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
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
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
"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
"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."