Sunday, November 23, 2008

Evander Holyfield: A Top-Tier Heavyweight


Personification of a Warrior


If faith can provide a resistance to science then Evander Holyfield could serve as the inspiration to a field of proven statistics. The Internet has proved a great source of valuable information, as well as rumors and false information. Now that one of the latest chapters in the life of Holyfield, in which the former three-time heavyweight champion (a feat only Muhammad Ali has achieved) was rumored to fight 7’ 330 lbs. title holder Nikolay Valuev, has reached a conclusion and is now signed, sealed and waiting to be delivered, Holyfield’s place in history should be re-examined in this age of bigger heavyweights with smaller desires.

When Internet rumors first hit the Net, message boards were filled with predictions of an in-ring tragedy ala Apollo Creed vs. Ivan Drago in Rocky 4. Fans and regular Joe’s who knew of the 46-year old Holyfield expressed legitimate concern for the former champ. This was a concern that would have been on the other shoe a decade ago. Because while the 7-footer provides an imposing figure and a glossy 49-1-1 record, Valuev, along with the entire heavyweight division, is sorely neglecting the entertainment and “heart” value that made Holyfield millions of dollars and fans.

When analyzing a fighter’s credentials for greatness the number-one factor which overshadows all else is the competition. How abundant was the competition and how did the athlete in question fare? If the answer is great to both, then that said athlete enters the pantheon of the sport’s best. Enter Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield. Once his credentials are scrutinized, the heavyweight rankings may need to be reshuffled.

Without a doubt, THE BEST Holyfield Highlight Video!


Many boxing writers, young and old, forever debate the top three: Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, and either Rocky Marciano (crude as he may have fought, he’s still the only undefeated fighter in boxing history) or Jack Dempsey. For quick argument’s sake, let’s briefly look at why Ali is commonly, and correctly, viewed as the consensus No. 1 heavyweight of all time. He fought all the best fighter’s of both his era's and won more than he lost ... convincingly. How was that for a quick assessment?

Now with that formality out of the way, let’s examine just where Holyfield fits into the all-time rankings. Louis, America’s Champion, was never allowed to duck anyone. However, due to the fact that he fought in an era of dismal competition, his dominance is the only thing that saves him. Louis faced tough competition early on which was surprising due to the fact that he had one of the shakiest chins in boxing history. He was knocked out in the amateurs. His first defeat in the pros was by knockout at the fists of Max Schmeling. And he also was knocked down in championship fights by James Braddock, Tony Galento and Jersey Jose Walcott.

Let’s look at Holyfield’s chin. He started his career at cruiserweight, roughly the same weight Louis and Dempsey weighed and Marciano almost weighed. Holyfield withstood the bombs of Dwight Qwai over 15 brutal rounds and was the winner standing in his first championship title reign. Ali was only stopped once, though Henry Cooper would have much to say here. And Dempsey was KO’d in 1-round early in his career by Fireman Jim Flynn. The pick here for the chin department goes to Marciano, no contest. He preferred going toe to toe no matter who the opponent, no matter how long and always found a way to win. Who can forget the way Holyfield went after the bigger and stronger Riddick Bowe and how Bowe's punches sounded like drums beating before a war?

Only Muhammad Ali 2.0 could rival Marciano.
Now that we have a clear winner in one of the most important departments, let’s look at their championship caliber accomplishments.

More of this amazing Real Deal HL


Heavyweight Championship Victory

Ali, then Cassius Marcellus Clay, won his first world championship fight from Sonny Liston, feared heavyweight who had won the title via dominating first-round KO over Floyd Patterson.

Louis won the championship over favorite overachiever, James J. Braddock—who won his championship via 15-round decision over Max Bear—by KO8 but only after getting off the canvas.

Dempsey won the championship over Jess Willard via TKO 3—who won his championship via KO 26 over the great Jack Johnson—the allegations of his gloves being loaded notwithstanding.

And speaking of the great Johnson, he won his championship over Tommy Burns via 14 TKO, but had many losses and close decisions over Joe Jeanette and Sam Langford (perhaps the best P4P fighter ever, but that’s another discussion).

Holyfield won his first world championship at heavyweight over an out of shape James “Buster” Douglas—the same man who scored the biggest upset is sport’s history over Mike Tyson—via KO 3.
Advantage: Ali
Semi-advantage: Holyfield
Does anyone make Douglas, yes, even an out of shape Douglas an underdog against either of the conquered former champs?

Heavyweight Championship “Rematch”

Here is where only Ali and Holyfield are included as they are the only heavyweights, other than Floyd Paterson—the first—to have won the linear championship back. Hell, John Ruiz and a few other mediocre heavyweights can make the claim they won the WBC, ABC, 123 belt a few times. Let’s examine who won theirs and how.

Ali reclaimed his prize almost 7 years after being stripped of the title against the Tyson of the ‘70s, George Foreman via KO 8.

Holyfield reclaimed his prize one year later against the man who bested him by decision over 12-rounds, Riddick Bowe, though this was not the motivated version of 1992. Who can ever forget Holyfield bringing the fight to his bigger foe Bowe, who outweighed him by at least 30 lbs. that night?
Advantage: Ali
Caliber of Opposition:

This is where titlists are separated from champions. Ali, for lack of space, wins this section via magnanimous decision. This is where Floyd Mayweather’s KO of Ricky Hatton will always leave a question mark that was answered by Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito. So let’s compare the rest.

Louis: He had his “Bum of the Month Club” but to his credit, he dispatched them in the fashion a young Tyson dispatched his own opponents. The stellar names here are: Max Schmeling, Tommy Farr, Jersey Joe Walcott and Jimmy Bivins.
Marciano: He had the shortest span of all fighters listed but he put in good work against his opposition, most notably, Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, and Walcott
Dempsey: Too bad he never defended against No. 1 contender Harry Wills because the rest of his resume is decent. Only Gene Tunney and Jack Sharkey are worthy of his championship reign resume.
Holyfield: Just look at the names he beat in their primes and a few past. Lennox Lewis (2nd time--even though it was ruled a loss--a debatable one), Bowe (rematch), Tyson, Ray Mercer (and decked him too), Larry Holmes and George Foreman.
Advantage: Holyfield

Now, having measured the consensus top heavys championship victories, caliber of opposition, and chins there is only one heavyweight below Muhammad Ali who has a clear advantages. Yup, you guessed it: Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield. Hopefully, the allegations of steroid and HGH (Human Growth Hormone) are just that. Should it be true, he should be demoted based purely on the fact that those drugs have proven that it can help a person recover quicker from injuries. But even still, none of those drugs are proven to help train a chin (see Fernando Vargas) or motivate a heart (see the rest of today’s dismal HeavyWeight division aka Wladimir and company) like Holyfield’s. It's Holyfield's indominateable will and the relentless pursuit at success that place him in the pantheon of heavyweights.

Sorry neo-heavyweights. Adding Holyfield's aged name to your mantle does not increase your ranking.


Though Holyfield can never go back home, his legacy is secured

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