Round by Round: Weekly Boxing Notes


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↵The Real Deal

↵Evander Holyfield, 46 years old (I emphasize the word “old”), fights Russian seven-footer Nikolai Valuev tomorrow night in Zurich for Vaulev’s WBA heavyweight title. The press, the public, anybody with any sense whatsoever, are steadfastly against this fight due to Evander’s age and what evidence there already is that a lifetime of getting hit in the head over and over again is bearing its all too predictable fruit in the motor skills of The Real Deal. ↵

↵Let me add my voice to that chorus. Though Evander gives repeated lip service to his feeling that God is behind him and that it is His Will that he fight on, the fact of the matter is much less celestial. Holyfield needs the money. And hey, 46 or not, on that score I have to ask how many of us are being offered $700K for a night of work on a regular basis? And how many of us would turn it down, no matter what it was? I think I’d fight Valuev for $700K. ↵

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↵But where I would merely get knocked out and have a hell of a story to tell my son someday (and 700 g’s to put in his college fund), that same night of work could prove much more malign to Evander’s future. One thing that boxing acolytes will tell you about brain damage is that the key to coming out of the game with your faculties intact is getting out while the getting is good. Sustaining brain injury during a career in the ring is an occupational hazard for a fighter, but continuing to take shots once you’ve suffered irreparable damage is to all but guarantee yourself a one-way trip to Vegetable City (exhibit A in this sad Hall of Fame would be none other than The Greatest of All Time). ↵

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↵This seems like the height of common sense, and yet for tough men who possess the epic moxie to step in that ring in the first place, stepping out is often the hardest thing of all. Particularly when it comes to a question of that all-encompassing bottom line, a line that has felled men who were otherwise constitutionally immune to pain. ↵

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↵There are liberal-minded, bleeding-heart sorts, acquaintances of mine, who routinely question my fascination with the fight game. Their mode of inquiry usually goes something like this: "Don’t you feel ashamed of contributing to an enterprise that profits so ruthlessly from the exploitation of the impoverished?" ↵

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↵My answer is always an unqualified no, because unlike the bleeding hearts of the world, I’m not inclined to condescend to these or any other men who make their decisions in full possession of their wits and rights and their own God-given free will. Since the dawn of human history, people (for the most part men) have felt compelled to test themselves against each other in the pursuit of glory. In all times and all places, we find that some of these men are willing play for the highest stakes of all, consequences be damned. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, as far as I’m concerned, for those who play and for those of us who merely watch and wonder. Quite the contrary, in fact. ↵

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↵But I admit, today, tomorrow, I will feel some manner of shame in this sport that I love so much. In my estimation, Evander Holyfield is the greatest heavyweight of my time, more so than Tyson (who he beat soundly once, and was in the process of beating soundly again when a certain vampyric incident intervened) or Lewis, who he drew with once and then lost to on the downside of his career. I think back to Holyfield’s cruiserweight wars (there is no question that he was the greatest cruiserweight who ever lived) with Dwight Qawi and Carlos De Leon, and then his heavyweight classics -- Dokes, Foreman, Cooper, the Bowe trilogy, Tyson I, Ray Mercer. He was a genuine throwback -- compare his will and determination to that of Marciano and Holyfield does not come out wanting in the least. The guy came to fight every night and overcame all manner of obstacles due to his Balboan capacity for perseverance and fearlessness in the face of any man alive. I have no doubt that for the right purse Evander would fight a grizzly bear tomorrow night, and I also feel certain that after the bout, the victorious bear (if bears are capable of such things) would leave the ring with deep respect for the size of his opponent’s cojones and think twice before ever fighting him again. ↵

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↵Of course, Holyfield won’t be fighting a bear tomorrow, just a bear-sized man who has proven himself, like Primo Carnera before him, a mere sideshow of a boxer, as incompetent as he is big. Also like Carnera, Valuev is evidence of the fact that though it remains true that the bigger you are, the harder you fall, it has never been an adage among sweet scientists that "the bigger you are, the harder you punch." ↵

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↵For Evander’s sake, I’m grateful of this fact. But it doesn’t change anything. The Real Deal is Real Old, and Real Shot. What’s more, he betrays inarguable evidence of the early stages of pugilistic dementia, and if you don’t see that, you simply aren’t looking hard enough. In his youth, of his own glorious free will, he reached Olympian heights as a fighter. Now, middle-aged by any definition of the term, I fear that he continues to fight due to forces beyond his control. I only wish there was some force in the world with the power to stop him. ↵

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↵Unfortunately, though it seems like there should be, there isn’t. In an obituary for the fallen punk rocker, Peter Laughner, Lester Bangs once wrote something to the effect that nothing on earth can stop a man from destroying himself if he’s truly dedicated to the enterprise. Today, that seems to me like the realest and rawest deal of them all. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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