Evander Holyfield is making a return to the ring at the age of 57, and is eyeing a third fight with Mike Tyson in an exhibition boxing match to raise money for his charity, Unite 4 Our Fight.
The four-time heavyweight champion and Hall of Fame fighter envisions the encounter to be choreographed for entertainment and not one filled with competition and bloodlust. Holyfield’s purpose is to raise money for underprivileged kids, who like himself, did not have the financial means to pursue their dreams in their youth.
“I’ve already done what I wanted to do in my career, and have been the best that I could be. If it wasn’t for charity, I wouldn’t fight Tyson,” Holyfield told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “I don’t look at it as being a winner in this fight. This is a charity event helping our foundations. The thing is knowing what you’re doing it for.
“I’m not afraid of [Tyson] or anything like that, as long as it works for both of us [financially]. I wouldn’t ask for him to do it if he didn’t want to. He’d have to ask me. It’s like being the bully, I already beat him twice.”
Six days after the 53-year old Tyson posted a video viciously hitting the pads during a workout, a still-fit Holyfield posted a video of his training regimen with the caption, "Are you ready? The moment you've all been waiting for ... The Champ is back."
In April, Tyson said he’d consider making a comeback and fight in four-round exhibition matches. After his mittwork video went viral, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship offered Tyson $20 million for a fight with one of its athletes.
Bookmaker SportsBetting.ag listed a pro or exhibition boxing match in 2020 between Tyson and Holyfield a tossup with even odds of -120 on both sides.
“My whole thing is that I’ll do exhibition matches with people that I trust,” said Holyfield. “It’s important in an exhibition to describe how you want it to be. You talk about how to work together. It’s not going to be a tough fight. If you hit me hard, I hit you back hard. That’s my attitude. I have the hand speed and can pop you and move on with my business. I can hold my own, but I’m not here to hurt people. I can fight — plus, I am in better shape than them. If I wasn’t in shape, I wouldn’t go in there with anybody.”
At a combined age of 110, Holyfield even joked that since a potential fight with Tyson would be scripted entertainment, he’d even playfully bite Tyson in the ear.
Holyfield defeated Tyson in 1996 via 11th round TKO and again in a rematch in 1997 via disqualification in the infamous “Bite Fight.”
In recent years, retired Hall of Fame fighters like Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. have entered the ring for exhibition matches.
Tyson had an exhibition with former heavyweight Corey Sanders in 2006. It kickstarted the “Mike Tyson World Tour” promotion of exhibition matches for Tyson, but never developed further.
“When people see me and my condition today, they still go ‘wow,’” said Holyfield. “I take care of my body. I’m always in shape. I never stop training. I’ve been doing this my whole life ever since I was 8 years old. I don’t have any bad habits. I lived a clean life.”
Holyfield would also consider exhibitions with other able-bodied contemporaries like Lennox Lewis.
“I’ve been training too,” Lewis wrote on social media Thursday with a winking emoji. Lewis fought to a split draw with Holyfield in 1999 and beat him by decision later that year in a rematch. He knocked out Tyson in 2002.
Holyfield fought until he was 48 and retired in 2011 with a record of 44 wins (29 KOs) 10 losses and 2 draws. Tyson fought till he was 39 and retired in 2005 with a record of 50 wins (44 KOs) and 6 losses.
“Everyone knows Mike is very explosive and quick, but I keep my head high and never drop my hands. I’m quick too. I can’t wait on him, because if I do, he may hit me,” said Holyfield as to what a real fight with Tyson would look like in 2020. “I’m pretty much coming back for the foundation and giving back to the kids. I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t listen to my mother, and do to others as you want them to do to you.”
Tyson has previously supported the non-profit foundation and charity Standing United helping people battling addiction, most recently with a golf tournament in Dana Point, Calif. in 2019.
Tyson’s star is as bright as ever in 2020, fifteen years into retirement, as he’s now the head of Tyson Ranch as a marijuana mogul. He’s still one of a handful of people in the world who transcends age, language, ethnicity and pop culture.
After years of acrimony in the 1990s, Tyson and Holyfield have developed into friends and have made countless public appearances together.
An exhibition match between the two former rivals would undoubtedly generate more buzz for boxing than the fight cards being staged by the sport’s leading promoters.
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com and currently does TV commentary for combat sports programming that airs on Fox Sports and hosts his own radio show in Los Angeles. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.