Quijano: Holyfield was the “Real Deal”

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By Jingo Quijano

Last Round

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


I ALWAYS get mixed feelings when a great fighter rides out into the sunset. Part of you is going to miss seeing him on top of the squared circle, but on the other hand, you realize that Father Time is an undefeated fighter and so you know you have to let go.

In Evander Holyfield’s case, it’s more of the latter, as he has been fighting well beyond his best years, and you can finally breath a sigh of relief that he is hanging up the gloves for good.

We have heard him retire before, but this time around, “the Real Deal” says it’s final and irrevocable. Let’s take a look back at his glorious career.

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GENESIS. Holyfield fought his first professional fight at the age of 21, after winning a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics.

He made his mark in the cruiserweight division, defeating the likes of Henry Tillman and Dwight Mohammad Qawi.

In 1988 he made his move to the heavyweight division and two years later, seemingly came out of nowhere to pancake unified champion James Douglas in three rounds.

“Buster” Douglas was fresh out of the biggest upset in heavyweight boxing history, a knockout win over the seemingly unassailable Mike Tyson and so Holyfield’s victory made him an instant superstar. He quickly followed this up with wins over former champions George Foreman and Larry Holmes

BOWE. You cannot write an article on Holyfield’s career without a chapter on Riddick Bowe.

In their first encounter, Bowe defeated Holyfield via decision and afterwards, the Bowe camp invoked the boxing adage that “a good big man will always beat a good small man” in reference to the fact that Holyfield was considered a small heavyweight, having come up from the cruiserweight division.

But Holyfield would prove his detractors wrong by exacting revenge against Bowe via majority decision two years later.

The pair would meet up again in 1995 and this time Bowe would hand Holyfield his first ever stoppage loss.

THE BITE. Circa 1995, with Mike Tyson’s resurgence after his release from prison, the boxing world seemed ready to accept the return of its former king, with Holyfield relegated to the sidelines.

But when the two met in 1996, somebody forgot to brief Holyfield about his predetermined role and he went on to administer a beating on the erstwhile “Baddest guy on the planet.”

We all know what happened in the rematch with “Iron Bite” Tyson getting disqualified in round 3 after chomping on Holyfield’s ear twice.

LEWIS. At around this time, the WBC champion was Lennox Lewis and in 1993, Holyfield fought Lewis in a unification match for all the titles.

The first bout ended in a controversial draw and in the rematch in November 1999, Lewis won via unanimous decision.

ROLLER COASTER. In his next fight, Holyfield would bounce back with a win over John Ruiz and recover the WBA title, but would lose to Ruiz in a rematch.

Critics then began to raise questions about his fistic capacities after 17 years in the fight business, but Holyfield soldiered on.

He would figure in a split draw with Ruiz in their third fight, and manage to eke out a technical decision win over Hasim Rahman in his next bout.

But whatever momentum he gathered was lost when he suffered three consecutive losses at the hands of Chris Byrd, James Toney and Larry Donald.

The retirement calls started becoming a familiar refrain, but Holyfield would not relent.

He managed to put up a 4 fight win streak but would lose badly to Sultan Ibragimov and then lose again to Russian giant Nikolay Valuev.

By this time, his contemporaries such as Tyson and Lewis had already retired, but Holyfield again assayed comeback after comeback.

He defeated an equally shot fighter in Frans Botha in 2010 and in his last two fights, figured in a no contest with Sherman Williams and defeated Tyson’s one-time conqueror Brian Nielsen in 10 rounds.

CAREER. They say that boxing is a sport that destroys its best. Take the case of Muhammad Ali- because he was an excellent fighter, he “earned” the right to fight more, even beyond his best years.

The same sad analogy could be applied to Holyfield, but thankfully in his case, he gets to retire with his senses and health intact.

Take a bow, Holyfield. Thanks for the memories. You were indeed, the “Real Deal” LAST ROUND. It’s on Atty. M.E. Zosa, who recently celebrated his birthday, Cheers!

(jingo_quijano@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 02, 2014.

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