Saturday, April 09, 2005

Tyson vs. Holyfield III -- Will it happen? Count on it

By JE Grant

Evander Holyfield is of late saying that he wants another crack at Mike Tyson. Tyson, to his credit, is saying that both he and Holyfield need to win a few fights before engaging each other again. But, will the bout ever happen? With only a few minor bumps in the road to overcome, my bet is that it will.

Holyfield, 42, of course has the immediate obstacle of a suspension leveled by the New York commission and enforceable nation-wide. I think it is clear that the suspension won't hold --- it's based merely on the gut reaction of boxing commissioner Ron Stevens. Although it is hard to disagree with the sentiment that Holyfield should pack it in, objectively it will be hard to sustain a suspension in light of the fact that he just fought 10-rounds against a ranked boxer and was not knocked out or even staggered during the contest. That fact, coupled with the considerable monetary resources Holyfield can put into lawyers, will make this suspension short-lived.

Holyfield is 38-8, but is only 2-5-2 in his last nine fights. It is clear to most observers, the notable exception being Holyfield himself, that he is long past his prime. He was indeed a great fighter and has accomplished much. Undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight championship belts adorned his palatial estate. He has also earned more money than any man who has entered a boxing ring.

His desire for more heavyweight boxing titles brings with it the need to keep fighting top fighters. The truth is he can no longer compete at the top 10 level. He can likely beat some lesser journeyman well into his 50's --- but why?

Iron Mike, (50-5, 44 KOs), has himself experienced a devastating KO at the hands of then-champion Lennox Lewis, and a KO loss to Danny Williams in relatively recent history. Sandwiched in there was a quick win over Clifford Etienne that added little luster to Tyson's record. That makes him 1-2 in his last three fights with a lot of time between each bout.

Tyson has been training in Phoenix and is poised to begin a comeback against a slew of journeymen, this time under the tuteledge of former champion, Australia's Jeff Fenech. This is likely the best, and potentially most lucrative, route for Mike. He's pushing 39, has fought infrequently, and has faced some big hitters. What made Tyson viable in the early part of his career was the confidence built from fighting often, mixing in top fighters with average opponents. There are plenty of heavyweights who won't be able to stand the early heat that Tyson can still bring.

While it was obvious that Holyfield was the better fighter in each of his bouts with Tyson, he still had a vestige of his dwindling skills. (And yes, I think he was past his best when he met Tyson. I would have picked a prime Holyfield over a prime Tyson). Today, Evander's skills are gone. And, while he was an above average puncher, he usually won with a volume of punches delivered at angles and as counter-punches. He does not have a great punch on which to rely --- leaving him with not much in the way of offense. Defense? Lately his defense seems to be a sturdy chin and tremendous willpower --- it was not enough against James Toney and Toney is not a power-hitter by any stretch.

For that reason alone, I would pick Tyson over Holyfield at this point in their boxing lives. Tyson despite the loss of the speed and head-movement that separated him from the pack, still has solid power and is willing to throw shots with abandon. I see a bout in which Holyfield comes right after Tyson as his did in their previous matches, but, unable to counter or finesse Tyson, gets clipped early and often. He may not make it out of the first round.

I actually hope this fight never happens. While Tyson can go on to win some significant fights on power alone, Holyfield’s significant wins are all in his past. There’s no shame in being 42 and being finished as a fighter. He gave it his all, and at the top of his game his best was spectacular. Something tells me that he wants at least one last hurrah.

Send your insights to JE at his email


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