Jerry Glick reporting: Let’s face it, there are only a few men who can claim to remain viable in boxing at the advanced age of 40 plus. In the cases of Bernard Hopkins and Evander Holyfield that should read plus, plus. Hopkins is 46 and Holyfield is two years older. Both men dream large, B-Hop nearly took a light-heavyweight belt recently, and Evander still insists he will unify all the heavyweight belts.
The question is why; why does this all time great fighter need to extend his career? I won’t conjecture as to why beyond what he says is the reason, but one thing is clear, he is doing it. He certainly looks great and that might lead fans and those on his team to assume that he can do it. Maybe, but I recall another great heavyweight champion who looked young on the outside but was very old on the inside; Muhammad Ali was still quite pretty when he stepped into a ring with Larry Holmes at the age of 38 back in 1981. He looked more his age when the bell rang and we saw that there was nothing there. No more miracles for Ali. Now, ten years older than Ali was, Holyfield tries to regain old form and the world title. Can he do it? Not sure, but I am sure that beating Williams will neither indicate how The Real Deal will look against Klitschko (either one), nor should it lead to a title shot.
The four time world heavyweight champ is back in town. Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield stopped off in New York to work out with trainer Tommy Brooks at The Church Street Boxing Gym in Manhattan to the delight of fans and media.
He is preparing to face Sherman “Tank” Williams at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV on this coming Saturday, January 22, for Holyfield’s World Boxing Federation heavyweight title in a twelve round fight dubbed “Redemption in America”, promoted by ARK Promotions.
Looking a lot younger than his forty-eight years, Holyfield, 43-10-2 (28 KOs), went through a training routine which included shadow boxing, pad work, and the heavy bag. He raised a sweat but was not winded at all. Did this bit of exposure indicate what the old guy has in the tank? Probably not.
Williams, 34-11-2 (19 KOs), a veteran heavyweight who won’t make the ex-champ look slow, fat, or old, is a 38 year old fighter who at a fairly small stature of 5’11” manages to weigh in at a hefty 250 to 265 pounds. This may be a tune up for his plan to unify the belts, but it sure looks like a part of anyone’s senior tour. Next for Evander will be another oldie, Brian Nielson who will turn 46 on April Fool’s day. Nielson has been retired since 2002, and Tank hasn’t fought in over a year. Holyfield last fought in April of 2010 beating 42 year old Francois Botha.
Fact is Holyfield looked fairly good. He tossed combinations in the air and into trainer Brooks’ pads. His jab wasn’t that hard but that left hook appeared to a very damaging weapon.
According to trainer Brooks he is in great shape. Much like a man years younger. He said that Evander is like a twenty-eight year old, “Yeah,” said Brooks. I would say so. He’s always taken care of himself. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke. He’s in tremendous shape.”
Brooks is honest and astute; he knows that Williams isn’t to be compared with the top of the division. The road to a title is through ranking contenders, but he believes that his man can face the biggest and the best.
“Just like his fight with (7 feet tall) Valuev,” he explained. “I thought he
beat Valuev, but he got jerked.”
He cut his teeth on bigger guys against Valuev, and that has given him the confidence to face other big boys.
The Klitschkos are around 6’7” each but Holyfield is unaffected by their size. “If I faced someone 7’2”,” he explained. “I’ll fight someone 6’7”.”
As Holyfield sat on the ring steps putting on his boxing shoes-the ones with his name emblazoned on the sides-he agreed to talk to the gathered media.
Holyfield made it very clear, he can still bang with the best. “I can still do it,” said the very confident future Hall of famer. “Still looking forward to being the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.”
Evander is not so concerned with what Williams will bring to the table, rather it is getting things the way he wants them in what he does in the ring. “It’s not so much me worrying about him,” said Holyfield. “At this time I just try to (prepare) myself to be able to jab, to be able to throw combinations; to be able to fight my fight. I feel that if I fight my fight I can beat anybody.”
The biggest question is why, at such an advanced age is he still going through the rigors of training and the punishment of a fight?
“Because I took care of myself,” he said. “You know, the purpose of taking care of yourself is to be able to extend your career as long as you want to.”
He said that 46 year old Bernard Hopkins is, in many ways, not unlike himself. “He took care of himself. You never saw him out of shape.”
He is ready for all the men who claim a piece of the title, David Haye, Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko. Does he have a preference? “No, not at all. If you’re going to be undisputed it only a matter of who comes first”.
Being busy is important for any boxer. Sitting around creates rust especially in an older fighter. Holyfield knows this.
“Very important,” he said. “The fact is you don’t get better if you’re not performing. You can take time and wait for an opportunity, but you can’t make the best of an opportunity because you didn’t do anything in the process, you just waited. So I understand that if I take on some fights and keep my skills sharp, I’ll do better.”
Even he is surprised that he is still an active fighter, “Very surprised,” he added with a smile. “I was asked when I came home from the (1984) Olympics when I would retire and I told them at 28.”
He still has the fire to fight in his heart.
“I love what I’m doing and as long as I can train and feel good about what I do (I can continue).” said Holyfield. He doesn’t see himself fighting at 50, but if that is what it will take, he is prepared for the possibility.
“If it takes until 50, then I’ll do it.”
His philosophy about actually getting a title fight extend beyond the ring and into the pocket. “It all comes down to if you pay people enough money, they’ll fight.”
It was said that the adulation of his fans was a big part of the reason that Ali stayed so long, but Holyfield denies that he has the same craving.
“If I need that,” he said. “All I do is stay home because I get that enough.”
Way back in 1994 doctors told the then 32 year old Holyfield to retire with a heart condition. He said, “It’s a sport and they were just trying to make it as safe as possible.”
He added that they had given him too much medication. “If I hadn’t taken the test over again I never would have known that they gave me too much medication that made me go into the heart (condition). And they gave me too much water. So it was the medicine. It’s not like I was born with heart (a condition), and I overcame it.”
Now, seventeen years later, he is still at it.
According to trainer Brooks, Holyfield has worked for only three weeks in preparing for Williams. “He knows how to fight,” said Brooks. “He’s always in shape, he just needs to work on timing. It’s just a matter of strategy and both of us getting on the same page”