Holyfield Readies Himself For Last Shot

10.10.07 -Matthew Hurley - For the past several years many boxing fans, media scribes and even state commissioners have been trying in vain to convince former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield to retire. The sentiments were genuinely heartfelt because most who have been calling for him to hang up his gloves truly admire and care about, not just the fighter, but also the man..

Holyfield’s reaction to this sentiment or public outcry, depending on how you view the situation, was at first befuddlement and then bore fruit to genuine resentment. The nadir of this situation, and perhaps Holyfield’s entire career, came after his loss to Larry Donald at Madison Square Garden. Acting on the advice of the New York State Athletic Commission Holyfield’s license to box was suspended in the state of New York on the basis of diminished skills. It wasn’t an unprecedented move but it was the first time in recent memory when such a decorated and popular fighter was literally banned from the ring.

Holyfield pleaded his case and eventually found a home in Texas where he was licensed to fight. After four bouts against marginal competition the suspension in New York took on little credence and Holyfield, rather inexplicably considering the competition he was facing, began climbing some of the ranks of some of the sanctioning bodies. Many people who had been calling for him to quit were now saying, “he deserves to make a living.” The feeling now was, if he passes all the medical requirements then he has every right to ply his craft.

Holyfield maintains that his poor showings against fighters like Chris Byrd, James Toney and Larry Donald were the result of injuries not loss of reflexes. He points to the alleged heart ailment that derailed him after the first bout with Michael Moorer in 1994. He was nearly taken out of the game then but after visiting a faith healer Evander claimed his heart was fine. He passed an extensive battery of tests and began a remarkable comeback that culminated in his knockout of Mike Tyson in 1996. He feels his situation now is comparable to that time.

It is either a testament to Holyfield’s dogged determination and belief in himself or the decrepit state the heavyweight division is now in that “The Real Deal” finds himself in Moscow with one last shot at a heavyweight title belt. Saturday he will take on Sultan Ibragimov and, yes, there is a very good chance that Holyfield can win. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends upon whether or not you want to see Holyfield swap punches with Wladimir Klitschko or Samuel Peter because that will be where he’s headed. After all, his ultimate goal is not just one belt but the unified title.

Whatever you think of Holyfield’s chances or this unending career one thing must be appreciated – Evander’s will is unbreakable. It may break him in the end, perhaps not Saturday night but one night and maybe irreparably years from now. But he actually made it to this point when only three years ago he wasn’t even allowed to fight in the state of New York. That is perseverance and that is Evander Holyfield.

Article posted on 11.10.2007

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