There was good reason not to pay the insulting $44.95 PPV fee (I’d like to see the returns on this one) to see 44-year-old former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfied battle Fres Oquendo for the USBA heavyweight championship on Friday night in San Antonio’s Alamodome. Holyfield started off right where he left off against the hapless Jeremy Bates, dropping Oquendo with a hard right hand toward the end of the first round. Down with a thud and hurt badly, Oquendo made it to his feet and survived the round. At that point, the Real Deal was living up to his famous nickname and seemingly poised to end the fight early and make a strong statement by showing his many critics that he still is a dangerous man, even on aging legs. The knockout never came though and Holyfield seemed to get old between rounds, struggling through the rest of the bout to consistently land punches and settling only for spurts of action.
Officially, Holyfield won a razor-thin decision to claim the USBA title, but his average-at-best performance against a journeyman heavyweight wasn’t nearly enough to prove his detractors wrong. He did better than most 44-year-olds probably could and looked like his usual Adonis self, but this isn’t the senior tour nor is it a bodybuilding competition. Holyfield’s an old man in young man’s game and squeaking by Oquendo only reminded us that he’s fighting against the insurmountable odds of age.
Oquendo reacted in disgust when the decision was read, abruptly leaving the ring and dismissing the post-fight interview. Commentator Sean O’Grady had Oquendo winning by a slim margin and there were significant boos from the crowd protesting the decision. An important fight for his own career, Oquendo had good reason to be upset with the decision. His leveling in the first round may have woken him up because he slowly turned the fight around by simply being more active. Of course his activity level was relative to what Holyfield was doing and that wasn’t a helluva lot. As was the problem before his latest ring hiatus and what’s become a clear sign of age, Holyfield once again didn’t have the stamina to stay busy throughout the fight and instead resorted to his unflattering, lethargic style of taking periods of rest during the round. If it was a bad decision, then it was a worse fight. The judges may have unknowingly prolonged the Holyfield saga by giving him the decision, but then again, even losing a close decision might not have deterred the man who sadly won’t seem to quit until he can stand no more.
Holyfield will likely move up the ladder of the sanctioning bodies’ laughable heavyweight rankings and that much closer to a title shot. He admitted Friday night after the controversial decision victory over Oquendo that there’s work to be done in order for his dream of reclaiming the heavyweight title to come true.
Is it work though that Holyfield needs to improve his skills? I don’t think shaking off the rust from his layoff and trying to fine-tune his technique is the answer to his problem. No matter how much time he puts in the gym and in the ring, he can’t erase the fact that he’s 44 years old, has been through many ring wars, and now has been fighting professionally for half of his life. The Real Deal doesn’t need to work any longer to chase the glory, he needs to retire and finally put an end to his battle with his ultimate nemesis, Father Time.