Hey Evander, Fres Oquendo is no Jeremy Bates

12.10.06 - By TED SARES: Evander Holyfield's fight with Jeremy Bates did not tell me how sharp Holyfield is as much as it told me how terrible Bates was. Jeremy, in obvious awe of Evander, was unable to capitalize on the right that momentarily stunned "The Real Deal" in the second round and which caused Evander tellingly to flounder ever-so slightly. As predicted, Bates then quickly fell apart. So much for his "Rocky" dreams. Now Holyfield is hyping "Holyfield V, The Final Chapter," which he fully expects to end with him becoming the heavyweight champion for the fifth time. He is already the only person to do it four times. "Eventually I'll be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world 44, 45, it don't make no difference," Evander said.

His next fight is with Fres Oquendo, 26 - 3 with 16 ko's, on November 10 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Oquendo, who has a disturbing tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in his big fights, is 33 year old, 6 2 and has an imposing 80 inch reach. Ideally, his fighting weight is 230 pounds. He returned from a two-year layoff to stop Brazil's Daniel Bispo, 7-4, in the ninth round in February and then beat Javier Mora, 19-3 by UD in May for the Vacant WBO Latino Heavyweight Title.

These two wins come off a controversial "early" stoppage loss to John Ruiz in 2004 and another controversial decision loss to Chris Bryd in 2003. He was handily beating dangerous bomber, David Tua, before letting his guard down and being stopped in the 9th round in 2002. In between, he ko'd Mo Harris in the 10th round and tough Brazilian George Arias. He also has impressive stoppage wins over David Izon and once promising Obed Sullivan...and who can ever forget his nationally televised destruction of Clifford Etienne when he exposed and sent the hyped "Black Rhino" to the canvas seven times. Fres Oquendo has fought high quality opposition and has quality rounds under his belt. Now that he has cleared up some managerial and other related problems that impacted his mental urge to fight, he seems to have both his physical and mental state ready again. He is managing himself with good Roy Jones Jr and Bernard Hopkins.

While reportedly born in Puerto Rico, Fres was raised in Chicago and was an All-City QB on the Carl Shurz High School football team, no easy feat. He also excelled in basketball and baseball and possesses great athletic ability which he has put to use in the ring. As an amateur, he was the 1993 National Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion. In all, he was 98-6 and a four-time Chicago Golden Gloves Champion.

As a technique fighter with an outstanding jab and lateral movement, his chances of beating Holyfield seem good, if not compelling. Make no mistake, the likable "Big O" is a very talented heavyweight, far more so than Sinan Sam. And he has power that would be foolhardy to underestimate, particularly at 230 pounds. This is not just another step in Evander's latest work in progress. Oh no, this step is a dangerous one with a highly talented fighter who will not be in awe of a "Living Legend," Fres can punch, counter punch and is mobile, not exactly a great combination for a 44 year old fighter. Fres also can duke it out in a rough and physical manner if necessary. Moreover, the chances of Evander taking him out with one shot are slim to none. Oquendo is stronger than ever and dead-set with fiery determination and motivation to win a championship belt and it may turn out that the Holyfield fight proves nothing more than a tune-up for this purpose.

When asked during an interview for WAIL Magazine what has motivated him to come back after the long layoff following the spirit-crushing Ruiz fight, he replied, "For the glory, for the reason God put me here, to give him glory, mainly for myself to win the heavyweight championship of the world. And, of course my five kids! More than anything they motivate me to get back in the ring to provide for them." Wow! That sound familiar?

Which brings us to Holyfield and his ability to take punishment from a genuine and tough opponent. Sure, Evander looked chiseled but so did Weaver, Norton and Tyson at the end....but in reality they were nothing but shells who possessed show muscles which were not reliable enough to sustain prolonged executions, furious exchanges, or going the distance. Sure, he snapped off some nice double hooks against the hapless Bates but he was doing this like Rocky Balboa did against an immobile side of beef. Manifestly, Fres is not that kind of opponent.

Evander says his health has been bad over the last few years, but thankfully he spared us that excuse after the Bates "fight." The Real Deal's health had better be good if and when he faces this guy who has an excellent right cross and a an overhand right that sometimes has a tendency to resemble a rabbit punch. God forbid if Evander is clubbed by one of those. Fres' recent competition has been far superior to an aging boxer whose last victory before Jeremy Bates was in 2002 when he beat Hasim Rahman by "accidental" head butt.

There are lots of fights out there for Evander Holyfield if he decides to fight on......which, of course, is his right as long as he can pass the required medical examinations. A rematch, for example, with light hitting Larry Donald seems logical and would be a good (and safe) test, particularly regarding the veracity of Evander's claims about his health when he last fought and lost to Larry. Or how about Monte Barrett...or Brian "The Beast" Minto, 26-1, (who also beat Jeremy Bates by tko) or maybe even brawler Vinny Maddalone, 27-3, whom Minto beat twice.

But I believe Fres is the wrong opponent for "The Real Deal." He is no Jeremy Bates and If he hurts or stuns Holyfield with a fast combination or a right cross, he will not let him off the hook. Fres Oquendo is dangerous and capable. But in the highly unlikely event Evander somehow beats him, I will become a believer.

"They should remember me as being the greatest boxer of my era and I did it with dignity, pride, honor. And also retired at the right time. Lennox Lewis

Ted Sares is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at

Article posted on 13.10.2006

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