For those who forgot, Evander Holyfield exemplified the ultimate warrior, the consummate professional athlete who touched many people’s lives with his little engine that could kind of perseverance against bigger and stronger foes.
People love his American grit.
“Man when I was younger that guy’s picture hung on my wall,” said Dana White, the czar of mixed martial arts giant Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Holyfield’s trek continues much longer than anticipated. But this is Holyfield the man who doesn’t quit in or out of the ring. The ageing warrior called on Sunday afternoon to talk about his upcoming fight.
Battles against Iron Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas, Lennox Lewis, and his epic trilogy with Riddick Bowe are the stuff of legend. Watching Holyfield fight was like rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Yankees, except, Holyfield won most of his fights.
It’s been almost 15 years since Holyfield engaged in those brutal but awe-inspiring slugfests with Bowe. And 24 years have elapsed since winning his first world title at cruiserweight against Dwight Muhammad Qawi. Remember Qawi?
While other fighters have come and gone “Real Deal” Holyfield (42-10-2, 27 KOs) keeps moving on and fights another heavyweight mainstay nearly forgotten in Francois “White Buffalo” Botha (47-4-3, 28 KOs) on Saturday April 10 at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. Their fight for the WBF heavyweight world title will be shown on pay-per-view.
Las Vegas has been the site of 16 previous Holyfield battlegrounds. The last time he set foot to fight in the casino playground was against James “Lights Out” Toney in 2003.
Holyfield deserves a rest but doesn’t want one. Instead he’s repeatedly spouted his mantra of winning becoming undisputed heavyweight world champion.
That’s why people love Holyfield because he believes in himself.
“I’ve won my first heavyweight world title in Vegas, I won my second world title in Vegas and I won my third and fourth world title in Las Vegas. Vegas has been my place where I’ve done great things,” said Holyfield, 47, by telephone on Sunday evening. “I want everyone to realize my goal is to be undisputed champion of the world.”
The last time Holyfield held a heavyweight world title was in 2000 when he lost against Puerto Rico’s John Ruiz. Ironically, Ruiz lost to England’s David Haye by knockout last Saturday.
“I saw the fight in the Internet. David Haye was able to keep John Ruiz at the end of his punch and it was a pretty good fight,” said Holyfield who would like to fight Haye too as long as he has a world title.
Later, he attended the fight between fellow boxing legends Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. that was won by Hopkins in a very tactical fight between technicians. Holyfield knows that his upcoming collision with former world champion Botha also pits knowledge versus knowledge.
“It’s the experience that you have to adjust to. I’ve been through these kinds of fights a long time so I can make those types of adjustments,” Holyfield says.
Botha, 41, had retired for nearly five years when he decided to return to the ring in 2007. Since remerging he has yet to lose a fight.
“We both have a lot of experience,” said Botha whose only losses came to Michael Moorer, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko. “This is a chance for me to prove that I still got it.”
Holyfield, though in his mid 40s, has come close to winning world titles in his last two fights that took place in Europe. Against Russian giant Nicolai Valuev many felt he was the superior fighter but the judges ruled otherwise.
“No doubt, in the Nicolai (Valuev) fight I hit the guy more times than he hit me. Either way it goes I felt I won that fight. But it didn’t go my way,” said Holyfield who lost by majority decision to the seven-foot Russian fighter a year and four months ago. “You make adjustments get back in line and try again.”
Holyfield doesn’t want to get back in line again. He’s hoping the dice roll his way again in Las Vegas.
“Things don’t always go your way but it don’t mean you change your goal,” Holyfield says.
Tickets are $25 to $250. The pay-per-view is $29.99
Fights on television
Sat. pay-per-view, 6 p.m., Evander Holyfield (42-10-2) vs. Francois Botha (47-4-3).
Sat. Fox, 7 p.m., Mark Melligen (17-2) vs. Norberto Gonzalez (18-1).