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Holy- 'Field of Dreams' a boxing nightmare

Dec 16, 2008 5:09 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

The last I heard, a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear was hanging on a wall in some Cincinnati restaurant. He lost it in a Las Vegas ring after Mike Tyson bit it off.

It was taken by an employee of the MGM Grand to Holyfield’s dressing room – he told me that he figured Evander might need it some day – and he turned it over to some guard, who promised to finish delivery. A couple of deals later, the ear piece emerged in Cincinnati and as far as I know, Holyfield has not made any attempt to retrieve it.

Ear today, gone tomorrow.

Holyfield has been leaving pieces of himself in rings around the world for a quarter-century now. He’s now going to Zurich where next Saturday, he challenges Nikolay Valuev for the WBA version of the world heavyweight title. I strongly recommend sitting this one out.

Believe it or not, I covered a bout once in Zurich, on Dec. 26, 1971 – the year Muhammad Ali lost the fight of the century to Joe Frazier. Ali found it easy to rebound against the nondescript German, Jurgen Blin, and I got to meet a bunch of gnomes.

Valuev will not be mistaken for a gnome. The Russian Giant (that’s his

nickname) stands 7 feet tall. Who knew mediocrity could be piled so high?

Holyfield, unless he’s begun the shrinking process brought on by old age, is 6-2 ½, but height or reach (Valuev’s is 85 inches, Holy’s only 78), is not the governing factor here.

Another year, okay decade, I think Holyfield would have no trouble with Valuev, height be damned. The "Real Deal" was very competitive against the two best big heavyweights in history, Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis.

Manny Pacquiao just proved again that size is not everything, but where his victim, Oscar de la Hoya, was the old fighter, in this contest the man with no reflexes and diminished skills is the 46-year-old Holyfield.

Not that Valuev is a spring chicken himself at 35. Yet he warrants 10-1 or 11-1 favoritism here, and not because being in Europe is a home-field advantage, He can’t fight much, but then neither can most of the surrounding Alps.

Valuev has lost only one pro fight against 49 victories, that a majority decision to Rulan Chagaev, another mediocrity who probably would have been favored in this week’s rematch if he hadn’t come up lame.

Valuev just scraped by one of Holyfield’s old buddies, John Ruiz, in August. Before that, he won all 12 rounds against Sergei Liahkovich, another mediocrity who has held a heavyweight title in these devalued days.

Holyfield talks about becoming the unified champion one more time, meaning he would have to beat both Klitschko brothers. He hasn’t fought since getting dominated and outpointed by Sultan Ibragimov, another mediocre title-holder, 14 months ago. Before that, he won a decision against Lou Savarese. Naturally, this qualifies him for a title shot, according to WBA standards.

It’s going to be very ugly for as long as it lasts. And it’ll probably last long enough for viewers to become uncomfortable. Valuev has no style and Holyfield has no choice but to take a beating. Maybe he needs the money. If so, that’s his fault for accumulating mansions and child-support payments.

In the ring, he has nothing left except his heart. I almost wrote his heart and his brains. The fact he is still fighting at this age with his ancient warrior skills shows beyond reasonable doubt that somewhere his brains are also hanging on someone’s wall.

Maybe, not in Cincinnati.