It seems there is a man in the sport of boxing with some character. And some courage.
Ron Stevens, the chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, suspended former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield indefinitely in light of his horrendous showing earlier this month against Larry Donald. It was Holyfield's third loss in a row, and it's long overdue for common-sense people like Stevens to start making bold decisions.
Holyfield was hit with jabs, right hands, left hooks, body shots – just about everything in Donald's limited arsenal. Too bad it's not Holyfield's chin that went, because he'd have been knocked out early and not sustained another long, extended beating. When you consider the punches absorbed in the Donald loss, and combine those with the ones accumulated over the last few years from the likes of James Toney and Chris Byrd, you have to figure that Holyfield will eventually feel the effects of his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the obvious.
Holyfield began to slide as far back as 1998, when he sluggishly outpointed the ordinary Vaughn Bean over 12 rounds. He has been mostly bad over the last six years, with his only good performance coming against Hasim Rahman in 2002. But things really took a turn for the worse last October, when Toney humiliated Holyfield and registered a 9th round TKO. It was such a one-sided debacle that it was hard to watch.
When Holyfield finally fell, even the crowd seemed relieved.
The Donald fight was supposed to be his evidence that he could still carry on in this brutal sport at age 42. But it turned out to be evidence to the contrary. He has no business in a boxing ring. It's like allowing drunk drivers to enter the Indy 500.
It's a common problem in this sport – negligent state powers-that-be allowing washed up fighters to enter boxing rings. It has resulted in the sad falls of some of the sport's greatest fighters: Bobby Chacon, Meldrick Taylor, Riddick Bowe.
Chacon was reportedly collecting cans for cash a few years back – a result of his suffering from dementia. Taylor is downright indecipherable these days. And Bowe, even though his speech is slurred and his actions are questionable, was readmitted into a boxing ring recently.
They'll all end up like Muhammad Ali: Prisoners of their own bodies because of a hopeless attempt to rediscover past glories.
Ali would have probably been fine had he quit after his classic third confrontation with Joe Frazier. Really, what was the point in continuing after that anyway? To beat up on boring Spaniard, Alfredo Evangelista? Or chase a fleet-footed Jimmy Young?
In the end, Ali was issued a cruel punishment by Larry Holmes in a fight that should have never happened. Had Stevens been around, maybe it wouldn't have happened.
The saddest story of all may be Wilfred Benitez. The youngest world champion in boxing's history, Benitez won the junior welterweight title from Antonio Cervantes at age 17. He moved up and beat Carlos Palomino by convincing decision in 1979 and won a third world title by knocking out Maurice Hope in 1981.
He is perhaps the greatest Puerto Rican fighter of all time, a defensive wizard who possessed such an uncanny ability to make people miss that he was nicknamed “Radar.” But, later in his career, he began to fade, and he took beatings. He was dominated by Mustafa Hamsho and flattened by Matthew Hilton. It led to his present condition: A virtual invalid who lives a lonely, isolated, tragic life.
He can't remember people he met five minutes prior. He can't remember people he's known for years.
He can barely remember his own brilliant career.
Again, had someone like Stevens been around 20 years ago, perhaps he would have suspended Benitez. But Stevens is just one commissioner in one state. There are 49 other states. Holyfield will surely take advantage of some state's lenient boxing policy.
Sadly, unless more people like Ron Stevens intervene, the great Evander Holyfield might one day end up like Chacon, Ali, Taylor, Bowe and Benitez.
Because of people who haven't intervened, he might anyway.