Russia’s Nikolai Valuev successfully defended his WBA title on Saturday night with a majority decision win over former world champion Evander Holyfield over 12 rounds.
Despite a brave display from 46-year-old Holyfield, who was bidding for his fifth world crown, the judges scored it 114-114, 116-112, 115-114 in Valuev’s favour as the giant Russian successfully defended the vacated title he won against John Ruiz in August.
”He was a strong opponent and he made me work very hard for the win,” said Valuev after his victory.
”It was a challenging fight, it was a hard fight, he was unbelievably fast with his punches.
”I am proud to have fought him, it was a fast-paced fight.”
But it was not an impressive display from Valuev, with both Klitschko brothers Vladimir and Witali, who between them hold four world titles, eager to fight him to add the WBA title to their collection.
Holyfield, who beat the likes of Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson, George Foreman and James ”Buster” Douglas in the 1990s, now has a record of ten defeats, 42 wins with 27 knock-outs and two draws from his 54 fights.
”Of course I am disappointed,” said Holyfield. ”I thought I had done enough, now I will just have to go home and think about my future.
”I am honoured to have had the opportunity to fight for the title.
”It was a good fight, his hands aren’t as slow as people think.
”I was trying to do the things my corner asked me to do by moving him around, when I did I was able to catch him off guard.
”He had a pretty good defence by the way he positioned his body, he is a hard target to hit.”
He might have been a long way from Atlanta, but Holyfield could have been fighting in front of a home crowd so loud were the chants of ”Holyfield, Holyfield!” ringing around Zurich’s Hallenstadion from the sell-out 12 500 crowd.
Holyfield came out all guns blazing and landed a strong right-hand to the face in the first round, later catching the champion flush in the face three times in the second round.
Despite being 11 years older, 43kg lighter and nearly 30cm shorter than Valuev (35), the heaviest and tallest champion in history, Holyfield used his experience to good effect.
He stayed ahead of the champ by never allowing himself within Valuev’s reach for long.
With ”Psalms 107:20” — He sends his word and heals them — written on the back of his shorts, the deeply religious Holyfield caught Valuev with two jabs in the fourth and unleashed a fierce combination early in the fifth.
By the sixth round, Holyfield was showing signs of tiring after his frantic start and the champion caught him with several shots.
Despite his limited statistics of throwing punches from the middle of the ring, Valuev got involved in heavy exchanges in the seventh and eight rounds, while Holyfield stumbled in the ninth on a wet spot on the canvas.
It was the signal for Valuev to go in for the kill with a quick flurry of punches, but Holyfield stood his ground and hit back hard, the challenger finished the round stronger.
A big right early in the tenth round from Holyfield was neutralised on the judge’s scorecard when Valuev forced the challenger into the corner, landing several shots.
But at the end of the eleventh there was very little between the fighters and in the twelfth the crowd were firmly behind the United States fighter as cries of support again echoed around the arena.
In the end, Holyfield’s dream of becoming the oldest man in history to win a world title was gone.
Valuev will now have to defend his title against former WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev, the only man to beat him in 52 fights, by next June.
Chagaev was forced to relinquish his title when he ruptured his Achilles tendon in training earlier this year. — Sapa-AFP