DALLAS -- Evander Holyfield began his latest comeback
looking more like "The Real Deal" than he has in years.
Holyfield rocked Jeremy Bates into the ropes late in the first
round, withstood a few hard shots -- including one to his face --
early in the second, then cornered and pummeled his
insurance-salesman foe to earn a technical knockout with 4 seconds
left in the round, capturing his first victory since June 2002.
"I was able to do the things I haven't been doing in about five
years," said Holyfield, crediting his 21-month layoff for renewed
health. "I'm happy to be able to go out and fight the way I'm
capable of fighting. I fought with a lot of confidence."
This fight began what's being hyped as "Holyfield V, The Final
Chapter," which he fully expects to end with him becoming the
heavyweight champion for the fifth time. He's already the only
The 43-year-old Holyfield ended a career-worst skid of three
straight losses since his last victory, over Hasim Rahman. That
doesn't even include getting KO'd last summer on the reality
television show "Dancing With The Stars."
Holyfield feels so good that he's already lined up a tough next
fight -- facing Sinan Samil Sam of Turkey, fifth in the latest WBC
ratings. Holyfield said it likely would be in November, with one of
his handlers saying it would be "in an international city." A
formal announcement is expected next week.
"I look at this as the first step. The next step is the major
step," said Holyfield, who believes he can have a title fight next
year and aims to unify the belts and call it quits for good in
Holyfield came out to loud cheers from a crowd of about 8,000.
They chanted "Ho-ly-field!" about 45 seconds in, then he really
got them roaring over the last 30 seconds of the first round. He
trapped Bates on the far side of the ring, bouncing him against the
ropes with a flurry of punches. The bell saved Bates from further
Bates (21-12-2) had his best success with several hard rights
that pushed Holyfield back in the second round. A body blow
followed the pop in the chops, but several clinches sapped whatever
momentum Bates was building.
"He threw a good right hand," Holyfield said. "I saw it, but
it still knocked me off balance. Then I made the adjustment. I bent
my legs and that took some of the snap off the shot."
Holyfield soon pinned Bates again and began pounding his face
and body. There was so little resistance that referee Rafael Ramos
stopped the fight rather than let Bates be saved by the bell again.
"I wanted the people to see the real Evander is back,"
Holyfield figures his age isn't a factor in his title bid
because George Foreman got the title at 45. And he dismisses his
lack of success the past five years to shoulder and back injuries,
as well as cramps, all of which improved during a layoff partially
forced by New York officials revoking his license because of
"diminished skills and poor performance" in his previous fight, a
November 2004 loss to Larry Donald.
Holyfield said he didn't need this quick victory to prove he's
back -- but his doubters probably did.
"It's what it did for other people," he said. "Age is a
number, if you're willing to pay the price that's necessary."
Bates, 32, came in making no secret of his admiration for
Holyfield, calling him "my hero" and repeatedly saying he was
"just happy to be here." He got into boxing after watching
Holyfield at the 1984 Olympics, then became a three-time Golden
Gloves champion in West Virginia.
Nicknamed "The Beast," Bates had only middling success as a
pro and retired in December. He took an easy payday in April, then
was so excited to have the chance to face Holyfield that he came
back again -- only this time taking eight weeks off work to train,
getting into what he said was the best shape of his life. He's
already told his boss he'll be back at work Monday.
And he'll take with him a great memory of his one brief flurry.
"I thought, 'Oh my God, I just caught Evander Holyfield,'"
In the top matchup of the undercard, welterweight Julio Cesar Garcia pounded Alfonso
Sanchez onto the canvas 2:28 into the second round Friday night,
earning a technical knockout to improve to 38-2 for his career.
The 19-year-old Garcia, who is promoted by former champion
Roberto Duran, won his 11th straight bout. It was his 31st victory
by knockout. Sanchez fell to 20-5-1.
In other undercard bouts, featherweight Miguel Albares (3-2-1)
needed only 24 seconds for a technical knockout of Ira Gutierrez
(0-2); lightweight Carlos Madrid (7-2) won a decision over Sergio
Reyes (14-5); junior welterweight Chad Aquino (8-0-1) beat Tomondre
King (4-13-5); and women's bantamweight Vanessa Juarez (3-0) won by
technical knockout against Rocio Vazquez (6-3).