The Real Deal: Hold your bets

Sep 30, 2003 7:49 AM

It is one of those cards, where even if you twist my arm, my hand isn’t coming out of my pocket. But it is also one of those HBO double-headers where you don’t need a rooting interest to enjoy.

I can’t choose sides for the two big scraps upcoming at Mandalay Bay. Well, as it gets close, maybe I’ll feel that old urge for action, the one you’ve all been lectured over and over to ignore, but hey, a little friendly bet isn’t going to stop the mortgage payment.

Or maybe the lines will change.

Right now, the odds seem smack on with no overlays. Evander Holyfield is about 7-5 and James Toney at a buyback of maybe 6-5. Diego Corrales and Joel Casamayor, last time I looked, was 11-10 pick’em.

For a long while, when the fight was surprisingly made, I thought Holyfield was an easy winner, bigger, stronger against an opponent who is not very mobile. If his quick hands don’t get Toney, his head certainly will.

But as time goes by, and time is not on the Real Deal’s side of course, I’m beginning to lean more and more to the underdog. It’s not simply age. Holyfield turns 41 soon, but when Lights Out blows out his next birthday cake, there’ll be 36 candles. He’s no spring chicken and, unlike Holyfield, has not always taken the best care of his body. Like me, he grew up in the family bakery. Don’t believe it when you read this is his first fight as a heavyweight. He was as high as 226 a few years ago and often has fought at over 200 pounds - when he was out of shape.

He looked fit when he took the cruiserweight title from the ordinary Vasilliy Jirov earlier this year. He says he’ll be about 210 for Holy, who won’t be more than 15 pounds bigger. Toney was a middleweight when he started, but he was a big middleweight; Holyfield didn’t start at heavyweight, either. He was a light-heavy going on cruiser. The size difference isn’t that big.

Still, I didn’t think Toney’s power is quite in the same league with Holyfield’s. But outside of Referee Joe Cortez blowing it in the second John Ruiz fight, when Holyfield knocked out the Quiet Man with a shot to the solar plexus only to have a point deducted for a low blow, Holy hasn’t stopped anyone since Michael Moorer six years ago.

It was Holyfield himself who best expressed power differentials. There are no absolutes. It’s "can I take what you got and can you take what I got?" In this case, I think they both can take the other’s best shots. Which means a decision. Which means judges. Which means who knows?

Holyfield has slowed immensely over the years. He tries to steal rounds in the last 30 seconds. Toney has never been a very hard worker. This could be a lot duller than the promoters are advertising, but I think it’s still fascinating.

I’m frankly a bit surprised that the odds on Holyfield aren’t a bit higher. That suggests some "smart money" has been going on the defensive specialist, Toney. No one in boxing rolls and counters right hands like James. Of course, Holy’s best punch is the left hook. See what I mean? For every nuance, there is a counternuance that makes this tough to handicap. It seems like a natural "layoff" fight.

The "smart" money seems to be on Casamayor in the battle of once-beaten former junior lightweight champions that precedes Holyfield-Toney. Both guys lost in unification bouts to men who are still undefeated, but I would have figured Corrales to be a slight favorite here. Casamayor, a Cuban former Olympic gold medalist who lost a controversial (certainly to me) decision to Acelino Freitas, looked a bit frayed in scoring a close, and perhaps controversial decision over Nate Campbell.

He is not the puncher that Chico Corrales is. Corrales, after a year in jail for spousal abuse, has come back, surprisingly, still at 130 pounds. He blamed making weight for his only loss, a stoppage by the dazzling Floyd Mayweather Jr. shortly before he went on trial. But Corrales has always been bothered by speed and movement and that’s Casamayor’s game.

If the Cuban fights to his best form, and aging boxers sometimes do, he seems by far the superior technician. He also has a better chin than given credit. Freitas can punch and landed a few, but Casamayor was still there at the end.

Many of my colleagues seem to think Casamayor will give Corrales fits early, but eventually get nailed. I don’t know, another reason for me to lay off. That doesn’t mean I will, nor is my ignorance a reason for you not to risk your holiday gift money on your opinion.

I think I’ll wait for Sugar Shane Mosley to fight Oscar de la Hoya again.