Holy should be 5/1 dog

Oct 2, 2007 8:31 AM

If you are a regular reader, you know I don’t like laying 5/1, even on whether the sun will rise in the East. But I especially don’t like taking the 3/1 buyback rate when I think there’s little reason to suspect the 5/1 favorite is in any kind of trouble.

We have two such fights next weekend, worlds apart.

In Moscow, the venerable Evander Holyfield, now a 44-year-old shell tilting at windmills, challenges the WBO heavyweight title-holder, Sultan Ibragimov, on a pay-per-view telecast.

On HBO, we have what would seem a somewhat more competitive fight between two of the three lightweight titlists named Diaz, Juan and Julio — in Chicago, where the third 135-pound champion Diaz (David) grew up.
Let’s start in Moscow, where Holyfield pursues his dream of retiring as the undisputed heavyweight champion, which he first became 17 years ago when the out-of-shape Buster Douglas threw that misguided uppercut and the Real Deal clocked him.

That clock hasn’t stopped and it would be incorrect to say neither has Holyfield. He has "retired" a couple of times. Three years ago, the idiotic New York State boxing commissioner, Ron Scott Stevens, pulled his license after Holyfield was miserable in losing a 12-round decision to Larry Donald.

Holy said it was a bum shoulder. It’s been repaired and he’s beaten a who’s who of what’s that since, capped by Lou Savarese and Vinny Maddalone, hardly the stuff of legends.

It almost makes you believe in kismet that here he is in any kind of title fight. He is a substitute for Ruslan Chagaev, one of the four current "champions" in the division, who was supposed to have a partial unification fight against Ibragimov until a training camp injury.

Kismet also matches Holyfield light. Ibragimov seems more difficult to spell than to fight, though he is a somewhat quick-handed pudgy southpaw. He came by his title when Shannon Briggs, in one of the most shameful performances ever by a so-called champion, plodded 12 dreary rounds after the Russian.

Before that, perhaps the most notable result on Ibragimov’s 21-0-1 pro record was the one draw, to the journeyman Ray Austin last year. The Russian, even with his home crowd, can not be recommended, despite perhaps having a style advantage.

He was easily able to stay outside the reach of Briggs, making brief forays to land a couple of punches and then stepping back out of danger. Holyfield’s legs aren’t his strong point any longer. But he is a much more accomplished counterpuncher than Briggs ever was. No, it is not beyond the imagination to think the Real Deal has a real chance here.
The caveat is time. Sometimes, time does not fade memories. Holyfield’s memorable upset of Mike Tyson was 11 years ago. His upset of Riddick Bowe in their classic second meeting, the one interrupted by the Fan Man’s parachuting into the ring, was 14 years ago. It’s been 23 years since he was robbed of an Olympic gold medal.

This is less of a fight than a curio. I don’t bet on bric-a-brac.

Some Diaz should face Joel

As far as I’m concerned, the real lightweight champion is Joel Casamayor, the Cuban being ducked by everyone named Diaz and most other monickers as well. But the Nos. 2 and 3 champions are probably meeting in Hoffman Estates, Chicago, next Saturday. Juan Diaz, coming off making Acelino Freitas quit again, is the natural favorite.

Three years ago, he showed how tough he was when he first won his belt by outpointing the rugged Mongolian, Lakva Sim, at the age of 21. Now 24, he has on the brink of stardom, partly because of his personality — a college student by day, a boxer by night — but more because of his nonstop style. He is one of the most fan-friendly practitioners in the game. If he could seriously punch, he’d be illegal.

He has only 16 knockouts on his 32-0 record. Julio Diaz, from the fighting family of Coachella, CA, has 25 on his 34-3 slate. He is a danger, though Juan Diaz, the Baby Bull, has shown a world-class chin previously. This is something Julio Diaz has not displayed. He was stopped by Jose Luis Castillo in 2005, no shame in that as the stoppage was more of an accumulation of damage. He was also stopped in the third round by hard-punching Juan (Pollo) Valenzuela earlier in his career.

It should be an entertaining fight. Hell, any Juan Diaz fight should be entertaining. In fact, you don’t need the adrenaline rush of risking money on its outcome to enjoy it. It’s not worth it, either way.