On Saturday night, Evander Holyfield defeated Lou Savarese via 10-round decision in El Paso, Texas. Savarese may be best remembered for knocking out a shot Buster Douglas, but I remember him as the fighter who lost to Mike Tyson in nanoseconds in England and as the fighter heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis once called Lou Saver-easy. That was many years ago.
In El Paso, up to the end of the eighth round, Holyfield didn't have an easy time -- it was nip and tuck until the moment he landed a great left hook, putting Savarese on his butt in his own corner. After that, Holyfield did have an easy time. But given the passage of years since Lewis' statement, maybe Savarese is no longer Saver-easy but Saver-easiest, a perfect fighter for the 44-year-old Holyfield to face: a 41-year-old without the tools to push him around the ring.
Given the fact of the fighters' ages and the fact that neither is taken seriously as a potential heavyweight champion (except by the four sanctioning organizations which all have Holyfield ranked in the top-15), this fight should not have gotten much coverage. Yet the newspapers don't seem to see it that way; there seemed to be more print coverage of this fight than any since Mayweather's win over Oscar De La Hoya in May. And the boxing world doesn't see it that way, either. There is much talk that this fight will propel Holyfield past Eddie Chambers, Vitali Klitschko, Lamon Brewster, Sergei Liakhovich, Tony Thompson and Samuel Peter to a shot at Sultan Ibragimov's IBF heavyweight title. (WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev may have something to say about this proposed matchup since he's scheduled to fight Ibragimov in Moscow in October.)
I don't see how beating a 41-year-old man makes Holyfield the logical contender for Ibragimov; I would pick all six of the aforementioned heavyweights over the Real Deal. I don't see how comeback victories over four handpicked opponents give Holyfield the right to take chances away from any of those other fighters, who have been winning fights against top-level competition. And I don't see how it will do boxing any good having Holyfield get beaten up and down and all over the place by Ibragimov. Holyfield on his comeback trail has not faced anyone like Ibragimov. He has not faced anyone who can throw combinations or who showed a good jab.
For all his talk of injuries and whatnot, Holyfield cannot hide that his comedown in the past had as much to do with age as with wear and tear. He can say all he wants about age being only a number, but he is wrong. Age isn't just a number; it is wear and tear on the body. The Larry Donald fight shows what will happen when anyone with good boxing skills goes against this faded ex-champion. On that November day in 2004, Donald landed combinations at will, jabbed until Holyfield became a bobblehead and pitched a virtual shutout.
Holyfield's trainer, Ronnie Shields, can insist Holyfield is a better fighter now than ever before. He can say how he spent six months on the jab, six months on the hook, six months on the right hand all he wants. This training may have improved Holyfield's technique, but it also made him a year and a half older.
Now, Holyfield has come back and fought against Jeremy Bates, Fres Oquendo, Vinny Maddalone and Lou Savarese. But he will always be able to defeat these limited guys who don't have his skills. When Holyfield steps up to a real challenge, he will find that his ability to absorb punishment will not be there. The ability to sustain an attack against someone pushing him back against his combinations will not be there. The ability to land the second punch -- which he admitted he couldn't do against Savarese -- or maybe even the first punch will not be there. Against a real opponent, as the rounds mount, his legs will start to droop, and he will be knocked out sooner or later. And if he goes up against Ibragimov, it will be sooner.
It doesn't matter whom he fights among the champions. Holyfield will not win. Maskaev, Klitschko, Chagaev and Ibragimov -- these four all have too many tools and too much left in the tank for Holyfield. Chagaev and Ibragimov are southpaws with great boxing skills and good foot movement, something Holyfield will have a lot of problems with. When Maskaev knocked out Hasim Rahman, he showed that although he may not be the best heavyweight champion out there, he still can compete at the top level. Even though Holyfield beat Rahman before, I don't think he could beat the current chubby version of the one-time heavyweight champ. And Klitschko? Forget about it. Holyfield would be in some physical peril against that long jabber with a decapitating right hand. Evander, if you must have a title shot, please stay away from Klitschko. Boxing does not need another Ali-Holmes.
Since Holyfield just can't seem to give it up, like a lot of other aging heavyweights past the age of 40, maybe he should instead give up heavyweight title dreams and just join the gang of ex-champions sporting beer guts. Instead of hankering for a shot at Ibragimov or Chagaev or whomever, he should demand a rematch against Riddick Bowe or Michael Moorer or even Mike Tyson. (Catchphrase for Tyson-Holyfield III? How about: "Boxing Fans, Lend Us Your Ears.") These matches would pit name fighters against each other. They would have an audience based on the name recognition. And they could probably even land on pay-per-view since there would be the curiosity factor.
But best of all, if Holyfield picks on someone his own age, he would not be fighting for a heavyweight title -- something he doesn't deserve -- and maybe we can get on with looking for a unified heavyweight champion instead of killing time with title matches with washed up, one-time great fighters.