On the night of May 7th, nearly all eyes in the boxing world will be on Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley in Las Vegas. But on the same night in Copenhagen, Denmark, an aged former champion continues to try to summit the heavyweight ranks again. Evander Holyfield is still fighting on at age 48, his goal once again: becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Considering the route he’s taking, it’s a very long way back to the top.
Holyfield (43-10-2 with 1 no contest) will face another aging fighter in Danish boxer, Brian Nielsen, a 46-year-old heavyweight who is taking his first fight since 2002. Nielsen (64-2-0) was a lightly regarded boxer in his prime, despite beginning his career with 49 straight victories and beating the elderly likes of Larry Holmes and Peter McNeely. However, he never beat an opponent ranked by one of the major sanctioning bodies (WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO) and rarely fought outside his native Denmark. He once fought a 35-year-old Mike Tyson and quit on his stool after the sixth round. After two more fights, he hung up his gloves for the next nine years.
Holyfield has at least stayed active, his last victory coming against Frans Botha in 2010. His last fight earlier this year was declared a no contest after his eye was cut by an accidental clash of heads in the second round of his fight with Sherman Williams. But Holyfield has not won a fight with a serious contender since his 2002 fight with Hasim Rahman, a fight which Holyfield won mostly because a headbutt caused a severe hematoma on Rahman’s forehead and the fight went prematurely to the cards. Holyfield received a technical decision in the 8th round.
In 2005, the New York State Athletic Commission banned Holyfield from fighting in New York citing his diminished skills. Still, he won his next four bouts which earned him title shots against Sultan Ibragimov and Nicolai Valuev in 2007 and 2008, respectively. He lost both fights.
Despite beating the 41-year-old Botha and picking up the rather ignorable WBF title belt last year, it is apparent that his dreams of becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world are now unreachable. The Klitschko brothers (Wladimir holds the IBF and WBO belts and Vitali the WBC belt) are now the reigning heavyweight champions and are much better fighters than Ibragimov and Valuev, and if he wants to be the champ again, Holyfield will have to beat a few more ranked opponents before he faces the Klitschko’s.
Holyfield’s choice of Nielsen as an opponent shows just how far away he is from fighting a ranked opponent, and it shows just how difficult it has become for Holyfield to convince other heavyweights to take him seriously. It is rather sad to see a former four-time champ still unsatisfied, still hungry and still trying to climb an insurmountable hill, his pride being his only adviser beyond the promoters still trying to make a buck off his name.
Boxing is a dangerous sport for anyone, let alone a 48-year-old heavyweight. Before he gets irreparably hurt, someone, somehow, should convince Holyfield to stop.