Evander Holyfield - A Fallen Warrior

09.12.04 - By Matthew Hurley: He has simply lost his ability to do what he once did so magnificently. He continues to fall in stature because he has lost the ability to see himself as others see him. His inability to defend himself, to punch back, to rediscover the reflexes that have withered and died have rendered him fistically impotent in the ring. He blames it on back aches, torn muscles, lack of training; in essence he refuses to listen to what his body is telling him. He is a forty year old man trapped inside a body that continues to break apart from the inside out because of his profession and he won't, or can't acknowledge it. He is not some boxer who fights for pennies in dingy clubs, and he's not some broken down, ex-champion who pissed all his money away. He's a beloved former heavyweight champion with a mansion and millions in the bank and a fighter who has the opportunity to walk away with his head held high instead of his head cradled by a doctor's hand. But he won't. Maybe he can't.

Evander Holyfield is becoming a boxing fan's nightmare. A once proud champion reduced to levels below mediocrity. A fighter searching for reasons and excuses for every bad performance he puts forth in the ring. Each opponent he faces is of a lower class than the previous and still he can't do anything with them. There's nothing there. The synapses in his brain aren't firing as they used to and subsequently the reflexes, the ability to react, has become muted. There's nothing there, except a fighter's heart; a heart that carried him to prominence when the doubters were numerous and vocal. It's that very heart that is pumping delusions of grandeur into his mind and soul. He just doesn't get it. His career as a serious contender for the crown is over. But that heart keeps beating louder and louder and he hears nothing else.

And he continues to lose. He continues to lose badly.

Evander Holyfield hasn't won a significant fight in years. His most recent debacle came against Larry Donald in a bout where he was virtually shut out on the scorecards. Larry Donald? With all do respect to the fighter, what is Larry Donald doing beating up on Evander Holyfield? The blame can be laid in many quarters but ultimately the responsibility falls right into Evander's lap. It was his desire to be in the ring, his will to lace on the gloves, his misguided notion that he can compete with even the most pedestrian of opponents. But shouldn't someone, somewhere say "enough is enough"?
Isn't there a point where someone should intervene and save a man from himself?

In what may be an unprecedented move, the New York State Athletic Commission has said "enough is enough". Never before has a fighter been barred from fighting because of a miserable performance or non-performance. If a fighter is knocked out in the ring he is immediately suspended from any boxing or ring work for sixty days (forty-five days before sparring). Although each state falls under different jurisdictions mandatory suspensions apply for all fighters regardless of the outcome of their previous fight. In Nevada, for example, a four round fighter cannot have another scheduled bout for four days. That suspension is extended dependent upon how many rounds the bout went. As the rounds increase, the suspension increases seven to eight rounds requires fourteen days off nine to ten rounds requires twenty-one days off, and so on.

Holyfield's suspension represents a truly forthright and heartfelt decision by the commission. They have taken it upon themselves to protect the fighter from punches he no longer seems able to avoid. Evander has basically been banned from fighting pending an appeal, and every time his appeal is revoked he can take it to a higher authority ultimately to the Supreme Court. By that time he may finally understand what everyone else already knows.

Some will argue that to deprive a man from plying his trade and making a living (when he's passed the prerequisite medical exams) is constitutionally unfair. But boxing, for all its guts and glory, is still a sport teetering on the precipice of athleticism and barbarism. The men who step into the ring need people to look out for them, and in no other sport have athletes been so victimized than in boxing. These are men without pension plans, without the necessary health insurance and who generally come from poor backgrounds. That is the sad underbelly of boxing. It's also what hardens and makes for great fighters. They know what they're up against so they battle even harder. They fight and struggle until they become completely immersed in the personae of a fighter. And then, for many of them, they can't get out. They don't know what to do with themselves when it's all falling apart. When it's over, when the rest of us can see it, they can't. They just want to keep on swinging.

Evander Holyfield was great once, and he made a lot of money. Just think for a moment of a fighter with the same mindset at the end of his career that Holyfield is exhibiting but with none of the financial resources. It's chilling, because you know full well that no one is looking out for that fighter. Give him a few bucks, throw him in the ring and toss him in the dressing room after he gets knocked out. Then call him up in a few weeks and do it all over again. Evander could walk away. Hopefully the brave stance the New York State Athletic Commission has taken will be upheld. It's the best gift Evander Holyfield could ever receive.

Article posted on 09.12.2004

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