If I were a politician, I think I’d be unelectable. For starters, there’s all that hemp I consumed way back when—–and it wasn’t to make sweaters, or rope. Second, I’m such a flip flopper.
My stance on Evander Holyfield’s comeback has gone back and forth, bounced to and fro like Britney, in and out of Promises. My first instinct, when Evander said he was going to give it another go, in the summer of 2006, was to dismiss the man and his quest. Silly old goat, I thought to myself, why don’t you read the writing on the wall, and grab yourself some hammock time. Lord, you were as effective as a Golden Glove novice against Larry Donald in November 2004, Evander, why on earth would you think that you have anything left as an active fighter? Is there a patron saint of delusion, Real Deal, because you must be worshipping at that altar? Then, I flipped.
What if the dude is broke? It’s no secret he has many mouths to feed, and large mortgages to feed. Maybe he truly needs to fight to make ends meet. But, then I flopped. But what about the sport, I asked myself. No man is bigger than boxing. If Holyfield looks geriatric in another fight, or lord forbid, gets hurt in a bout, then that diminishes the sport. God knows, the sport can’t fit another nail in its coffin, I reasoned. One man chasing a dream with all the same rationale an opium addict chases fumes shouldn’t drag down the sweet science any further into the gutter. Yup, that’s it, Real Deal is just plugging on to feed his ego; the sport shouldn’t suffer because he’s bored of watching Judge Judy and Dr. Phil. In true Kerry-esque fashion, though, I flipped again when I saw Holyfield in New York, announcing another leg in his comeback. Now 44, the Real Deal is slated to step in with bulky banger Vinny Maddalone on March 17 in Corpus Christi, Texas. I flipped for a couple of reasons: 1) Holyfield is 44. I’ll be 38 in October. I can identify with a man sliding further away from his physical prime, yet stubbornly clinging to the idea that he can still excel as he used to. 2) Listening to Holyfield, I noted that his speech is pretty clear. He isn’t as slurry as a whole load of guys who still get licensed, and if he passes medical exams in non-laughable jurisdictions, then the man should probably be able to ply his trade. 3) Holyfield made it clear that he isn’t doing this because he’s broke. Fighting to stave off the IRS isn’t a solid enough reason to glove up, and Holyfield maintains that he’s in reasonable condition, financially. In the past, I’ve waffled on the Holyfield deal for more complicated reasons as well. His preaching, I confess, hasn’t always sat well with me. In my view, God doesn’t give a hoot about who wins or loses a boxing match, and in the past, with his Christian Warrior gimmick, Holyfield turned me off. Call me judgmental if you like, but I can’t easily swallow the “I beat people up to spread the Message” schtick. If that’s the case, then why not give 95% of your earnings to fund charities, and build soup kitchens, and such? Call me cynical, but I theorized that Holyfield mostly fought for the same reasons most folks do: for fame, for fortune, to hear the roar of approval in the arena as he imposes his will over another man, and proves himself to be superior. On Tuesday, Holyfield sat down and fielded questions from the press. I reared back, and fired him a fastball, high and tight. “Evander, how does your spirituality factor in to this quest to gain a heavyweight championship for the fifth time? Because of the strength of your beliefs, does God root for you when you fight?” Holyfield’s trainer, Ronnie Shields, chuckled at the query. Holyfield responded. “My choice is to live by the word of God,” he said. “My goal is to be the undisputed heavyweight champion, and that’s what faith is about, becoming something you aren’t already.” OK, he didn’t really get into the nitty-gritty of my question. I mean, why should God have any rooting interest, or impact the outcome, of a boxing match? Should God “make” Holyfield win because Holyfield prays more? But, hey, let’s put the “religion thing” aside, and focus on more grounded topics, shall we? Holyfield, happily, didn’t try to BS this BSer, and state that he’s just as effective as he was when he beat Buster Douglas, Riddick Bowe, and Mike Tyson. “I know I’m getting better than when I stepped in with Jeremy Bates (8-18-06) and with Fres Oquendo (11-10-06),” Real Deal said. “I’m not injured anymore. My body is responding like it’s supposed to. I can dodge punches, my balance is better.” I was also impressed that Holyfield did factor in financials when he touched on which titlist he’d like to target first on his quest to become “the man” in the division. “It don’t make a difference who’s first,” he said. “The first one who wants to make a lot of money. (Neither Valuev or Maskaev) can draw nobody. They need somebody to draw people. And if the money’s right, I’ll go to Europe.” Hey, I’m a sucker for nakidity when it comes to coming clean with your true motivations. Holyfield earned points in my book for acknowledging that he does like to be well compensated when he’s putting his ass on the line. By 2008, Holyfield said, he will be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Do I believe that? No, but neither will I dismiss him as a silly old goat, a deluded egomaniac who puts himself above the sport. He was neck and neck with Fres Oquendo, and no one has called for Oquendo to retire. But Evander Holyfield deserves nothing more, and nothing less, than an opportunity to fulfill his dream, even if most of us pundits think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of him pulling it off. Just as I deserve the right to flip-flop, Holyfield deserves the chance to regain a heavyweight title. And if he does, I may have to pull a flip-flop, and seriously reconsider my status as an agnostic.