holyfield is more deluded every day about what his Lord and Savior really wants him to do with the rest of his life…unless, of course, the idea is he dedicate it to showing the world what the word hubris really means.
Holyfield was once the gold standard for heavyweights, one of both the best and most courageous champions in boxing history. After first becoming the best cruiserweight there ever was in that long unfairly ignored division, Holyfield moved up to heavyweight despite howls of protest from many people who said he was too small to compete among boxing’s redwoods.
All he accomplished was to win the title three times, stage three epic battles with Riddick Bowe, defeat Mike Tyson twice, George Foreman, Michael Moorer and nearly all the top heavyweights of his era before standing toe-to-toe for 24 rounds with Lennox Lewis. Once he fought him to a controversial draw and the second time he lost a decision and in both cases Holyfield was already well past his prime.
The latter is only important when one realizes those fights came nearly a DECADE ago. Since then Holyfield has gone 1-3-1 in title fights and 6-5-1 overall in a career that more and more has begun to make no sense.
That is certainly the case with this fight against a man a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than Holyfield. It comes 14 months since he lost nearly every round to then WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov in Moscow, a momentarily crowned champion who will not be long remembered in boxing history.
Yet the well-faded Holyfield presses on, insisting it isn’t about the money when it damn sure better be because if it isn’t he shouldn’t be sanctioned to fight for a world title he should be sent to a mental institution for observation.
“They’ve been calling me too old since I was 30,’’ Holyfield told an Associated Press reporter in Zurich Monday. “I never listened to them so why in the world would I get into that thinking now?’’
Maybe because you got beaten up by Ibragimov, lost in embarrassing fashion to guys like Larry Donald, Chris Byrd, James Toney and John Ruiz and haven’t won a title fight since being awarded a decision so controversial over eight years ago from Ruiz that the WBA ordered an immediate rematch, which you not only lost but led to you being driven to the floor by another heavyweight who will never be mistaken for a legend.
Holyfield remains the latter, despite his best efforts to besmirch his reputation in recent years. He is still a legend but he is one who is fast tarnishing his legacy by staying far too long in sport’s most dangerous occupation. Valuev (49-1, 34 KO) is certainly nothing of note, despite having twice won the WBA title, but he is enough to hold off what is left of Holyfield, which is what makes this all so sadly familiar.
Old champions who fight well past their prime because they need the money are nothing new in boxing. In fact, that story line is as much a staple of the sport as blood, gore and unconsciousness. All of those may be visited upon Holyfield Saturday night but what is more likely to happen is that he simply will end up being embarrassed by a lumbering guy who would never have lasted very long with him when he was still what his nickname once claimed he was when few people believed in him. He then was what he said he was. He was The Real Deal, but that was a long time ago.
Evander Holyfield is no longer that. He’s a bad deal who keeps pushing himself into rings where it seems almost inevitable something bad is going to happen, if it hasn’t already.
Monday he talked to that reporter of the doubters who said he couldn’t beat Tyson and wouldn’t avenge a loss to Moorer. What he doesn’t mention is those fights came a decade or more ago and he hasn’t had much good to talk about since. Saturday night doesn’t figure to be either.
Neurological damage doesn’t reveal itself for years after fighters retire but if anyone thinks a man can keep being hit in the head by 250-pound opponents without consequence forever, that person is kidding himself. Sadly, that person now appears to be Evander Holyfield.
“This is not to prove anything to anyone,’’ he said in Zurich. “I box because I’m skillful and I’m good and I love what I do.’’
While the first two are far from the truth any longer, the latter may well be but the sad fact of boxing is this – it’s a sport that doesn’t love you back.
No matter how much you give to it, no matter how high it lifts you at some point in your life, boxing is the cruelest lover. It will always turn its back on those who love it the most, leaving them with a broken heart at best and a broken head at the worst.
The best one can hope for Saturday night in Zurich is that all that is broken inside Evander Holyfield when the night is done is his heart.