Why Holyfield vs. Ibragimov will sell and why we must want it to!

evander holyfield17.06.07 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: By now, as most of us know after winning the WBO heavyweight championship belt on June 2nd from Shannon Briggs, Sultan Ibragimov is slated to make his first voluntary defense against Evander Holyfield. While there will undoubtedly be a lot of criticism stemming from this choice of opponent, as there generally is in boxing regarding most any decision anybody makes that one or two ignorant people do not like, it seems like a terrific business move, and a historically important choice, coming on the part of the Ibragimov team.

Before I explain why, and people start leaving comments below calling me a bias suck up to the Ibragimov team (which by the way isn’t all too untrue I guess), let me attempt and offer up a brief explanation regarding the significance of this boxing decision. As of right now the current crop of titleholders is to put it mildly but bluntly insignificant in the eyes of the boxing public.

As opposed to the newer phenomenon of them being Eastern European, the real reason this is so is that throughout boxing history the trend for the acceptance and initiation of new champions has always been a road paved through the annihilation of the old guard.

Remember, remember the beating Johnson administered to Jeffries, and the one Louis suffered at the hands of Marciano, and come to the simple realization that what I am saying is the absolute truth regarding this baptism by fire for new champions. For God’s sake Vitali was considered the “man” even though he never technically beat Lewis, and honestly didn’t even have great credentials before that anyway, JUST because people yearned for somebody who could prove he was better then the crop of boxing fighters the majority thought was best before he came along. They, and we yearned for it so much, that we let Vitali slide on the actual win part (though in his defense he wanted a rematch more then any of us actually did), and accepted him as our king anyway.

It’s not that the new crop of champions are Eastern European, African, American, White, Black, or maroon with a slight hint of purple, but that none of them have crushed and destroyed the old guard, or even beaten them at all in fact. The 90’s era Bowes, Lewises, Tysons, Moorers, even Foremans, Holmes, , and of course Holyfields retired, left, got injured, or even got away with wins in championship bouts. Truth is that no matter how old Joe Louis would have been when Marciano beat him Rock would still earn his recognition and praise. This is precisely why Vitali wanted to fight Mike Tyson, when the Lewis rematch fell through, rather then Tyson’s victor Danny Williams.

In fact, as with Morales after the Raheem loss, Manny vs Eric still sold as a PPV because, and I think rightfully, beating one champion is not enough to suddenly take possession of everything that champion accomplished. This is why a new champ needs to fight those older fighters, and beat those older fighters, and not because they are his best challengers but because he has to destroy perception in the eyes of casual fans. No amount of trinkets or wins against, hungry, tough, young, and better up and comers can crush that perception as long as the old champion still puts on gloves and claims he has what it takes for one more bout. If those of you who criticize are honest with yourselves, you would admit you would do all in your power to watch Tyson vs Klitschko even after the Williams loss.

Many fans may criticize it but I think in the end they would succumb to the curiosity, and either go find a bar, or order in the comfort of their own abode. At that I am only talking about hardcore fans such as ourselves, and not the thousands of everyday none dieharders,who would see the name Tyson, or the name Holyfield and make that purchase.


For the same simple reason that they bought Foreman vs Moorer. For the chance of living through an infinitely memorable moment of seeing an old hero suck it up and show he had one more by knocking out the new thoroughbred on the block. To those who scoffed at that opportunity in the weeks before Foreman vs Moorer bout ask yourselves if you would now trade that same x amount of dollars for the chance to go back in time and change your decision to relive that moment? Who is foolish enough to make the same mistake twice?

Of course, we must also consider what the likely result of a said Iron First vs. Iron Mike fight would be- Klitschko pummels an old Tyson into the ground in dominant fashion until Mike stays down and losses again on TKO. Would that not bring attention to Vitali? Would the casual outside world not give him the praise they gave to Marciano, and to Johnson, and even to the same Tyson when he beat Holmes, and even the same Holyfield when he beat Foreman? I think we all know the answer to those questions, and I think that is why guys like Holyfield, and like Bowe, and even Tyson, are talked about with esteem regarding their younger days, and still fight on knowing they are no more then 1 fight and 1 good night away from recapturing the glory of those younger days.

For the new crop of fighters, however, that means opportunity. Ruslan, Wladimir, Oleg and Sultan should be on their knees praising God that these worn and faded men are still around to get in the ring and probably get beat on. Not only will beating them bring more money and recognition to the young stallions in future bouts, but also begrudging recognition from begrudging critics. From those like me who will say, “well he beat an old Holyfield, but in the record books it will only say the name rather then the condition of the fighter who bore it.”

Those of you who have read Sultan’s interviews on our site know he is a man who cares deeply for historical boxing greatness more then actual money and popularity. Unfortunately, those two aspects are not usually mutually exclusive which is why he would be the first to realize that while Klitschko is the man he should really fight for true success, in order to give meaning to that bout, and to make people better appreciate the victor in that contest, he needs to get by a fighter like a Holyfield from the Old Guard. A fighter, a victory over which, will make regular fans turn their heads and say, “that guy who beat Holyfield is challenging the big one who knocks everybody out.” In order for the name “Ibragimov” to have a chance at becoming household he must become the “guy who crushed Evander.” He must first become the guy who retired the unbeatable war horse, and the guy who finally put an end to the legacy of the “Real Deal.”

Recognition like that is very much worth fighting, for and worth winning and earning. That sort of recognition is actually and in fact worth more then the belt he now carries and the win against Shannon Briggs that allowed him to claim it. This is precisely why it should be the most important fight of Ibragimov’s professional career if it is to be made. It should make him work twice as hard, and make him twice as focused for such an opportunity.

Already fans speak of how, this is Holyfield’s best shot to regain a belt. Already some fans feel Sultan is the weakest link, and ripe for a beating because he didn’t train for the Austin fight, and could thereby underestimate his voluntary defense like so many fighters before him have done. Those who do not realize that unlike Holmes, and Tyson, and Bowe and even Klitschko, Holyfield has not rested year on end, grown fat, and returned just to get a title fight because he could and there is no weight limit at heavyweight. That Evander has never been out of shape, and has never stopped fighting, and has in fact beaten 2 men in Maddalone and Oquendo, who a good fighter should beat if he hopes to even earn a title shot. How many men who got title opportunities recently would not even be able to get by those two? Why doesn’t Evander deserve another title shot?

When he fought Ruiz three times, and then fought Byrd, yes, in between the boredom of those bouts, I asked myself, “why does he keep getting these opportunities,” even though I understood the same logic regarding retiring the old guard still applied. The only difference was Evander was fighting for a title based on name, rather then actual boxing accomplishments, which wont be the case in this instance. Is he really less deserving than Peter Okhello? The same man who dropped a decision to Imamu Mayfield who was also on Maskaev vs Okhello card. The only difference being Mayfield was the opponent of young up and coming prospect Alexander Povetkin rather then the champion. We accepted this fight because of the tough nature of Maskaev’s bout with Rahman and I think the consensus did not get on his case because of it.

Still what does the WBC have that the WBO doesn’t?

Rahman didn’t beat Klitschko for the belt, but instead beat Monte Barrett for the vacant title. At the very least the WBO title has passed hands via legitimate decisions and clear succession as opposed to the controversial nature surrounding the other three “main” belts. That does not make the WBO better then the other trinkets but how exactly does it make worse which is what some claim?

Ruiz vs Golota was controversial. Byrd vs Oquendo was controversial, and the WBC belt has been vacated more times then Paris Hilton’s jail cell. May I remind people that Brewster KO’d the real winner of the WBA championship (Golota) and the succession has gone down the line to now fall into the hands of the WBO champ? How about Oquendo who beat Byrd, lost to Ruiz, who dropped the controversial decision to Golota who got obliterated by Brewster the WBO title holder, the succession of who’s belt has again gone to the WBO champ? In truth Sultan should now be holding 3 belts rather then the one.

I can spin this belt trinket value crap better then most DJ’s can spin music records. However, that won’t change the fact that in order to be recognized any belt holder needs to beat the old guard. In fact they have to not only beat them, but beat them convincingly. Beat them through the ropes like Rocky did the Brown Bomber, or knock them out cold like Iron Mike did to Larry Holmes. That is what Sultan Ibragimov needs to do as well against Holyfield. I believe full well that not only does he understand this, but so do his team, and more importantly ,the most underrated trainer in boxing today in, Jeff Mayweather. They need to make this fight and they need to win this fight a certain way in order to get that historical recognition and respect then the actual belt gives the champion now.

THAT is why we need to see Holyfield vs Ibragimov. THAT is why fans need to support and understand the value and reasons behind such a bout. THAT is why I believe it will sell, and why it must sell if the heavyweight division, and boxing in general, have a hope of regaining the respect they had in the days of yesteryear.

How’s that for bias nuthugging folks?

I would be very interested to hear any serious opinions on this bout. You can email me at I used to take comments via email until I got some really nasty replies which have made me rethink my position regarding that. However, because I am so interested in this bout I wanted to reinstate this option for anyone who feels so inclined. I think most people who want to communicate with me have that address saved somewhere anyway but for any newer folks out there I would be glad to hear your comments too, positive or negative.

On the horizon: Interview with sensational Super Middleweight KO artist Victor Oganov.

Article posted on 18.06.2007

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