Age no obstacle, insists veteran Holyfield

Evander Holyfield plans to roll back the years to be crowned world champion for the fifth time by beating WBA champ Nikolai Valuev in Zurich on Saturday night.

The 46-year-old Holyfield insists age is no obstacle as he bids to become the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing history when he takes on the Russian giant at Zurich’s Hallenstadion in front of a sell-out 12 500 crowd.

But his task will not be easy. Holyfield is 11 years older, 40kg lighter and nearly 30cm shorter than Valuev (35), the heaviest and tallest champion in history, who at 2,13m is a high target to hit.

”There is still something to settle for me,” said Holyfield. ”I am sure I will win, I will surprise a few people. I have been asked about my age so many times but it is not about how old you are.

”It is about how old you feel and what you can do inside the ring. I am very experienced and I know what I have to do against Valuev.”

There is no doubt he has the experience, having faced Mike Tyson twice, as well as Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis, but his last fight was a unanimous points defeat to Sultan Ibragimov in October 2007.

His record of 42 wins, 27 knock-outs and two draws is no longer impressive next to his nine defeats.

Having been one of the best fighters in the heavyweight division in the 1990s, Holyfield has lost four of his last eight fights and last held a world title in 2000.

It has been 18 years since he won the first of his four world titles when he beat James ”Buster” Douglas in 1990.

He went on to defend the WBC, WBA and IBF belts against George Foreman, Bert Cooper and Larry Holmes before losing to Riddick Bowe in 1992, whom he later beat in a re-match.

Undoubtedly his most famous fight was in 1997 when he faced Tyson in a re-match with his WBA title on the line.

Tyson was disqualified in the third round after biting off a chunk of his opponent’s ear, but Holyfield later lost all of his WBC, WBA and IBF crowns to Lennox Lewis in 1999.

Although he briefly regained the WBA title from John Ruiz in 2000, he lost it again in the re-match and despite a win over Hasim Rahman, defeats then followed to Larry Donald, James Toney and Chris Byrd.

The manager of the Klitschko brothers, world champions Vladimir and Witali, has said the Valuev-Holyfield is a ”disaster” for boxing’s credibility.

And even as recently as October, Valuev’s manager, Boris Dimitrov, described a fight against Holyfield as ”ridiculous”, but a sizeable purse seems to have smoothed over any misgivings.

The Valuev camp now say they are using the fight to attract some publicity for the champion in the United States.

This will be Valuev’s second appearance in Switzerland, having stopped Jameel McCline in the third round when they met in January 2007.

”It is great to be back in Switzerland,” Valuev said, who has lost just once in 51 fights.

”It is something very special to fight an accomplished champion such as Evander Holyfield. He is a living legend and I am full of respect for him. However, once you are inside the ring, neither names nor titles matter any more.

”I have trained very well and I will put on a good performance on Saturday.”

More than a billion people are expected to watch the fight in more than100 countries around the globe.

And the winner of Saturday night’s fight will have to face former WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev in a mandatory defence after the Uzbekistan fighter was forced to relinquish his title through injury this year. — AFP



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Ryland James
Ryland James
AFP sports journalist based in Berlin, tweeting about Fussball, Germany, die Mannschaft, Champions League and the Bundesliga. Views my own.

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