News October 2007

12.10.07 Holyfield in Russia

One last goodbye in store for Holyfield in Russia
by Chris Boian
October 12, 2007

Holyfield against Byrd

MOSCOW (AFP) - The once great Evander Holyfield will step into the lion's den in Moscow on Saturday night bidding to make history by claiming a share of the heavyweight world title for the fifth time.

At almost 45 years of age, if he were to succeed in his WBO title challenge to Russian Sultan Ibragimov, Holyfield would also become the second oldest heavyweight champion of all time.

But all that is ifs and buts and few in the world of boxing are giving Holyfield much more than a puncher's chance.

Ibragimov is 13 years Holyfield's junior, he's the newly crowned champion and but for one disappointing draw against Ray Austin - himself once a world title challenger - Ibragimov boasts a pefect record of 21 victories with 17 knock-outs and no defeats.

In this era of multiple champions and belts changing hands every six months, the Russian from the restive Dagestan region, who now lives in Florida, could easily pass for an unknown - but that would be doing Ibragimov a great disservice.

He is an Olympic silver medallist from Sydney in 2000, beaten only by the great Cuban Felix Savon, although many experts ringside believed the Russian had actually won the fight.

Ibragimov is an awkward southpaw known for his power punching. Holyfield in his prime may well have won but this is not a 30-year-old Holyfield.

This is not even the 1996 version that scored an 11th round knock-out of Mike Tyson. In fact this is the version that has lost recent bouts to Larry Donald, Chris Byrd and a bloated, faded James Toney.

Rightly so, few are giving Holyfield a chance, and should he win, some are even suggesting it would be an embarrassment for the heavyweight division.

"Holyfield used to be one of my idols," said German boxing promoter Wilfred Sauerland. "It sounds strange but I wish him that he will not win the title again because in my opinion he should have called it a career some time ago.

"The hard fights from the past have left their marks. If he became world champion again, it would not make the current champions look good."

While talking up his own chances, Holyfield has at least acknowledged that he is in for a tough night.

"He's quick. What he brings to the game, he is probably going to throw more punches than any of the heavyweights that I've fought," Holyfield said of Ibragimov. "He does awkward stuff that I've never seen a heavyweight fighter do."

All that spells trouble for Holyfield. He no longer has the speed and skills that he once possessed, and although he still has the heart and determination, that could be to his detriment, according to some boxing experts.

Geno MacGhee, who writes for Ringside Report, said: "I can't see this bout going over two rounds with the power of the champion dictating the result.

"Every fighter that he has faced that wasn't Ray Austin, he has dominated and destroyed. Holyfield is a conventional fighter that is now rather slow and stands right in front of his opponent."

The smart money would be on a quick knock-out victory for Ibragimov but this is boxing and nothing is predictable in this sport.

Holyfield's trainer Ronnie Shields has warned against underestimating his man.

"They say that he has no chance in Russia. They say this guy (Ibragimov) has boxing skills and that he has a jab as if this is Holyfield's first fight. As if he has never boxed before.

"He's tough. He's experienced. He's a good boxer. He's the guy who put guys on their asses. Some guys have been losing to guys that Holyfield put on their asses. You got to realise this."

Sadly, Holyfield too needs to realise that it is time to say goodbye, and maybe a devastating defeat to Ibragimov on Saturday will convince him.

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