Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Holyfield title bid ends in defeat

AGE CATCHING UP The US boxer earned respect for his performance but proved no match for Sultan Ibragimov, 13 years his junior, who maintained his undefeated record

AFP , MOSCOW

WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov, right, and Evander Holyfield go head to head during their world heavyweight title fight in Moscow on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

The once-great Evander Holyfield failed on Saturday in his quest to regain a piece of the world heavyweight title, losing a unanimous decision to Russian Sultan Ibragimov who remains WBO world champion.

Holyfield, hoping to make history a week shy of his 45th birthday by reclaiming a world title for a record fifth time, was unable to inflict any real damage on his opponent before running out of gas himself.

The American however defied predictions he would be knocked out in the first few rounds by the Russian southpaw 13 years his younger, managing to hold his ground in the center of the ring and prevent his opponent from landing too many serious blows.

His defensive fighting was not enough though and the judges unanimously awarded the fight to Ibramigov with scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 117-111.

Holyfield came out aggressive in the first several rounds and at one point near the end of the second round seemed to stun his opponent with a sharp right jab.

But Holyfield was never able to mount a sustained charge on Ibragimov and it was clear as the fight progressed that the American was tiring.

In the 11th round, the Russian landed a powerful hook just as Holyfield missed with a sweeping punch of his own, knocking the American off balance and sending him crashing down to the mat.

By the 12th and final round, a visibly tired Holyfield was winning praise from commentators just for still being on his feet but did not have the steam left to mount any kind of serious attack or pick up any points needed to win.

"Holyfield surprised us tonight," said on Russian commentator. "We knew he had the experience ... but we did not expect him to last. He was a true professional."

The victory for Ibragimov leaves his impressive undefeated record intact -- he now has 22 victories with 17 knockouts and no defeats -- and leaves him more than US$4 million richer, according to local press reports.

For Holyfield, Saturday's defeat will only multiply the calls for him to drop the quest that some call embarrassing to regain the world title again and bow out with grace.

"Holyfield has maintained that he wants to unify the titles before he retires, a notion that many have found either grandiose or pig-headed," eastsideboxing.com commented. "It would be nice to see Holyfield call it a career after this fight and retire, thereby beginning the five year countdown until he can be voted into the boxing hall of fame."

Although he had talked up his own chances of winning, Holyfield acknowledged before he squared off with Ibragimov in the ring that he would be in for a tough night.

"He's quick. What he brings to the game, he is probably going to throw more punches than any of the heavyweights that I've fought," Holyfield said of Ibragimov. "He does awkward stuff that I've never seen a heavyweight fighter do."

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