Holyfield Should Focus On Charitable Works

By Kevin B. Blackistone
Updated: June 30, 2006

DALLAS — It is difficult to root against a guy who every Fourth of July invites thousands of underprivileged kids to his mansion’s grounds for a barbeque. It is hard to cheer against someone who has been known to shell out $50,000 for Christmas presents for less-fortunate kids. I

It is a strain on the conscience to wish a poor outcome upon a man who dropped everything after that horrific tsunami crashed into South Asia and headed straight to its ground zero for several days to help the suddenly orphaned there.

But I hope Evander Holyfield loses the fight he announced Friday that he will engage in Aug. 19 at American Airlines Center. I hope he loses it decisively. I hope he loses it in embarrassing fashion.

I hope all of that for Evander, who is four months shy of his 44th birthday, because I want him to continue to do all the wonderful things that he has been doing and not wind up another sad story in the annals of boxing.

The good news is that Lester Bedford, the longtime fight promoter from Fort Worth who is working with Evander again, assured me Wednesday that the four-time world heavyweight champion wanted to fight again just to gauge if he has enough left to become a five-time heavyweight champion.

It isn’t about any need for money, Bedford said, despite the 10 kids Evander has fathered with three wives and four women he never married, and all the workers and extended family members who depend on him.

If this match doesn’t go well, Bedford said, “This could be his last fight.”

Evander’s last outing, a 12-round unanimous loss in November 2004 to the unremarkable Larry Donald, which was Evander’s third loss in a row, should’ve been his final bout.

But Evander has been fighting delusion ever since.

That is understandable, however, when you’re as accomplished in the ring as Evander, when you’ve drawn against Lennox Lewis, beaten Mike Tyson at the apex of his despicableness and toppled Riddick Bowe.

It is comprehensible after last weekend, when you watched current heavyweight title contenders Calvin Brock and Timur Ibragimov waltz around a ring as they did on HBO, looking more like you and your partner on Dancing With the Stars than professional world-class pugilists.

You think you can muster enough strength and moxie to shock the world against the likes of a Wladimir Klitschko, Oleg Maskaev or Hasim Rahman, who collectively don’t have as much talent as one of the champions you thumped in your heyday.

This isn’t about the state of boxing, however, which is fine beneath the heavyweight class. The middleweight title fight two Saturdays ago between Jermain Taylor and Winky Wright on HBO attracted 3.4 million viewers, or half a million more viewers than Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on NBC that same night.

Instead, Evander’s desire to fight at least one more time is about his state of mind.

“He’s looking at the heavyweight division right now and saying, ‘If I can be 70-80 percent of what I was, I can beat these guys,’ ” Bedford explained Evander’s thinking.

It is true that Bernard Hopkins at 41 just capped as fine a career as we’ve witnessed with a victory over Antonio Tarver. It is true that George Foreman recaptured the heavyweight title at 45. It is true that Archie Moore defended his title numerous times as a fortysomething fighter.

It is also true that the New York State Athletic Commission has Evander’s license on administrative suspension based on “poor performance and diminished skills,” chairman Ron Stevens reminded me Wednesday. The decision stemmed from Holyfield’s showing at Madison Square Garden against Donald.

Stevens said he saw an ex-champion that night not so much in immediate danger as in eventual danger. He couldn’t throw punches any faster than he could dodge them.

“By not being able to pull the trigger – and you know what they say about the best defense being a good offense – he had very little defense,” Stevens said of Evander.

Stevens said Evander looked like a fighter all but volunteering for pugilistic dementia, the insidious disease of the ring brought about by getting punched in the head way too many times. It just claimed a second Quarry brother, Mike, earlier this month. He was 55 and a veteran of 82 prizefights between 1969 and 1982.

That’s why I hope Evander isn’t successful in August, because success will only lead to another fight, to more punches and quite possibly that date he wants one last time for the chance to win it all.

Success will be the enabler for this man, who is celebrated now as a champion of charity for so many others, to encounter that one big punch from one big puncher that can start him on an unnecessary slide to uselessness.