Oquendo next to face 'The Real Deal' on Nov. 10
Former four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield appears to be making up for lost time.
After a 21-month layoff following a lopsided loss to Larry Donald in November 2004, Holyfield is back for his second fight in three months.
Holyfield (39-8-2, 26 KOs) will face former two-time title challenger Fres Oquendo (26-3, 16 KOs) Nov. 10 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The pay-per-view card will be produced and distributed by Fox Sports Net, the network's first foray into pay-per-view boxing.
Holyfield, who turns 44 next month, hopes the bout will lead to another shot at a heavyweight title.
"It's my season and I love that I am fighting Oquendo. Then I'll look for a championship fight next," Holyfield told ESPN.com on Thursday before the kickoff news conference in New York. "This fight is another step that leads me toward my goal, which is to again be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world."
It's a mantra Holyfield has preached for years despite a recent run in which he is 3-5-1, including three consecutive losses, which he blamed on an injured shoulder he now says is healed.
Holyfield, who fought to have a medical suspension overturned following the loss to Donald, returned from the long layoff Aug. 18 to knock out journeyman Jeremy Bates in Dallas in the second round. It was the most-watched boxing telecast in Fox Sports Net history, drawing 700,000 viewers, according to the network.
Holyfield, partnering with new promoter Murad Muhammad, is sticking with the Lone Star state and will ramp up his level of competition against Oquendo. He twice fought for versions of the title, losing a disputed decision to then-titlist Chris Byrd in September 2003 and losing via 11th-round TKO to then-beltholder John Ruiz in April 2004.
Holyfield's initial plan to face fringe European contender Sinan Samil Sam fell apart when they could not reach a financial agreement.
"Oquendo was one of the fighters who was mentioned along with Sam," Muhammad said. "We couldn't come to an agreement with Sam, so we went to Oquendo. It's an excellent fight. Everyone is telling me it's a fight that Evander shouldn't have taken. They say he should have taken another easy fight, but that's not what Evander wanted to do."
Oquendo said despite Holyfield's age and recent performances, he was taking him very seriously.
"They always count Holyfield out, but I am not. I am training like never before," said Oquendo, who will have trainer Freddie Roach in his corner for the second time. "I am not taking Holyfield lightly. This has to be a victory in spectacular fashion and hopefully it will propel me to another title shot. I have paid my dues."
Muhammad called Holyfield the "great American hope," a reference to the fact that all four major heavyweight belts are held by fighters from the former Soviet Union -- Wladimir Klitschko, Sergei Liakhovich, Nicolay Valuev and Oleg Maskaev.
"Evander wants to the bring the title back to America," Muhammad said. "He is the great American hope to bring the titles back to this country and become five-time world champion. Oquendo is the next step for Holyfield toward reaching that goal."
Holyfield acknowledged that going from Bates to Oquendo was a big step and that he was ready for the challenge.
"I've seen [Oquendo] fight a couple of times," Holyfield said. "He's a good fighter. He's a boxer, a guy who has been in the game for awhile. He's one of the more complete fighters in the game."
Oquendo, 33, said he when he was a teen-ager just beginning to box, he used to dream about someday fighting Holyfield.
"I remember when I started in boxing in 1987, and at my local gym in Chicago there were posters all over the wall of the champions, and there was one of Holyfield from 'KO Magazine.' It was Holyfield with the belt wrapped around him after he had beaten Dwight Muhammad Qawi for the [cruiserweight] title. Who would think I would be fighting him all these years later? It's a dream come true."
The high viewership numbers for Holyfield's win against Bates and Holyfield's strong performance were enough to convince FSN executive vice president George Greenberg to move forward with a Holyfield pay-per-view event.
"Evander's management had talked to us about a future in pay-per-view and offered Fox Sports Net a bite of the apple with a fight on our network," Greenberg told ESPN.com. "Our commitment to them was one fight. We said let's do this [Bates] fight and see the kind of shape Evander is in and how he performs, and then we'll worry about the future."
Greenberg said before the din in the arena had subsided, he came out of the production truck and was approached by Holyfield representative George Hutson.
"He came right over to me after the show and said, 'So, what did you think?'" Greenberg said. "I said, 'Let's talk about the next one on pay-per-view.' I wanted to see what kind of athlete we were dealing with and when I saw the kind of shape Evander was in and that he was aggressive, I thought the next fight was worthy of pay-per-view and we were on board."
Holyfield-Oquendo will take place on a Friday night, even though boxing pay-per-views are typically on Saturday nights. Greenberg said it wasn't an issue, nor was the fact that HBO will televise on its regular channel the Wladimir Klitschko-Calvin Brock heavyweight championship fight on Nov. 11. That fight will undoubtedly grab the bulk of the attention from fans and media, something a pay-per-view event needs to succeed.
"We think it's very marketable, we think we're on a good night and we have a legend in Evander Holyfield," Greenberg said. "We think the risk is worth the reward."
Holyfield said he had no doubt his legion of fans would buy the fight.
"I gave them that [Bates] fight for free and I warned them from the beginning -- see this fight for free because I am a pay-per-view guy. The next one will cost you," Holyfield said. "I let them see for themselves that I am not damaged goods. I think this is going to be big. You're only as good as your last performance and I was good in my last performance. And I will have an even better performance Nov. 10 than I did last time."
Muhammad said he planned to add fights involving welterweight contender Oscar Diaz and welterweight prospect Julio Cesar Garcia to the pay-per-view undercard.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
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