Holyfield-Ibragimov musings from the only disappointed sports fan in England

sultan ibragimov14.10.07 - By Joe Mills: I went into last night’s WBO World Heavyweight championship fight pitting champion Sultan Ibragimov against aging legend Evander Holyfield fully intending to compile a detailed and comprehensive round-by-round report. However, as tends to happen every so often in Boxing, emotion took over. Instead of logging the subtle intricacies of each fighters performance I found myself shouting encouragement to the screen. And the subject of my garbled advice was one Evander “The Real Deal” Hoyfield.

As you may have gathered from the title of this article, I am English. And on a day that featured our football (soccer for those who play football with their hands) team winning a European championship qualifier and our Rugby team reaching a World Cup final I was the only disappointed sports fan possibly in the whole country yesterday evening. You see I would have happily traded Rugby World Cup success for Holyfield becoming a five-time Heavyweight title holder. “Commander Vander” has given us so much to cherish during his career that I believe he deserved a last glorious night in this often-cruel sport.

However it was not to be, Holyfield started well but faded as a 44-year old man would be expected to while the Russian champion outboxed the future Hall-of-famer to a deserved unanimous decision. I must stress however that my disappointment lies not with Evander’s performance, which was competitive and extremely brave. So often a fighter will coast the final round knowing he has lost, Holyfield instead chose to live up to his “Warrior” tag by throwing himself whole-heartedly at Sultan in a final attempt to make the dream happen. My disappointment from last night only reaches as far as the result.

It does not even extend as far as the fight itself, which was a very well-fought and engaging affair. I have long had my doubts over Ibragimov’s abilities, particularly judging by his struggle with B-level campaigner Ray Austin three fights ago. However he did what needed to be done last night and while his performance must not be overrated, as Holyfield is far from even the man that frustrated and felled Mike Tyson, never mind the one who seized Cruiserweight dominance in the trenches with Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Carlos DeLeon. However this version of “The Real Deal” was a cut above that which both Larry Donald and James Toney demolished. Many doubted Holyfield when he blamed shoulder injuries for his uncharacteristic performances in those and other fights, however judging by the ferocity of some of the left-hooks he threw last night with the surgically repaired limb, there may have been some substance to his claim.

While I am filled with pride at how Holyfield seemingly went out on his shield, it seems that he doesn’t intend to go “out” of the sport of Boxing at all. The ring legend seems to still be cultivating his dream of becoming a five-time Heavyweight champion and retiring as Undisputed kingpin. Even if events had gone his way last night, I would not wish to seem him sharing the ring with the laser-accurate punches of WBA titlist Ruslan Chagaev, nor the technical prowess and formidable power of IBF king and the generally accepted best Heavyweight out there, Wladimir Klitschko. Had he bested Ibragimov I would have accepted him clashing with questionable WBC champion Oleg Maskaev but due to the champion’s injuries and the political minefield that the once-respected World Boxing Council has become, the most sensible decision would have been to retire win, lose or draw in my opinion.

But the warrior qualities that have long been so admirable in Evander Holyfield may serve as his undoing should he insist on continuing his fool’s errand. A farewell fight against a fighter the level of those he fought to get this unexpected title shot, another Lou Saverese-esque scalp, would perhaps be a nicer way to leave than in a losing effort, valiant though it was. However anything at a higher level should not even be considered. However taking into account that Holyfield is still the ailing division’s most recognisable competitor, coupled with his own steely-determination, we will probably see him back in the ring. And we may see him across the ring from someone calling themselves a “champion” again in the near future.

Article posted on 14.10.2007

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