WBA Heavyweight Champion Nicolai Valuev retained his belt last night at Zurich, Switzerland's Hallenstadion Arena by posting a close majority decision over former champion Evander Holyfield.
Holyfield started off on his toes, staying away from the massive Russian's long jab with circular motion. When the American veteran did come in, he managed a few right hands but was also caught with a few hard shots from the champion. During a brief exchange near the end of the first, Holyfield got in a good left hook to the head of Valuev.
Holyfield managed another whipping left hook at the start of the second after slipping a big Valuev right and then resumed his circular dance on the outside. Valuev continued to try and engage with the jab but the challenger remained cautious until the midway point of the frame when Holyfield leaped in and banged Valuev with a nice left, right combination and continued with hard punches from either hand during a clinch.
It was Valuev who then was a bit more reserved, wary of the still quick hands of Holyfield, coming forward slowly behind a double jab that failed to hit the target. Holyfield then came in fast with thirty seconds left in the frame, digging in a right to the body before crashing a big left hook to the head of Valuev.
Holyfield repeated the combination, driving Valuev into the ropes and roughing up the champion in a clinch.
The challenger stepped it up in the third session, pressuring Valuev with more feints and movement but was nailed with a good left hook from the champion on the next trip inside and that bought the Russian giant a bit of breathing room. But on Holyfield's next attack, it was a big right hand that found the target after he slipped a Valuev jab.
Holyfield stayed on the outside for the next minute before trying to repeat his last success but Valuev was waiting for it, slipping the right and ripping Holyfield to the body with a right uppercut. After three rounds, it's a close contest with Holyfield likely ahead two rounds to one.
Still on his toes to start the fourth, Holyfield lets Valuev close distance a bit, perhaps tiring a little from the constant movement or just looking to counter from closer range. Valuev tries a sequence of jabs followed by a right hand that misses and Holyfield gets in another left hook.
With Valuev closer, Holyfield starts to parry the jab or slip it and the clinches start to get more frequent. Holyfield jabs to the body, before launching an on target overhand right above a Valuev jab followed by a whipping left hook that forces Valuev to cover up so the American's followup punches hit gloves.
Holyfield begins to pressure Valuev but the big man resists with the jab and right hand before getting Holyfield with a nice right uppercut at close quarters. Holyfield now has a decided edge after four frames.
Valuev looks to impose himself more at the start of the fifth and there's a good engagement in the middle of the ring that sees both combatants land shots. Valuev comes forward and lands two jabs before Holyfield jabs to the body.
Valuev gets in an unexpected lead left hook but it's not a heavy shot and Holyfield continues his constant dancing on the outside before going to the body with both hands. Valuev bangs home a long distance jab before Holyfield launches himself at Valuev, missing a big arcing right but nailing the champion with the followup left hook and a second right before missing a big left as Valuev shoves him off.
At the 30 second mark, Valuev steps in and scores with a jab but is caught with two Holyfield left hooks during the resultant scrum on the inside.
The sixth sees a more active Valuev but he can't hit Holyfield with his jab. The action moves in close as Valuev gets in a short right but in return takes two hard Holyfield left hooks to the waistline.
The champion continues to jab but either hits air or has his efforts parried. Holyfield ducks another jab and Valuev steps in with a short right uppercut that the challenger blocks.
Holyfield closes distance and gets caught with a Valuev jab, right combination before finding the target with two of his left hooks and then a grazing overhand right.
Valuev tries a jab before just barely missing with a long right cross but does tag Holyfield with a jab. Holyfield comes in with a few body shots before being shoved off. Valuev misses more jabs as Holyfield speeds up his dancing, looking for an opening, but it's Valuev who has his best sequence so far in the bout, landing a four punch jab, right, jab right combination before Holyfield misses with a right and left that pushes Valuev off.
The champ gets in a good jab or two as the frame ends with Holyfield punching Valuev in the back and getting a warning from the referee. Valuev wins a round for the first time since the opening stanza but is still behind four to two.
Holyfield is still on his toes at the start of the seventh but may be tiring as he's caught with a meaty Valuev jab. The champion advances behind the jab and clocks the challenger with a short right before Holyfield dances away. Valuev sticks Holyfield with a jab, chopping right hand combination while Holyfield misses with his left and right.
Valuev begins to double and triple the jab and he then gets in a right to the top of Holyfield's head when the American rushes in with body shots. They trade right hands in the next exchange before Holyfield arcs in a big overhand right.
Rushing forward behind the jab, Valuev catches Holyfield flatfooted and gets in a nice left hook, right hook combination. Holyfield comes in shortly afterward and takes a right before getting in his left hook. Another Valuev round to make things closer at four rounds to three.
Holyfield hasn't definitely lost a bit of his bounce by the eighth and as a result the exchanges are becoming more frequent. Valuev gets in a right hand as Holyfield misses a body shot. Holyfield jabs his way in but doesn't launch anything big and gets caught with a short right as a result.
Holyfield digs in a big right to the body and gets flurried with short shots from Valuev. Holyfield comes in again and nails Valuev with a hard right to the beltline as the champion misses with his own right hand. They trade jabs with Valuev's being harder and he wins the round to even things up.
Holyfield slips a Valuev jab and rams home a big left hook in the ninth but gets nailed with a right hand a second later. Another right hand has Holyfield clinching. Holyfield covers up, blocking a Valuev one, two and misses a left himself.
Valuev catches Holyfield with a jab as the American tries to come inside again but Holyfield is successful with a right to the body on his next trip. Valuev gets in a nice right before the close of the round, which he wins again to pull clear five rounds to four.
Valuev starts the tenth with a right to the body before losing a jab battle with Holyfield. Holyfield gets in a nice sharp left hook but eats a right moments later. Holyfield retaliates with his own right and then gets in a jab.
Holyfield goes inside to the body before they clinch. Valuev reaches out to lash Holyfield with a series of jabs but misses a right behind them. Holyfield ducks a jab, right hand combo before leaning in with a flush right hand that scores. Holyfield jabs to the belly of Valuev before dancing away.
Valuev gets Holyfield near a corner to rake the challenger with a jab upstairs, right hand to the body before Holyfield clinches his way out of trouble. Valuev gets in a jab but Holyfield slips the big right behind it. Valuev pokes Holyfield with a low power right before the American launches and misses a huge right hand.
Holyfield slips a jab and steps in with a hard right followed by a whipping left hook before Valuev clinches. Valuev backs Holyfield into a corner and gets in a couple of short punches before the challenger fights back with a lunging right that misses and a left hook that doesn't and the tenth comes to a close with Holyfield pulling even at five rounds apiece.
The eleventh round starts off with a clash in the middle of the ring that sees both fighters hit home with rights. Valuev comes in behind the jab and pops Holyfield with both hand before "The Real Deal" responds with a right to the chest.
Holyfield gets in a jab before backing off again, still on his toes. Valuev starts to throw a series of jab feints above Holyfield's head that are followed by the same punch to the chest. Valuev tries to force the action but two engagements happen with nothing landing for either man.
Holyfield slips a jab and gets in close to nail Valuev with two good left hooks as the champ looks to clinch. Valuev starts to follow his rival closer and whips in a right hand behind the jab and that earns him a counter right from Holyfield coupled with a left to the body.
They trade punches before clinching as both are looking a bit gassed. When action resumes, they come to grips again and Holyfield lands a left hook as Valuev gets in a right.
Holyfield tries to come in but Valuev pops him with the jab a few times to maintain distance as the eleventh ends a tie round. It all comes down to who has more left in the tank and can take the twelfth and final frame and therefore the fight.
The final round starts about the same as every other stanza in this fight with Holyfield circling on the outside and Valuev looking to land the jab. Holyfield is definitely looking to avoid engagements while Valuev is trying hard to bring one about.
Valuev gets in a right ot the chest and Holyfield finally throws a punch but misses with the jab. Valuev gets close and lets fly a right behind a few jabs. Holyfield ducks it and springs into action, hitting paydirt with a bracing right and a nice left hook that drives Valuev back and out of range for the following right hand bomb.
Holyfield gets in a counter jab while Valuev misses with a combination but the second left, right strikes home. Holyfield retaliates with two body shots but is warned by the referee to keep it above the beltline.
Valuev jabs Holyfield onto the ropes but the challenger bobs and weaves his way off and starts to dance around the ring again. With time running out, Valuev gets in a short right and left as Holyfield is near a corner again. Valuev gets his adversary back on the ropes and lands a right to the body and a little left to the head as Holyfield tries to clinch.
Valuev shoves him to the ropes and lands a jab while missing a right. They each get in a few blows during the resultant clinch. Holyfield dances away and Valuev jabs him in the chest back onto the ropes where they both miss shots before Holyfield nearly falls missing with a hurtling overhand right.
As Holyfield again dances away, Valuev follows him to the ropes, zapping in a few quick shots with each hand as Holyfield covers up as the bell rings to end the fight. Both fighters embrace.
Valuev wins the twelfth round as Holyfield did very little and takes the bout six rounds to five with one round even.
The scores are read and Valuev is declared the winner on the cards by majority decision, 116-112, 115-114 and 114-114, retaining his WBA Heavyweight title.
The 35 year old Valuev improves to 50-1 (34) while 46 year old Holyfield drops to 42-10-2 (27).