Holyfield-Bates: Is Evander Going To Take Another Beating?

evander holyfield17.08.06 - Jacqui Snow: Former heavyweight superstar Evander Holyfield (38-8-2, 25 KO's) returns to the ring tomorrow night after a 21 month layoff to face Jeremy Bates (21-11-1, 18 KO's). Holyfield was suspended for medical reasons by the New York Boxing Commision following his one-sided unanimous decision loss to Larry Donald in November 2004. The suspension precluded Holyfield from obtaining a license anywhere in the United States, but after he recently passed a series of medical tests, it was eased somewhat and he was licensed to fight in Texas.

Holyfield is one of the few fighters, like Ali, Tyson and De La Hoya, whose name is familiar even to those who don't follow the sport. The last time American television audiences saw him, though, he was getting booted off Dancing with the Stars. He'll be 44 soon and he's lost three in a row and five of his last seven. The significance of this bout is pretty close to absolute zero and fans are having a hard time understanding why he decided to try and make a comeback.

It's tempting to contrast Holyfield's return to the ring with that of Roy Jones Jr. Both formerly world class, they are now past their prime, but any boxing fan, as well as a quick glance at the ex-champs' resumes, can tell you that Holyfield is by far the more battle-scarred of the two. Over the years, he has warred against some of the toughest fighters in the cruiser- and heavyweight divisions, including his stunning upset knockout of Mike Tyson (and the hideous rematch that followed) and the two battles with Lennox Lewis, both of which went the full 12 rounds. Most of Jones' victories, by contrast, came through early knockouts of notoriously weak opponents.

So it's interesting that ticket sales to this heavyweight bout have reportedly been brisk, which may have been helped by low ticket prices starting at a very affordable $31.00. It's quite possible that the American Airlines Arena, which holds 11,000, will be completely sold out. That's an entirely different story from Jones Jr.'s fight with Prince Badi Ajamu, which only sold about 2,000 tickets, despite the fact that hometown hero Kenny Keene had been added to the card. While nobody's saying how many buys the Jones Jr. pay-per-view totaled, it's not believed that many fans were prepared to pay for the privilege of seeing that fight. The Holyfield bout, by the way, is being presented on Fox Sports.

Holyfield's opponent Jeremy Bates has faced very mediocre competition and is coming off two straight losses—most recently, a second round TKO at the hands of Ray Austin. Each time Bates has stepped up to fight a more notable opponent, including Austin, Kirk Johnson and Brian Minto, he's been knocked out. However, in all fairness to Bates, he's far from being a "tomato can" opponent like the hapless 40-year old Edward Gutierrez whom David Tua chose as his comeback opponent. Bates is a pretty decent fighter who's not going to let Holyfield walk over him for an easy victory.

Holyfield has astonished fans with his talk of reclaiming his titles. He needs to pull off a victory over Bates in order to have any chance of keeping that fantasy alive. A loss to Bates, on the other hand, would in all likelihood send Holyfield back into retirement, permanently this time.

Article posted on 18.08.2006

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