|Evander Holyfield broke camp Monday in Houston, heading toward New York and an uncertain future. Holyfield fights Saturday night at Madison Square Garden for the forty-eighth time in a professional career that began twenty years ago almost to the day. His opponent is the undistinguished Larry Donald, though the name|
is of little concern to the former four-time heavyweight champion. At forty-two, Holyfield is chasing the impossible dream of becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion once again. His reflexes are suspect, and he took a beating in his last fight, but Holyfield is determined to fight on anyway. This time it will be in the unfamiliar role of an undercard fighter, on a night that features heavyweight title bouts between Chris Byrd and Jameel McCline, and between John Ruiz and Andrew Golota. And this time it will be without longtime trainer Donald Turner, who made the mistake of waving a white towel to save his fighter from further punishment when James Toney was hitting Holyfield at will when they fought thirteen months ago. “He thought I was old,” Holyfield said. “I thought I wasn't.”
To the casual observer, Holyfield doesn't look old. His body is still chiseled, just as it was when he beat Mike Tyson eight years ago in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. But he's won only two of his last eight fights, and many in boxing wonder why he doesn't just quit. “He's a grown man,” Byrd said, “but my father has as good of a chance at winning the undisputed title as he does.” In a heavyweight division lacking big stars, Holyfield might be the biggest name on a card that includes defenses from IBF titleholder Byrd and WBA champion Ruiz. But his name is one that lives in the past, bringing back memories of wins over Tyson and wars with Riddick Bowe. It could be argued that Holyfield peaked in November 1996, when he stopped Tyson in the eleventh round. He hasn't looked impressive since and seemed to hit bottom in October 2003, when Toney took him apart before knocking him down in the ninth round, and Holyfield's corner called it quits. After the fight, Holyfield admitted he was in over his head. “If he was a big puncher, I'd have been torn apart,” the former champion said.
Plenty of time has passed since that fight, though, and now Holyfield sees it in a different light. He believes he was too aggressive and didn't pay enough attention to defense, something his new trainer, Ronnie Shields, has been working on with him. And he found hope in his Houston training camp that the skills that made him one of the best of his generation are still there. “I truly believe there's no fear in me, and that's why I do what I do,” Holyfield said. “I'm a smart fighter, and I realize what I've done and what I can still do in the ring.” Even if Holyfield does have something left, and most in boxing feel he doesn't, his goal of winning the undisputed title again is more of a dream than anything else.
He's already lost to both Byrd and Ruiz, who hold two of the major titles. Vitali Klitschko has the other one and doesn't stand to gain much by beating an aging former champion. Still, Holyfield plans to press on, and not just because he can make some money doing it. There's always a possible lucrative third fight with Tyson, though that would be more of a freak show than anything. “I would fight him to get me close to a championship fight, or fight him in a situation where he's a champion,” Holyfield said. “But I won't fight him just for the money.”