View Full Version : Boxing's Heavyweight Arena Gone Ragtag by Bernard Fernandez

07-12-2006, 12:46 PM
Boxing's heavyweight arena gone ragtag
By Bernard Fernandez
Philadelphia Daily News

PHILADELPHIA - Four-time former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield lives just outside Atlanta, which makes his announced Aug. 18 comeback bout against journeyman Jeremy Bates in Dallas suitable for smarmy references to "Gone With the Wind."

If I try hard enough, I can almost imagine one of the seven women who have given birth to Holyfield's children making her way across a railyard littered with broken-down heavyweights as the camera pans back to reveal a tattered "Real Deal" flag flapping in the breeze.

"We have to leave!" the mystery mom beseeches the gallant but doomed fighter once she locates him behind the woodshed where he awaits another beatdown. "Sherman (or anyone ranked in the top 25) is coming!"

"Never you mind," says Our Hero as he fingers his dwindling supply of fistic ammunition. "I'm going to be the undisputed champ of the world again."

Frankly, my dears, why do any of us continue to give a damn about the heavyweights? Traditionally boxing's flagship division, the ragtag collection of big men now holding a faltering line mostly is reminiscent of that "GWTW" parody featuring Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman.

Holyfield (38-8-2, 25 KOs) is 43, a chivalrous cavalier in gray(beard) who surely must realize that his boxing life is nearing its Appomattox. After the future Hall of Famer lost an embarrassingly one-sided unanimous decision to fringe contender Larry Donald on Nov. 13, 2004, in Madison Square Garden, Ron Scott Stevens, head of the New York State Athletic Commission, suspended him, saying, "To my practiced mind, Holyfield shouldn't be fighting anymore."

Holyfield - who is now 2-5-2 in his last nine outings and hasn't won by knockout since he stopped Michael Moorer in eight rounds on Nov. 8, 1997 - appealed Stevens' unilateral suspension, which was a cinch to be lifted if he passed neurological examinations. You can't deny a once-great fighter a chance to make a living simply because he no longer performs up to most people's memories and expectations. Holyfield might be a shadow of his old self, but make no mistake, he can beat more than a few opponents, and he'll probably beat Bates (21-11-1, 18 KOs).

But Holyfield's unification quest is a flimsy cover story that fails to mask the probable reason why he is so desperate to fight on. The cost to maintain his 55,000-square-foot mansion is astronomical, as is child support. Just a guess, but I imagine the only folks in Atlanta who can afford to live as large as Holyfield are Ted Turner, Coca-Cola CEO Neville Isdell and maybe Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. I'm also guessing they're not looking to take Xanadu South off Holyfield's hands.

Then again, maybe 20 months of inactivity have deluded Holyfield into thinking he is all he ever was.

"I actually believe I can whup anybody," Holyfield said in announcing the scrap with Bates.

Elsewhere on the heavyweight front:

_Hasim Rahman vs. Oleg Maskaev, Aug. 12: WBC heavyweight titlist Rahman (41-5-2, 33 KOs), coming off his less-than-scintillating March 18 draw with blubbery James Toney, tries to settle an old score against Maskaev (32-5, 32 KOs), who was behind on points on Nov. 6, 1999, when he landed a ripping right hand that sent "Rock" out of the ropes and onto the floor at Atlantic City Convention Hall, where he was counted out in the eighth round.

They are billing this one, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, as "The Last Line of Defense," a reference to the fact that Maskaev could join Ukraine's Wladimir Klitschko (IBF), Russia's Nicolay Valuev (WBA) and Belarus' Sergei Liakhovich (WBO) as heavyweight champs from former Iron Curtain countries to have displaced American strapholders.

And here you thought tennis and soccer were the only sports where Old Glory was flying low.

_James Toney vs. Samuel Peter, Sept. 2: The 37-year-old Toney (69-4-3, 43 KOs) has forgotten more about boxing than Peter (26-1, 22 KOs) will ever know, but he's a morbidly obese former middleweight whose eating habits would make legendary Japanese hot dog inhaler Kobayashi blanch. The 5-9 Toney, his midsection spilling over the waistband of his trunks like an avalanche, was a career-high 237 pounds for his March 18 draw with Rahman and, unless he has had himself voluntarily locked up in fitness guru Mackie Shilstone's dungeon, I'd wager he comes in even heftier for the scheduled 12-round WBC elimination bout in Los Angeles.

Peter can punch the way a mule kicks, but he was absent the day boxing skills were passed out, or maybe he just hasn't been paying attention in class when the subjects are defense and ring generalship.

_Wladimir Klitschko vs. Shannon Briggs, Nov. 11: The 6-6 Klitschko (46-3-0, 41 KOs) is a good boxer with formidable power, but, as evidenced by Samuel Peter, Lamon Brewster and Corrie Sanders, anyone who can reach up high enough to land solidly on his crystal chin can send him crash-diving to the canvas. Perhaps Briggs (47-4-1, 41 KOs) can also take Wlad down in Madison Square Garden.

Briggs is best known for his undeserved majority decision over George Foreman, but I can't shake the memory of seeing the perennial prospect starched by trail horse Darroll Wilson.

07-12-2006, 02:31 PM
The only thing more ridiculous than today's heavyweight division is the number of articles being written about it.