Holyfield given fighting chance for life after boxing
Evander Holyfield has never been able to say no in or out of the ring, so it was nice to see someone do it for him on Tuesday.
The New York Daily reported that the New York State Athletic Commission has placed the four-time heavyweight champion on an indefinite medical leave. That suspension must be honored by all other associations in the U.S., including Nevada, where Holyfield won his first heavyweight title in 1990, pulverizing Buster Douglas.
“I’m sure New York will have a hearing, but for right now he can’t fight in the state of Nevada until he clears things up in New York and I’m sure all commissions would follow that tack,” said Marc Ratner, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
However, New York’s decision doesn’t rule out Holyfield fighting in Europe or in a state without a commission.
The fact that it’s taken this long for someone to shut down Holyfield is saddening. The 42-year-old Holyfield has only won two of his past nine fights as his skills have eroded to the point where he’s endangering his chances of living out a normal life.
“I’m not looking to end his career if it’s not warranted, but the health and safety of the boxer is the main concern of the state commission,” NYSAC Commission Chairman Rob Stevens commented to the Daily News. “To my practiced mind, Holyfield shouldn’t be fighting anymore.
“It’s the responsibility of the state athletic commission to save a boxer from himself. Evander Holyfield has absorbed enough punishment throughout his great career. It’s time the bleeding stopped.”
But Holyfield has been counted out before.
Remember after Holyfield lost a close decision to Michael Moorer in 1994, he was rushed to the hospital to treat an apparent heart attack?
Doctors advised him to give up boxing, but Holyfield miraculously got better. He eventually passed a battery of tests the following year and continued a career that has produced some of the strangest events in the ring.
Who will ever forget “The Fan Man” dropping in on the second Riddick Bowe-Holyfield bout in 1993 or Mike Tyson taking a chunk out of Holyfield’s ear in 1997?
If they were early signs to give up boxing, Holyfield didn’t see them. He kept plodding along like an office worker planning to retire at 65.
The really sad part is that Holyfield still doesn’t see any reason why he should retire.
“Why do they want to usher me out? What have I done to this game that they don’t want me in it anymore?” Holyfield told the Daily News.
“Do you really care about a person so much that you want to protect him from himself? Ain’t that much love in the world to go against a person’s will.”
Holyfield has a point, though.
Why have potbellied graybeards such as George Foreman and Larry Holmes been allowed to continue on and return to the ring whenever their wallets get a little light? At least Holyfield has been training religiously since he took up boxing 34 years ago. He’s one of the few heavyweights who can look down and see his feet, too.
“He’s such a credit to the sport,” Ratner said. “I think he should be able to see he’s not fighting as well.”
Holyfield lost 11 of 12 rounds against journeyman Larry Donald on Saturday night on Don King’s ton of heavyweights fight card at Madison Square Garden. But Holyfield continues to think he’s only in slump and his performances will improve.
His last fight in Nevada wasn’t any better. He lost to James Toney by a technical knockout in the ninth round.
“He’s always been in good shape, but his back and shoulder have bothered him … it’s part of being 40,” Ratner said.
Maybe Hoyfield’s toying with the boxing world and planning for a bigger comeback than the one he pulled off following his heart problems. After all, is there a boxer today that is more chiseled than Holyfield? He looks as if he could move on to bodybuilding and not miss a beat.
As boring and predictable as the heavyweight division has become, Holyfield’s fight to fight again may bring back some interest to the sport.
But let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Comebacks are a dime a dozen in boxing, but there is no replacement for life.
– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or