Tuesday, March 20, 2007


For 44 year-old, Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield, four-time winner of heavyweight titles, what goes around comes around.

After stopping Vinny Maddalone in the third round on Saturday night he happily declared through a wry grin, "Well, I’m back, you know. I’m a lot better."

He's back with Main Events, the promotional company that he began his career with after the 1984 Olympics and on Saturday night he was back in Corpus Christi, Texas, a town where he hadn't fought since he won on a third-round knockout over Jesse Shelby in 1986.

Now, this old junk-yard dog of a heavyweight is straining at his chain and he's back on the doorstep barking something about another title shot. And who can blame him? In this heavyweight division of 2007, which has a revolving door of belt-wearers, anybody can be champ on any given night and all of a sudden this comeback of Holyfield's doesn't seem so crazy anymore.

He, of course, dismisses the notion that he’s too old to win another heavyweight title. In his defense he brings up the name of a former geriatric heavyweight named George Foreman who became the oldest man to win the championship at age 45. "With age you get more knowledge", claims Holyfield. "You get a little bit more patient."

Who would have thought that any crowd would show up to watch Holyfield, a native of Atlanta, Georgia face off against Maddalone, an Italian-American New Yorker, on the Irish, St. Patrick's Day in Corpus Christi, Texas? But, 6,500 curious onlookers paid good money at the American Bank Center to watch Holyfield turn back the hands of Father Time and the wild rushes of Maddalone. If nothing else, the name Holyfield still draws a crowd.

The fight wasn’t much of one. Maddalone, who sports a weight lifter’s physique, scaled 233 ¾ pounds with a record of 27-3(19)KO. Maddalone rushed in wildly from the beginning and he threw looping shots at Holyfield who was surprisingly spry and rather fleet-footed. Holyfield weighed 216, for this, his 51st career fight, which is in the range of what he weighed during his prime years of the early 1990’s.

As always, Holyfield was a glistening physical specimen and even after 23 years as a pro his body still looks as though it were carved from the finest of mahogany or sculpted from a rare black diamond. Whatever the case with the recent steroid accusations, "I’ve never used ‘em", he says, Holyfield has always been a tireless gym worker and is as devoted to his craft as perhaps any fighter has ever been.

It was a one-sided fight from the first bell. A calm, relaxed and patient Holyfield saw all the wide punches coming at him from a spastic and reckless Maddalone. It was a case of a seasoned professional prizefighter versus an inexperienced novice. Evander has finally seemed to find his timing and his legs in this, his third Texas comeback fight. He has now won three fights in a row and in this fight he looked like he has put many of the pieces of the puzzle of what made him a legend back together.

In the opening round, Maddalone rushed in headfirst and the two unintentionally clicked heads. Maddalone came away with a gash in the middle of his forehead that did not appear deep or particularly dangerous. The problem was that it gushed blood and that blood ran into his eyes and hampered his vision.

Most in the partisan Holyfield crowd could be heard chanting "Holyfield! Holyfield" as Evander began to open up and really unload on Maddalone. It was reminiscent of the old days and the nights when Evander had Mike Tyson in trouble and the crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas rallied behind him in unison. Holyfield took control from the outset and he stuck to the basics of left jabs, left hooks and even uppercuts, all fired in multiple combinations.

Holyfield talked about his advanced age and what all of that means to him as he continues on his quest. He claims he is a calmer, more careful pugilist now and that he’ll break down foes with water torture-like punishment if that’s what it takes. "As you seen, every time I hurt this guy, I didn’t really just go at him like a bandit. I took my time to look for the clean shots", said the thoughtful grandmaster. "And, I think that’s going to allow me to be the five-time heavyweight champ of the world."

In the end, Maddalone provided Holyfield with nothing more than a decent night’s work. What this fight really demonstrated, however, is that Evander can still fire damaging shots, unload a potent left hook, and as long as a fighter will fight him back and not run, being inside Holyfield’s wheel house is an extremely dangerous place to be.

Before the fight, Maddalone’s veteran trainer, New Jersey based Al Certo, was asked if he thought Maddalone had much of a chance against Holyfield and he was honest in his assessment. Certo chimed that he didn’t think the fight should happen at all, and that he didn’t feel Maddalone had the goods of what it took to beat Holyfield.

It turned out that Certo was right. It was he who climbed the ring steps, stood on the ring apron, and waved a white towel at referee Ruben Carrion to cease the slaughter with only twelve seconds left in the third. Maddalone was being pummeled on the ropes with heavy shots by Holyfield and his face was a mask of blood and pain. The proud Italian in Maddalone initially protested Certo’s stoppage and was shaking his head and yelling, "No! No!" at his wise trainer who has seen it all after decades spent in the corner.

But, after Vinny had calmed down and had a look at his battered face in the mirror his attitude had changed. When asked about the fight the youthful and powerful looking Maddalone just kind of shrugged and shook his head in bewilderment, as though he didn’t believe what had just happened.

The handsome Maddalone, once a college-level baseball pitcher, appeared as though his face had been smacked with a Louisville Slugger. To his credit, he didn’t blame the loss on the cut or the clash of heads. Vinny simply said that, "Holyfield was still very, very strong." Where Maddalone goes from here is anyone’s guess. It doesn’t seem as though he’ll improve much and he’s probably taken his body and skills as far as they will go in the boxing game.

As for Holyfield, it’s onward and upward. His promoter, Kathy Duva of Main Events, would like to see him back in the ring by the end of June, although at this point the name of the opponent is unknown. Holyfield was ranked 10th by the WBC coming into the fight and he may rise in the rankings based on this drubbing.

Holyfield blamed his losses in the past on shoulder injuries and said that, "What people don’t understand is that when I had the shoulder injuries, is that I stopped using the left hook, which is one of my effective weapons because I can hook off the jab. One thing in boxing is if you’re not using all of your tools you become ordinary."

Former WBC super featherweight champion, Jesse "James" Leija watched the fight from ringside. Leija had a professional career that spanned 57 fights over 17 years and he fought until he was age 38. Leija has seen many fighters and many fights over all of the years and he was glowing in his praise for Holyfield’s performance. "He looked incredible! I would love to see him get a big opportunity for a world title fight now. I think he’s ready. I would love to see it now. I think maybe the boxing public, HBO, wants to see him prove more, but I think he’s ready now."

One thing about Holyfield is that he has never quit and he has never lost faith in himself or his abilities. Holyfield can taste another shot at the title on his lips and he smirked that old smirk of confidence when he smiled and said, "I’m ready for a championship fight. I’m ready for any of the champions. Right now."

He that was lost has been found, and he that was old seems young again.

March 2007

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