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Friday, August 18, 2006
Holyfield returns to deal Bates TKO in second round

Associated Press

DALLAS -- Evander Holyfield began his latest comeback looking more like "The Real Deal" than he has in years.

Evander Holyfield
Holyfield celebrates a long-awaited win.

Holyfield rocked Jeremy Bates into the ropes late in the first round, withstood a few hard shots -- including one to his face -- early in the second, then cornered and pummeled his insurance-salesman foe to earn a technical knockout with 4 seconds left in the round, capturing his first victory since June 2002.

"I was able to do the things I haven't been doing in about five years," said Holyfield, crediting his 21-month layoff for renewed health. "I'm happy to be able to go out and fight the way I'm capable of fighting. I fought with a lot of confidence."

This fight began what's being hyped as "Holyfield V, The Final Chapter," which he fully expects to end with him becoming the heavyweight champion for the fifth time. He's already the only four-timer.

The 43-year-old Holyfield ended a career-worst skid of three straight losses since his last victory, over Hasim Rahman. That doesn't even include getting KO'd last summer on the reality television show "Dancing With The Stars."

Holyfield feels so good that he's already lined up a tough next fight -- facing Sinan Samil Sam of Turkey, fifth in the latest WBC ratings. Holyfield said it likely would be in November, with one of his handlers saying it would be "in an international city." A formal announcement is expected next week.

"I look at this as the first step. The next step is the major step," said Holyfield, who believes he can have a title fight next year and aims to unify the belts and call it quits for good in 2008.

Holyfield came out to loud cheers from a crowd of about 8,000. They chanted "Ho-ly-field!" about 45 seconds in, then he really got them roaring over the last 30 seconds of the first round. He trapped Bates on the far side of the ring, bouncing him against the ropes with a flurry of punches. The bell saved Bates from further damage.

Bates (21-12-2) had his best success with several hard rights that pushed Holyfield back in the second round. A body blow followed the pop in the chops, but several clinches sapped whatever momentum Bates was building.

"He threw a good right hand," Holyfield said. "I saw it, but it still knocked me off balance. Then I made the adjustment. I bent my legs and that took some of the snap off the shot."

Holyfield soon pinned Bates again and began pounding his face and body. There was so little resistance that referee Rafael Ramos stopped the fight rather than let Bates be saved by the bell again.

"I wanted the people to see the real Evander is back," Holyfield said.

Holyfield figures his age isn't a factor in his title bid because George Foreman got the title at 45. And he dismisses his lack of success the past five years to shoulder and back injuries, as well as cramps, all of which improved during a layoff partially forced by New York officials revoking his license because of "diminished skills and poor performance" in his previous fight, a November 2004 loss to Larry Donald.

Holyfield said he didn't need this quick victory to prove he's back -- but his doubters probably did.

"It's what it did for other people," he said. "Age is a number, if you're willing to pay the price that's necessary."

Bates, 32, came in making no secret of his admiration for Holyfield, calling him "my hero" and repeatedly saying he was "just happy to be here." He got into boxing after watching Holyfield at the 1984 Olympics, then became a three-time Golden Gloves champion in West Virginia.

Nicknamed "The Beast," Bates had only middling success as a pro and retired in December. He took an easy payday in April, then was so excited to have the chance to face Holyfield that he came back again -- only this time taking eight weeks off work to train, getting into what he said was the best shape of his life. He's already told his boss he'll be back at work Monday.

And he'll take with him a great memory of his one brief flurry.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, I just caught Evander Holyfield,'" Bates said.

In the top matchup of the undercard, welterweight Julio Cesar Garcia pounded Alfonso Sanchez onto the canvas 2:28 into the second round Friday night, earning a technical knockout to improve to 38-2 for his career.

The 19-year-old Garcia, who is promoted by former champion Roberto Duran, won his 11th straight bout. It was his 31st victory by knockout. Sanchez fell to 20-5-1.

In other undercard bouts, featherweight Miguel Albares (3-2-1) needed only 24 seconds for a technical knockout of Ira Gutierrez (0-2); lightweight Carlos Madrid (7-2) won a decision over Sergio Reyes (14-5); junior welterweight Chad Aquino (8-0-1) beat Tomondre King (4-13-5); and women's bantamweight Vanessa Juarez (3-0) won by technical knockout against Rocio Vazquez (6-3).