Evander Holyfield has a warning for TSS U. If you don't pony up to watch the 47-year-old Real Deal rumble with 41-year-old Frans Botha on saturday night, you will be kicking yourself come Sunday morning.
“You're gonna see a better Holyfield than ever,” he told TSS in a Thursday phoner. “In more recent fights, people didn't see enough combos, you're going to see me bend my legs more, more aggressiveness.
If you watched Holyfield in his last outing, against Nicolay Valuev on Dec. 20, 2009, he didn't exactly make you believe that 40 is the new 30. You shouldn't hold that against him, he tells us. Styles make fights, he explains, and Valuev's reach meant that Holyfield had a hard time getting close enough to touch him.
“Botha's arms are the same length as mine, I don't have to reach too far to get close, I don't have to take too big of a step to him. In this fight, I can dictate the pace.”
So, Evander, you're telling us we'll see a prime Holyfield come Saturday, if we decide to purchase the $29.95 PPV?
He pauses. “I wouldn't say prime,” Holyfield says, and chuckles. “I'd say mature.”
Speaking of people kicking themselves…folks who figured that Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones would let it all hang out, that their animus on display leading up to their rematch wasn't just showmanship, they were kicking themselves for buying the PPV. Holyfield (42-10-2; 0-2 in last two fights, against Valuev, Sultan Ibragimov) says that forthy-something sparring session shouldn't and doesn't reflect upon him or the prospects for a compelling match on Saturday at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
“I don't believe in bad luck,” he tells us, as he dismisses the timing of a PPV just on the heels of a soporofic senior showdown. “We're gonna put on a great performance. If they don't see it, they'll wish they would have. I can't make people do something they don't want to do.”
If he beats the 47-4 Botha, who didn't box from July 2002-July 2007, but is 3-0-1 since coming back, Holyfield doesn't have any plans set in stone. He'd like a shot at a belt, presumably something bigger than the WBF version on the line Saturday. What about that rumored third tussle with Mike Tyson?
“It's possible,” he says. “If Tyson gets in shape, or even if he doesn't, because I can't be concerned with what everybody else does…I'm in ready mode. I'm a performer. I like performing. But I wouldn't bet my life on a third fight with Tyson happening. But if it could be made, if they want to pay…”
The four-time heavyweight champion Holyfield says a publicized spat with his wife, in which she accused him of striking her, and took out a protection order against him, is old news. Wife Candi, age 30, said Holyfield hit her after she refused to show him check stubs to prove she was giving money to their church.
“All that is behind me. No sense in opening as a can of worms. News has an expiration date on it. That hasn't been on my mind,” he says. “What married people don't have conflicts?”
And some would say Evander has reached his expiration date as a boxer. Funny, that. I hit 40 in October. And the older I get the cloudier my judgement is regarding the timing of a boxers' retirement. If a man can pass his physical, and he enjoys the savage science, and can still make coin, then who are we to say he should hang them up? Well…as a fightwriter, I take it as my duty to act as a conscience of sorts, in a fiduciary manner, really, for fighters who may not be surrounded by people with their best interest at heart. And for the sport, which is frequently disrespected by people whose sole intent is to make money, without regard to the long view of the sport.
Yes, sometimes a man needs to here from an unbiased source, someone who will delve into brutal truth, and say, “Your best days are far, realllyy far, in the rear view mirror. Your speech doesn't sound so hot, and you risk longterm neurological deterioration if you soldier on, and take punishment.” But the older I get, the more I realize that we have one life to live. I'm not banking on any afterlife with supermodel virgins clustering around me. We get one shot here. And it's quite hard to cave in to reality, to admit that your best days are behind you. If a man wants to continue to press on, despite ample evidence that suggests that his task is quixotic at best, well…it's his choice.
Final thought…As Holyfield himself made clear, let the buyer be wary. He promises he'll be fit and furious on Saturday, and I'm sure he believes that, I'm sure he isn't talking a good game just to spur sales. But he's 47, Botha is 41, and so there is a chance that on fight night, once again, it'll be proved that 40 isn't the new 30. If you do buy the show, and the main event is a snoozer, and you find yourself kicking yourself Sunday, well, chalk it up to a learning experience. And when Holyfield-Tyson III goes down next year, plan accordingly.