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Holyfield believes he can recapture title

11/10/2004

Evander Holyfield broke camp Monday in Houston, heading toward
New York and an uncertain future.

Holyfield fights Saturday night at Madison Square Garden for the
48th time in a professional career that began 20 years ago almost
to the day. His opponent is the undistinguished Larry Donald,
though the name is of little concern to the former four-time
heavyweight champion.

At 42, Holyfield is chasing the impossible dream of becoming the
undisputed heavyweight champion once again. His reflexes are
suspect, and he took a beating in his last fight, but Holyfield is
determined to fight on anyway.

This time it will be in the unfamiliar role of an undercard
fighter, on a night that features heavyweight title bouts between
Chris Byrd and Jameel McCline, and between John Ruiz and Andrew
Golota.

And this time it will be without longtime trainer Donald Turner,
who made the mistake of waving a white towel to save his fighter
from further punishment when James Toney was hitting Holyfield at
will when they fought 13 months ago.

"He thought I was old,'' Holyfield said. "I thought I
wasn't.''

To the casual observer, Holyfield doesn't look old. His body is
still chiseled, just as it was when he beat Mike Tyson eight years
ago in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

But he's won only two of his last eight fights, and many in
boxing wonder why he doesn't just quit.

"He's a grown man,'' Byrd said, "but my father has as good of
a chance at winning the undisputed title as he does.''

In a heavyweight division lacking big stars, Holyfield might be
the biggest name on a card that includes defenses from IBF
titleholder Byrd and WBA champion Ruiz. But his name is one that
lives in the past, bringing back memories of wins over Tyson and
wars with Riddick Bowe.

It could be argued that Holyfield peaked in November 1996, when
he stopped Tyson in the 11th round. He hasn't looked impressive
since and seemed to hit bottom in October 2003, when Toney took him
apart before knocking him down in the ninth round, and Holyfield's
corner called it quits.

After the fight, Holyfield admitted he was in over his head.

"If he was a big puncher, I'd have been torn apart,'' the
former champion said.

Plenty of time has passed since that fight, though, and now
Holyfield sees it in a different light. He believes he was too
aggressive and didn't pay enough attention to defense, something
his new trainer, Ronnie Shields, has been working on with him.

And he found hope in his Houston training camp that the skills
that made him one of the best of his generation are still there.

"I truly believe there's no fear in me, and that's why I do
what I do,'' Holyfield said. "I'm a smart fighter, and I realize
what I've done and what I can still do in the ring.''

Even if Holyfield does have something left, and most in boxing
feel he doesn't, his goal of winning the undisputed title again is
more of a dream than anything else.

He's already lost to both Byrd and Ruiz, who hold two of the
major titles. Vitali Klitschko has the other one and doesn't stand
to gain much by beating an aging former champion.

Still, Holyfield plans to press on, and not just because he can
make some money doing it. There's always a possible lucrative third
fight with Tyson, though that would be more of a freak show than
anything.

"I would fight him to get me close to a championship fight, or
fight him in a situation where he's a champion,'' Holyfield said.
"But I won't fight him just for the money.''