Holyfield to challenge Valuev for title in Zurich, Switzerland

Updated: November 13, 2008, 6:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

GENEVA -- Evander Holyfield will challenge 7-foot Russian giant Nikolai Valuev for the WBA heavyweight crown on Dec. 20 at Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland, arena management said.

Holyfield (42-9-2, 27 KOs) hasn't fought since losing a one-sided decision to then-WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov more than a year ago. Holyfield is winless in his last four title fights since beating John Ruiz for the vacant WBA belt in October 2000.

The former Olympic bronze medalist has insisted that he wants to keep fighting until he regains the heavyweight title, but he's also been having financial problems.

Holyfield agreed in October to give his 10-year-old son a $100,000 college fund while facing the threat of possible jail time and an auction on his home. Last summer, he failed to make three straight $3,000 monthly child-support payments.

Holyfield would not disclose his purse for the bout when he first told ESPN.com's Dan Rafael in October that he had accepted an offer for the fight, although it is less than $750,000.

Holyfield, 46, has said other people make more of a big deal about his age than he does. If he wins the fight, Holyfield would become the oldest heavyweight champion in history, even older than George Foreman, who was 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994 in one of boxing's greatest upsets.

"They said I was too old when I was 34 and was getting ready to fight Mike Tyson for the first time," Holyfield, who knocked out Tyson in a huge upset to win a title, told ESPN.com in October. "There's nothing new with what people say. I have a desire and I am the one who got to train and I am willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be the best. Just imagine a 46-year-old guy being heavyweight champ of the world?"

The 330-pound Valuev -- once referred to as the "Beast from the East" but now preferring "The Russian Giant" -- won a unanimous decision over Ruiz in August to claim the vacant WBA crown.

"Of course, he will be the biggest guy I have fought but it's something that could be very interesting," Holyfield told ESPN.com in October. "I will have a big target. I have to do the things I believe he can't do. He can't move laterally. I got to get in quick, fight and don't stand still too long. I just have to be in tremendous shape to outmaneuver him."

Valuev (49-1, 34 KOs) told the Zurich tabloid Blick on Thursday that he was excited to face Holyfield.

"I'm taking this fight very seriously," Valuev said. "Holyfield is a strong opponent. ... Ten years ago I would not have dreamed of getting into the ring with this champion."

The fight will be the biggest in Zurich since 1971, when Muhammad Ali knocked out Juergen Blin of Germany in the seventh round.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Dan Rafael was used in this report.

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