By Jordan Buscarini, Cedar City, Utah.
A night full of excitement surrounded the MGM Grand Garden on a 1996 November night in Las Vegas, Nevada. A sold out crowd awaited anxiously as boxing’s own true warrior Evander Holyfield attempted to regain the Heavyweight crown for an unprecedented third time of his amazing career. Holyfield dissected Mike Tyson for 11 rounds before the bout was stopped and “The Real Deal” was crowned the WBA Heavyweight Champion. Nearly 14 years later, a dream still lurks deep in the heart of the 47 year-old Evander Holyfield, who has registered two consecutive losses in his quest to become the oldest Heavy Weight Champion the sport has ever seen. Even through the criticism, jokes, laughter and doubt, Holyfield continues to pursue his dream, as he travels down a road which he believes will eventually lead him to a Heavyweight Crown. The next stop for Holyfield is an April 10th showdown with Francois Botha at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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The Nevada State Athletic Commission has been highly criticized for granting Holyfield a one fight license, in which he will attempt to gain the lightly regarded WBF Heavyweight crown from another fighter long removed from his prime, Francois Botha. It was that very same November night at the MGM Grand in 1996 that Botha received his very first loss of his career, a 12th round TKO to Michael Moorer. Both fighters have been through their fair share of brutal fights since that epic night at the MGM Grand 14 years ago. It has been well documented that Holyfield has lost to less inferior opponents such as Larry Donald and Chris Byrd, while Botha has somewhat fallen off the radar as his prime becomes more and more distant in his rear view mirror. Yet even though both fighters are well removed from their hay-day, let’s stop and look at this fight for what it really is before we label it a joke, or “The Battle of the Relics”.
As far-fetched as Evander Holyfield’s dream seems to be, I’m not ready to label it a fairy tale just yet. Holyfield has made it abundantly clear that he wants to be the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, and as we break down the division, this improbable dream doesn’t seem so improbable after all. Currently the Klitschko brothers hold the WBC, IBF and WBO belts and David Haye now has a grasp on the WBA title after his majority decision win over Nikolai Valuev. The Klitschko’s have made it clear that they have no intentions on facing each other, and David Haye currently finds himself in a mandatory match with John Ruiz for the WBA title. It doesn’t take a boxing guru to see that this division is the most watered down it has ever been. Just take a look at the top ten contenders and you will see exactly what I mean, making it even more probable for a veteran who still packs a pretty hefty power punch such as Evander Holyfield to unify the divisions 4 major belts. A victory for Evander Holyfield on April 10th would not only put him in possession of the WBF crown, but would also place a compelling argument regarding Holyfield as next in line to face the winner of the Haye-Ruiz fight which takes place April 3rd.
Anyone with some sort of knowledge on the sport knows that Holyfield was robbed blind with his decision loss to Valuev over a year ago and Holyfield has already faced Ruiz three times, which have ended in a win, loss and draw for the 47 year old. It is safe to say that Holyfield is on par with the current WBA champion, but even if Holyfield was to defeat Botha and the winner of the Haye-Ruiz fight, he would still have to defeat both Klitschko brothers in order to unify the division. Seems like a long shot, right? Not so fast, we have already seen that when both Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko step into the ring they tend to fight way to cautious with opponents that they obviously outclass, and could put on the canvas just about anytime they would like. This method works when fighting the likes of Cristobal Arreola and Eddie Chambers, but if applied to an opponent with the knowledge and body of ring work such as Evander Holyfield, and it could spell disaster for either of the Klitschkos’ who really have not been tested in recent years. Don’t believe what I’m saying? Ask Michael Moorer what happens when you dominate, but neglect to put a legendary fighter with ring smarts on the canvas, it can lead to disaster. Big George Foreman shocked the world with one punch in a time when the division was much more competitive. As we’ve seen in his past five fights, Holyfield appears much more mobile, explosive and agile than Foreman was when he knocked out Moorer.
Let’s not place the carriage before the horse, the current task at hand for “The Real Deal” is Francois Botha. But a victory for Holyfield on April 10th and he is instantly back in the picture for a shot at a major belt. Do not count out a true champion, the last thing to go is a fighter’s punch and Holyfield is still in great shape and is still extremely elusive for a Heavyweight fighter. As we have seen time and time again in this sport, anything can happen on any particular night.
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Jordan Buscarini graduated from Southern Utah University in 2010 with a degree in broadcasting with a minor in journalism. Is currently the Sports Director at Castle Country Radio in Price, Utah as well as the host of the Daily Sports Show “Drive Time Sports”