Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Evander Holyfield risks impairment with fifth title bid

AFP , PARIS

Evander Holyfield will line up in Moscow on Saturday aiming for a piece of history and a portion of the world heavyweight pie for a record fifth time.

Should he win against Russian World Boxing Organization title-holder Sultan Ibragimov, Holyfield will also, just six days shy of his 45th birthday, become the second-oldest heavyweight champion in history.

And while that would be a remarkable achievement for a man of his age, and a fitting finale to a glorious career for the former Olympic medalist, the very fact that Holyfield is stepping through the ring at all should be considered more of an embarrassment for the sport than anything else.

It could also be seen as morbid and tasteless entertainment.

For Holyfield was once a great champion but now he is what in boxing is called "shot" and a look at his recent record seems to back that up.

He has won his last four fights but against journeymen such as Vinny Maddalone and Lou Savaresse, a first round victim of Mike Tyson in 2000.

More indicative of Holyfield's true form of late is his previous three fights: defeats to Chris Byrd, Larry Donald and James Toney, by knock-out.

That defeat to Toney four years ago should probably have marked the end of Holyfield's career, such was the beating he received from a clearly ballooned-up, overweight former middleweight -- albeit an extremely talented one.

But instead he fought on and even after losing to Donald the next year and having a medical suspension imposed on him by the New York Athletic State Commission in 2004, nothing has diminished his warrior spirit and desire to go on.

But maybe Ibragmov, 13 years Holyfield's junior, will.

Like Holyfield, the Russian is a former Olympic medalist and is known for his power punching rather than refined skills, and the sparring partner that is preparing him for the Holyfield clash is worried for the veteran American.

To put Danny Batchelder into context, earlier this year he lost a split points decision to Toney.

Batchelder told Eastsideboxing.com: "Holyfield's tricky, he's dirty -- who knows how long he might be able to last but I just see Sultan, I mean he's just too fast, he's younger, I just really see Sultan just destroying him. That's the only way I see the fight ending up."

It may be in Batchelder's financial interests to talk up Ibragimov but there is no ignoring the voice of reason from within the ring, rather than just those outside it.

But Holyfield almost certainly won't be listening.

"I'm fearless," he said in a recent interview with the Times in England.

Holyfield's former trainer, Dan Turner, is against him stepping into the ring again, claiming that the former champion's entourage are just in it for the money and that anyone who really cares for Holyfield should tell him the truth -- he's finished.

Turner won't be in Holyfield's corner for this fight.

"I'd rather lose my job than go to a funeral," he said in a clear dig at Holyfield's "yes men" entourage, who he feels tell the Alabama native what he wants to hear rather than what he needs to.

Holyfield is almost certain to lose and miss out on his dream of a fifth world title. But unless Ibragimov does him a favor by knocking him out early, he will probably try again, increasing the risk of him becoming yet another victim of the "one punch too many" syndrome.

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