Evander Holyfield Remains Defiant And Delusional

evander holyfield14.10.07 - By Matthew Hurley: Going into his WBO title shot against champion Sultan Ibragimov, Evander Holyfield was on a rather peculiar four bout winning streak. All of the bouts took place in Texas, this because of his license suspension by the New York Athletic Commission after his 2004 loss against Larry Donald. His opponents were marginal at best and allowed Holyfield to delude both himself and some of his many fans who truly wanted to believe that “The Real Deal” had indeed somehow turned back the clock. After twelve rounds against Ibragimov all he proved was that the sand has run out of his hourglass.

But Holyfield, whose stubbornness and tenacity made him one of the greatest and most beloved fighters of his time remains what can only be regarded as delusional. If he couldn’t beat Sultan Ibragimov, a decent heavyweight fighter, where does he go from here? Back to fighting trial horses and journeymen and hoping that he will again be called upon when a fighter pulls out of a championship bout due to injury? And don’t forget, Holyfield doesn’t simply want to win a belt he wants to unify the title. He wants all the belts and refuses to retire until he accomplishes this unreachable goal.

Holyfield will turn forty-five next week. Forty-five is ancient for any professional athlete let alone one who takes punches to the head and Holyfield has been fighting professionally since 1984. But mention to Holyfield that he should do himself and boxing itself a favor and the four-time heavyweight champion becomes surly.

After losing the decision to Ibragimov, Holyfield said, “The important thing is I showed improvement and adjustment in the fight. He got the decision and I have to go back to the drawing board.”

Obviously Evander has no intention of calling it a career, despite the fact that he lost by scores of 118-110 and 117-111 twice. That very stubbornness that served him so well during his career is dragging him into treacherous territory now.

Because Holyfield was such an exciting and inspiring fighter people feel the need for him to walk away now. Nobody wants to see any fighter get hurt but Holyfield is a legend and his current situation is bad for the sport should he begin to degenerate in front of our eyes. Boxing doesn’t need another Muhammad Ali reminder of how dangerous the sport is, particularly if you hang around too long. That one colossal example was enough.

Ibragimov’s trainer Jeff Mayweather shook his head when asked about Holyfield’s future. “If he couldn’t get past this shot, it’s time to walk away,” he opined. “It’s time to call it quits. He’s won the championship four times already. What’s left to prove? The reality is boxing is a young man’s sport. He’s got his money. Walk away with some of your faculties. He’s been in so many wars eventually something bad will happen if he continues.”

After the defeat to Ibragimov, Holyfield’s record dropped to 42-9-2. With each successive loss he tarnishes the achievements of his past. The losses don’t erase those legendary nights in the ring with Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson and George Foreman or that first championship he won from Dwight Muhammad Qawi in a 15 round war for the cruiserweight title in 1986, but they certainly don’t add any luster. They just make you wish he would stop.

Holyfield’s trainer Ronnie Shields was hesitant when asked what the fighter should do. “I don’t know. I don’t know what he should do right now,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “I think he should take some time and think about what he wants to do. I can’t make that decision for him.”

Ultimately the decision remains with Evander, as it should. And it would appear that the aging warrior will continue to fight on. “I’m not an easy fighter to beat,” he said after leaving the ring. “He was able to follow a good game plan. I thought he was going away from his plan when he was getting ready to slug with me, but somehow he changed his mind and got back on the outside.”

Holyfield paused and then added, “I just have to get back in line again.”

Article posted on 15.10.2007

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