By Troy Ondrizek
Evander Holyfield is the epitome of what is right and wrong is the sport of boxing. Recently he has been more of what's wrong than what's right. His current attempt to wrestle a paper title away current WBA champion Nikolai Valuev was a farce to begin with. uslan Chagaev is the real title holder, but even so, there is still no overall champion at this weight class.
On paper this fight seemed like a monumental mismatch. The disparity between where Holyfield and Valuev are in their careers is almost, if not more so, than the difference in the height of the two pugilists. After being a sideshow for many years, Nikolai Valuev has finally garnered some much deserved respect after winning the WBA title from John Ruiz three years ago and defending it proudly against the likes of Owen Beck, Monte Barrett, and Jameel McCline. The previously mentioned Chagaev easily pounded out a unanimous decision over Nikolai, giving the giant his first official loss.
Valuev steadily became a better fighter and it was showing in the ring. His clear shutout of Sergei Liakhovich this past February showcased a superior jab and a nice technical style. During the same timeframe Holyfield has been busy showing us how faded he is even while defeating formidible foes like Jeremy Bates and Vinny Maddalone. Holyfield’s career seemed to end yet again after his losing effort against Sultan Ibragimov for the WBO trinket. That fight was 14 months ago and subsequently was Evander’s last fight. Every sign pointed to yet another Holyfield loss and more reasons for us writers to lambaste the former great and future hall-of-famer.
One word describes the fight between Valuev and Holyfield - robbery. Both fighters gave the CompuBox guys a night off. Evander thought he was still on Dancing with the Stars, and Nikolai thought he was in a sparring session with a dance partner. Evander wasn’t doing much, but Nikolai was doing even less. Holyfield won round after round with lateral movement and one successful flurry of punches per round. That sole flurry by Holyfield was more output than the Russian giant could muster. It seemed as if Valuev just didn’t want to fight or even hurt the elder Holyfield.
The same lack of action went on for all 12 rounds. I watched the fight for free on an internet link, and I feel like I was robbed of my time. It was horrible, the only recent heavyweight fight I could think of that was worse was Ibragimov vs. Wladimir Klitschko. Even though it was bad, I suffered through, and I even kept score of the fight. At times I counted the total number of punches thrown just to give my friend on the phone an idea of how boring the fight was.
I scored the bout 9 rounds to 3 in favor of Holyfield, and I thought that was a bit generous. When the scores rang out - 114-114, 116-112, and 115-114 - I thought, how the hell could they have had the fight that close? Then when Michael Buffer announced “Still Heavyweight Champion” I realized I wasn’t the only one robbed tonight. I know that Valuev has gotten a couple of gift decisions. There was the blatant robbery of Larry Donald 3 years ago, and then the close controversial bout in Valuev’s first meeting with Ruiz. But neither came close to the travesty that took place with Holyfield.
I don’t know what was worse, the fight or the decision. I’m not all that thrilled that Evander is still fighting, but who am I to tell the man to stop. Maybe it's me who is being selfish and not him. No matter if I agree with him still fighting, no fighter deserves a decision like this one - especially Evander Holyfield. Maybe boxing is telling Holyfield to give it up, much like it did with George Foreman. Shannon Briggs might have been given a a gift against Foreman, but the judges stole Holyfield’s career from him and Nikolai Valuev is made the culprit.