Evander Holyfield looked like a 44-year-old man on Saturday evening at the Khodynka Ice Palace, in Moscow, Russia. A very fit 44-year-old man, with a ripped physique, and a big dose of heart, to be sure. But still, the Real Deal acted his age against Sultan Ibragimov, the Russian native who impressed the judges enough to earn a unanimous decision victory, and hand Holyfield a loss in what may be his final ring appearance.
Ibragimov is certainly no Hall of Fame talent, but the Russian had the edge in hand speed, foot speed, and most importantly, the age department. Ibragimov's WBO title, which he took from a quite cooperative Shannon Briggs in June, was up for grabs.
The judges scored it 118-110, 117-111, 117-111, for Ibragimov.
Holyfield never was able to sustain concerted flurries, and catch the cagey Russian with a KO shot. That was the only way Holyfield was going to leave Moscow with a title, and start to fulfill his quest to become the unified heavyweight titlist.
The 44-year-old Holyfield's record now stands at 42-9-2, while Ibragimov, a 32-year-old who possesses enough talent to stand out in a bleak heavyweight field, is 22-0.
Evander weighed 211 pounds for the occasion, while Sultan tipped the scale at 218 3/4 pounds.
Holyfield, who will celebrate his 45th birthday on Friday, October 19th, looked to be in fine shape, and certainly there was no obvious disparity in skills on display early on.
But one had to ponder why Ibragimov didn't press the issue and the pace more, forcing the older man to huff and puff. He gave Evander entirely too much respect, and made the fight much harder, and longer, than it needed to be. Ibragimov finally figured out he could do what he wanted in the 10th round, but still, the Russian stuck to his gameplan of sticking, moving, and steering clear of a home run, hail Mary shot.
Ibragimov won every single round on my card, save for the fourth round, which I deemed even, and the 12th round. He stuck his jab in Holyfield's gut often enough to keep the oldster at bay. But Ibragimov looked too tentative, for too much of the fight, to light fight fan's fire. The risk/reward ratio for him wasn't optimal: if he beats up Holyfield, he beat up an old man. If he loses, he's garbage, who lost to an old man. He did win, but as the crowd told you, with its silence, Ibragimov didn't show the fire and fury that gets fans jazzed up.
Give him credit, Holyfield was still winging in the 12th. He landed a right to the temple with two minutes to go, and the crowd perked up. He landed another lead right that snapped Sultan's head back, but it was too little, too late, too bad.
SPEEDBAG Nick Charles called the PPV with Al Bernstein. Al pointed out that Holy, if he won, would be the second oldest man to win a heavyweight title. The oldest, of course, was Big George, who was 45 years old when he beat Michael Moorer (KO10) in November 1994.
–The atmosphere in the rink sounded really, really dead as the main event kicked off. Holyfield came out of the dressing room, and he drew a ripple of cheers. He had to cool his jets for a few minutes, before Sultan came out. He drew about the same decibel level of cheers as Real Deal.
–Al gave Evander three rounds, and conceded that maybe he was being generous. he thought Sultan's win looked like Evander when he fought Larry Holmes. He came away with a win, but didn't really raise his stock.