Now that a licensing crisis involving one of his fighters is behind him in Arizona, Bob Arum cannot help but wonder why another commission will allow a long-retired, 58-year-old former heavyweight champion to fight Saturday night.
It is “absolutely crazy,” according to the outspoken promoter, that the Florida Athletic Commission has approved an official eight-round boxing match that’ll pit four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield against former UFC light heavyweight champ Vitor Belfort. Holyfield will turn 59 on October 19 and has not boxed since he stopped Danish veteran Brian Nielsen in the 10th round of their May 2011 fight in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Brazil’s Belfort has boxed just once professionally, and not since April 2006. Holyfield, who replaced an ill Oscar De La Hoya last week, and Belfort will headline this Triller Fight Club Pay-Per-View show Saturday night from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
“I’m just shaking my head,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “I mean, how does that fight get approved with a guy who’s almost 60 years old, without getting a Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic-type of examination? How do you approve a guy that age, you know, allowing him to take punches to the head? That is absolutely crazy – crazy!”
Patrick Cunningham, the executive director of the Florida Athletic Commission, indicated in a statement released Wednesday night by Triller Fight Club that all boxers scheduled to compete Saturday successfully met all requirements for licensure. Cunningham hasn’t specified if Holyfield underwent additional testing due to his advanced age.
Regardless, the 89-year-old Arum is concerned because Holyfield often engaged in brutal battles during a 26-year, 57-fight pro career in which “The Real Deal” established himself as one of the most courageous, resilient boxers in the history of the sport.
“Holyfield was always in wars when he fought,” Arum said. “I mean, the punches he took, he was a really great warrior. And then he stayed after his skills had eroded, took more punishment and now he’s almost 60 years old and they’re still letting him fight. Are they crazy?”
Holyfield (44-10-2, 29 KOs, 1 NC) versus Belfort (1-0, 1 KO) is the main event of Triller Fight Club’s four-fight show, which can be purchased through fite.tv. It is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. EDT in the United States ($49.99) and midnight in the United Kingdom (£9.99).
Meanwhile, the show Arum’s company, Top Rank Inc., promoted this week in Tucson, Arizona, also caused controversy.
Mexico’s Oscar Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs), who is promoted by Top Rank, successfully defended his WBC super featherweight title against Brazil’s Robson Conceicao (16-1, 8 KOs) in the main event Friday night at Casino Del Sol’s AVA Amphitheater. Valdez, who won a unanimous decision, tested positive last month for Phentermine – a stimulant that is banned both in and out of competition by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, which oversees the WBC’s “Clean Boxing Program.”
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission licensed Valdez anyway because all state and tribal commissions in the United States that are affiliated with the Association of Boxing Commissions adhere to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s standards. WADA permits Phentermine to be used out of competition, the period during which Valdez submitted his contaminated samples to VADA on August 13.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.