Former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield’s comeback was dealt another blow Saturday night after an early end to an uninspired outing against Sherman “Tank” Williams at The Greenbrier resort. Referee Dave Johnson called the fight a no contest after three rounds due to a cut above Holyfield’s right eye.
The 48-year old Holyfield (43-10-2, 28 KOs) looked a shell of his former self against Williams (34-11, 19 KOs), no spring chicken at 38. If there is any lingering hope left among Holyfield’s fans he still has enough of what he showed against Nicolay Valuev in 2008, it is misplaced.
Despite his admirable conditioning and the remnants of formerly world-class technique Holyfield is not a contender. One can hardly imagine him lasting eight rounds against undercard winner Kevin “The Kingpin” Johnson, let alone David Haye or a Kitschko.
Among boxing circles the questions is not whether Holyfield should continue fighting but whether he should be allowed to do so. The question is fair, though it’s seldom asked of former middleweight world champion Bernard Hopkins, who fought light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal to controversial draw late last year.
Despite his obviously diminished condition Holyfield should be allowed to fight if the doctors and athletic commission consider him medically able to do so. While the opposition to his right to continue fighting is often motivated by the heartfelt concerns of his admirers, ultimately the decision remains with him, however painful it is to see a hero risk permanent damage with every exchange.
Thanks to a bit of last-minute pet trouble your correspondent was unable to make the four-hour journey to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia to be ringside for “Redemption in America,” so we coughed up the $30. Things probably worked out for the best. As posh as The Greenbrier is, we’re not sure we’d want to be caught in the middle of the tuxedo-clad mob that sounded less than pleased with the abrupt end to the evening’s main event.
After the fight Williams was understandably put out, since he looked in control of the fight when Holyfield complained of blood obscuring his vision. “The Tank” also contended one of several rights had caused Holyfield’s gusher rather than a head butt despite official decisions and replays to the contrary.
“Bahamas is number one baby. The overhand right did the damage,” Williams proclaimed.
Later the Bahamanian said he was thankful just to be back in the ring after an absence of over a year.
“Could barely walk last January. God has brought me back and restored me 110 percent. All praises to Jah,” Williams said.
When asked by host Benny Ricardo, Holyfield proclaimed himself ready for a rematch, while his handlers surrounded him parroting his complaint about his eye. Fewer fights would have a lower ratio of potential customers versus staunch opponents.
On the undercard Johnson (24-1-1, 10 KOs) survived an eight-round contest against the mammoth Julius Long of Detroit, who came into the ring at over seven feet and weighing an even three bills. Long (15-15, 13 KOs) showed some fire early and took advantage of the obviously unprepared Johnson, who agreed to the fight on three days noticed after Travis Kaufman pulled out with an illness.
Johnson rallied late behind his terrific jab and managed to knock Long down twice in the final round, more due to exhaustion than contact.
Heavyweight Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett fought to a sloppy majority draw against journeyman Charles Davis in perhaps the most meaningless PPV fight of the year. A significant underdog at the start of the fight, Davis (19-21-3, 4 KOs) attacked the body to great effect and turned in his best result in recent memory, assuring him of future paydays testing upcoming prospects. Barrett (34-9-1, 20 KOs) began lethargic and wasn’t able to make up for his early deficit despite signs of life towards the end.
Finally, untested middleweight Willie Fortune of Detroit scored his tenth professional victory with an impressive performance against Donatas Boundoravas (10-2-1, 3 KOs) to earn the split decision after eight rounds. The 29-year old prospect showed signs of nerves early, bum-rushing the Lithuanian import before settling down in the second half of the fight and showing off slick boxing ability. Fortune (10-0, 5 KOs) may be one worth keeping an eye on for Midwest fans as this was his first fight outside of Michigan.
Gautham Nagesh is the editor of Stiff Jab.