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Friday, December 6, 2002
Holyfield, set to make $5 million, sees lots of green


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Evander Holyfield's current role of guinea pig could result in a recurring role of cash cow.

Holyfield and Chris Byrd spoke via teleconference Friday, eight days before they bring opposite styles to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the vacant IBF heavyweight title.

On Nov. 7, the two were hand-picked to fight for the belt by promoter Don King. On the same day, the bombastic King also announced a bout between light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. and WBA champ John Ruiz.

King's grand plan is to pit the winner of the two fights against each other, with the survivor possibly facing Lennox Lewis for the unified title.

Earlier this week, promoter Bob Arum claimed his stable of heavyweights -- Lewis, brothers Wladimir and Vilaty Klitschko, and Jameel McCline -- is the best in the class.

"They are promoters," Holyfield said while laughing. "The only thing he's doing is throwing something at Don King. They're using the fighters as guinea pigs."

King's idea for a five-man boxing tournament could provide a heavy set of paydays, something Holyfield (38-5-2, 25 KO), one of the sport's most popular and durable figures in recent history, is used to.

"I'm a cash cow," said Holyfield, who will collect $5 million for next week's fight.

Holyfield first must get past the elusive Byrd (35-2, 20 KO), whom he avoided before the title became vacant. That has become commonplace for Byrd, a southpaw whose frustrating style has chased away big-name heavyweights.

"He tried to shy away from it a little bit, but he said, 'Forget it, I'll fight him,'" said Byrd, who called Holyfield 'a true warrior.' "With his experience, it could make for an interesting fight."

While he isn't the biggest puncher in the world, having begun his career as a cruiserweight, Holyfield is an attacker, a style that plays into the hands of Byrd's elusiveness, which likely cost him a fight with Lewis.

Byrd was the IBF's No. 1 contender when Lewis decided to give up the belt, something that made the 31-year-old Flint, Michigan native emotional.

"It almost brought tears to my eyes," said Byrd, who will earn $3 million, over the phone from Las Vegas. "True champions fight to keep their belts.

"A lot of guys don't want to get clowned by somebody. They'd rather get knocked out. It's very important to win this fight because everyone has to come to me now."

That's exactly what Holyfield's going to do. That's what he has always done. And at 40, he's running out of time as he tries to add titles to his resume. He went undefeated as a cruiserweight before he became heavweight champ in 1990.

"Regardless of whatever person's style is, my goal is to be the undisputed champion of the world," Holyfield said. "There's no reason to duck people. That's not the type of person I am. The type of person I am, I fight the best fighters."

Between his third-round knockout of Buster Douglass on October 25, 1990 and his decision in the first of three matches with Ruiz on August 12, 2000, Holyfield captured, regained or unified some form of the heavyweight title five times.

Holyfield, who split a pair of matches with southpaw Michael Moorer, has been training against lefthanders and isn't worried about Byrd's ability to frustrate opponents with his elusive style.

"I don't think so much that anyone can make you look bad, other than you get frustrated because you don't hit him with the big shot," Holyfield said. "He plays a psychology role. They take the big shots at him and never get a chance to hit him.

"Byrd is more loosey-goosey type. He's more into, 'I made you miss, I made you miss, I made you miss.' And Moorer's more, 'I want to knock you out.'"

Many have compared Byrd to Pernell Whitaker, Holyfield's Olympic teammate who made a career out of making opponents look bad. Byrd doesn't mind the comparison.

"I pride myself on that, on making them look foolish, particularly heavyweights," said Byrd, who fought at 168 pounds in winning a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics. "I looked a lot at Pernell Whitaker."

Many think their opposing styles could lead to an ugly fight, but Holyfield and Byrd disagree.

"It may not," said Holyfield, who is 10-0 in Atlantic City. "He charged (Vitaly) Klitschko, which is quite different because he's a lot bigger and a lot stronger. I think the fight's going to be a good fight regardless."

"I don't think so," Byrd added. "He's competition-minded. Even at his worst, he's still going to fight. ... He always makes for a great fight."