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30 AUGUST 2014

 

The Next Step For A Legend




By Sean Wippert: Step back in time for a moment if you will. The year is 1990. The entire world is still in a daze from “Iron” Mike’ Tyson’s titanic crash in Tokyo. The dry October air is thick with anticipation at the recently opened Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The ripped frame of the 1984 Olympic Bronze Medalist and then undefeated Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield dances impatiently in his corner. Standing across from him and holding a thirty eight pound, five and a half inch reach advantage is James “Buster” Douglas, pacing in an annoyed manner.

My father and I sat glued to our neighbor’s television as if every second meant the world to us. We watched with baited breath, waiting for that one monster shot that either was capable of. Through the three rounds it took for Holyfield to drop Douglas, we were on pins and needles in anticipation of the outcome. That night Holyfield effectively ended “Busters” reign as Heavyweight Champion with a single well placed right cross. Beyond that single fiery shot, I would have to say that most of the fight showcased some of the best boxing Holyfield ever did. In the process he didn’t just defeat a champion, he tore the belt away from Douglas and beat him into obscurity with it.

It’s hard to believe that more than twenty years has passed since that memorable night and in that time Holyfield has stepped up to challenge after challenge. And over and over again he proved that he was in fact “The Real Deal”. After dismantled Douglas, battled Bowe, stood toe to toe with Foreman and pounded Tyson into submission. He is without a doubt one of the toughest men I have ever seen in a boxing ring. These are the images I keep with me when I close my eyes and talk about those days. As I open my eyes now however, I and am brought front and center with the reality that that was then … and this is now. Days I like to recall when thinking of Holyfield.

He is still quite possibly one of the toughest men alive, but he’s not the same man I saw in Las Vegas that night all those years ago. Distant memories of less than stellar performances flood my brain. His bad bouts with Lennox Lewis, his lackluster outings against John Ruiz, his TKO loss to James Toney and unanimous decision loss to Chris Byrd all make for a bad last few years. With this in mind, one has to wonder if the countless wars he’s been in have taken too much of a toll on him. The cold reality of Holyfield’s situation becomes even more apparent when you look at the past few years of his life outside the ring. His $10 million dollar Atlanta home foreclosed on in 2008, multiple child support cases against him and he is being sued by a Utah based landscaping firm for $550,000 for unpaid bills. This is a far cry from a man who had a video game named after him and carried multiple million dollar sponsorship deals including Coke Cola.


As he approaches the half century mark of his life, one has to wonder what he has left to gain by continuing in the ring to fight beyond money. This is a question that many in the sport eventually face, and that few have trouble accepting. Whether that is the case or not with Holyfield is yet to be seen. Still it is hard not to read between the lines when after a mixed bag of wins and losses in his last 12 fights including a tough 10 round TKO win against relative unknown Brian “Super Brian” Nielsen. Even with the win, its hard to believe his recent claim that he plans to take on and beat either of the Klitschko brothers for yet another title belt. While I believe he has the heart, I’m forced to wonder if the now nearly fift year old former champion is able to back it up anymore. So as I ponder Holyfield’s longevity in his most recent endeavor I, like many fans found myself coming face to face with the 500 lb gorilla in the room. This is an ape who now refuses to stand quietly in the corner and instead has taken up to hanging off the chandelier, throwing expensive china across the room while screaming one simple question.

“How much longer Evander?”

This is the million dollar question that I suspect Holyfield, like many fighters have, has asked himself a few times in his career. It’s a question that one of boxing’s living legends might never be able to truly answer, especially when you factor in all of his other accomplishments. Golden Gloves Champion, Olympic Bronze medalist, world Cruiserweight Champion, and boxing’s one and only 4 time Heavyweight Champion. Were not talking about some aging has been, some 10 second never was or even some 5 fight flash in the pan. This is Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield! For better or worse, he has over the past few decades become one of boxing’s most recognizable faces.

So how do you tell a legend that he’s had enough? The short answer, you don’t. The long answer, you can’t because you’re not Holyfield. You haven’t fought in the trenches like he has, held multiple championship belts over you head in triumph, clashed heads like a Brahma bull, and spilled blood and bits of your ear in the ring. He carries the nickname “Real Deal” for a reason and no matter how much you tell him why he should move away from the arena that’s made him a legend, only he knows when and if he will move on. My only hope is that someday the champion within Evander finds a way to reason with the man he’s become before the wars he’s fought, finally catch up with him.

July 12, 2011


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