By Trigo Egbegi
AND so, Evander Holyfield continues the strenuous march in his avowed mission to turn back the hand of the clock. It is a costly march for which every step taken forward is rewarded with two steps backwards for a man whose acknowledged warrior fighting instincts are not matched by any level of common sense.
The latest step backwards into anonymity came penultimate weekend in West Virginia where the much decorated former world heavyweight boxing champion stumbled to an unthinkable career blot inflicted by a Sherman Williams, from parts unknown somewhere in the same United States.
An accidental clash of pates in the second round left Holyfield badly gashed above the left eye to prompt a halt to further proceedings in the scheduled 12 rounder. It goes into the official records as a no_contest, in only the first time Evander has had to go home empty handed in 27 years as a pro,
I admire Holyfield for his spirit in the face of his handicap. He never asked for sympathy, because he’s a warrior who neither asks for, nor gives any quarter. Remember that moment in 1997 when he head_butted Mike Tyson into frustration, and again in 2006 when he inflicted on Hasim Rahman a lump the size of a tennis ball on his forehead.
Core followers of sport
The weekend event, though, meant little to the world outside of core followers of the sport. Overnight, a supposedly inconsequential fixture has the whole world on its feet _ and troubled _ largely on account of the nature of the outcome. A win or loss for Holyfield would have gone down well with me and the many thousands not moved one bit by a 48 year_old man and his vague hopes of once again finding himself at the top of the heavyweight scene.
He may not have realized just how far he has drifted from the realities of heavyweight boxing. For the better part of the past ten years, Evander Holyfield has been seriously contending at the level of club fighters who are, still, too hot to handle. Little wonder the weekend stake for which he put his health on the line was a spurious World Boxing Federation belt spurned and rejected by anyone worth his name.
Come to think of it. Poor Evander staked so much that weekend just for the same WBF title fit only for persons either coming from nowhere or going nowhere. Even as the contest ended in a dubious stalemate, I think the night’s moral victor was the anonymous Sherman Williams who has been promised a rematch against, by far, the biggest profile name he has encountered in his career.
Aptly tagged the “tank” for his toughness and ability to absorb, Williams (34_11_2, 19 Kos) is best remembered for being employed as sparring material in the camp of the Klitschko brothers, for two years running. This is the man who provided Evander with all he could handle.
For all intents and purposes, the Holyfield Vs Williams misadventure was a major distraction for the pro boxing front looking forward to opening the New Year with a pair of crackling fixtures in the 140 pound division. Americans Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander square off Saturday in a match_up of un_beaten ex_titlists for the vacant WBC belt.
This is truly boxing’s first mega_fight for the year 2011, featuring two speedy, all_round youngsters, each of who had once abandoned this same belt in search of more lucrative challenges elsewhere. Either man is credited with a victory over Englishman and one_time holder, Junior Witter.
Still on Holyfield. A number of passionate boxing fans remain sold on the acclaimed “Real Deal” of yore still in the position to get back to the top and rewrite history. My friend and boxing analyst, Victor Azumara, contends that Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins are a special breed of champions, each capable of capturing yet another major title. He went further by citing the case of George Foreman who came back after ten years outside the ring and won one of the major heavyweight belts at a relatively advanced age.
The argument didn’t end there. Signor Azumara believes Holyfield has what it takes to prevail over either of the Klitschko brothers. To all these I have a separate view, though.
Foreman, Holyfield and Hopkins are truly a rare breed of pro fighters, I agree. In a sport designed, ideally, for young men, it is quite uncommon to see candidates still competing at the very top when well into their forties. It’s like taking a page from ageless Archie Moore’s book. When George Foreman landed the pie a second time at age 46, it was considered one of the game’s real miracles.
The similarity between Hopkins and Holyfield ends almost as much as it begins. Of the two, Hopkins stands the better chance to pull off the act largely because he is a fighter endowed more with guile and craftiness. Evander, on the other hand thrives more on heart and resolve.
Of the two, I think it is Hopkins who retains a semblance of his reflexes that enables him to compete with the very best middleweights, whereas Holyfield makes up with pure heart and resolve in place of his depleted reflexes.
As for Holyfield fighting and defeating any of the Klitschkos, I say perish the thought. No contrived miracle can see Mr. Heart and Resolve survive 12 rounds in the ring with the Vitali and Wladimir of this day.