42-year-old Evander Holyfield vows to keep boxing

If you were a fan of Evander Holyfield, you were rooting for Larry Donald on Saturday night. If you care about the legacy of one of boxing's most courageous warriors, you were hoping Madison Square Garden would be the last stop of his Hall-of-Fame career.

As painful as it may have been to think such thoughts, it will be far more painful to watch the once great Evander Holyfield continue fighting. Although he was indeed defeated by Donald, amazingly, Holyfield was not talking retirement after the bout.

“I still feel I can rise to the occasion, so why not continue,” he said after the fight. “I felt good tonight. I've never given up on anything. If I have a change in the heart, I could change my mind.”

The fact that he has lost three straight bouts and four of the last six should change his mind. The fact that he lost to Larry Donald by scores of 119-109, 119-109 and 118-109, should change his mind. This was Larry Donald.

Holyfield turned pro in the very same Madison Square Garden ring on November 15, 1984. At the time, the future looked bright. Now it is bleak.

Save for his courage, there was little else left from Holyfield's prime. He was an easy target for Donald's jab and the combination punches that once discouraged his opponents were non-existent. He appeared slow in the ring and at times, even a bit clumsy.

The night started badly for Holyfield. The 42-year-old, four-time heavyweight champion fell awkwardly to the canvas after missing a left hook in the first round. And it got progressively worse.

Donald, 37, dominated the early rounds with his left jab. Once the jab was landing with ease, he began sneaking the right cross behind it. Holyfield (38-8-2) was reduced to following Donald about the ring, trying desperately to get inside. On the occasions he succeeded, he couldn't pull the trigger on his combination punches.

“I thought maybe I hurt him a few times,” Holyfield said. “But I didn't get off much. I saw all his shots coming. I felt better than the last fight. He just landed more.”

An overhand right wobbled Donald (42-3-2) at the start of the 10th round. Holyfield's eyes opened wide, sensing the kill. The crowd came to life, chanting, “Holy-Field, Holy-Field.” But The Real Deal couldn't close the deal. He could not summon the skill to act upon his instincts. Donald's stiff jab soon stifled any momentum the former champion might have gathered.

“I won every round,” Donald said. “He's a seasoned veteran and he can hurt you in there if you fall asleep. Evander is still a great champion. I did what I had to do to win. I didn't look at him as being too old.”

While many in the media, and even two of his former trainers, prefer to see Holyfield retire, Evander has long insisted he will not retire until he regains the undisputed heavyweight title.

“I think the time for Evander to retire would have been when he beat me in the first fight in 2000,” said WBA champion John Ruiz. “He won the heavyweight title for the fourth time. It would have been perfect timing to retire.”

Holyfield captured the undisputed heavyweight title in 1990 and lost it two years later after a thrilling bout with Riddick Bowe. On three occasions since that defeat, he has held a portion of the heavyweight title. And while his retirement had always been open for debate, to his credit, he went on to beat Michael Moorer, Ray Mercer, Mike Tyson twice and he drew with Lennox Lewis.

“In his mind, no one can beat him when he's at his best,” said Ruiz. “Evander is a tough guy. And it's when people start counting him out that he comes back and surprises everyone.”

There are no more surprises inside the ring for Evander Holyfield. The only real surprise is that he's still talking about fighting. And, perhaps after watching his career, we shouldn't be surprised at all.