During a week in which we’ve seen the NCAA Men’s & Women’s basketball championship, baseball’s Opening Day, the collegiate Frozen Four and the more than respectable comeback of the world’s most famous serial philanderer in Augusta, GA, you might be excused if you forgot Evander Holyfield and Francois Botha are scheduled to go 12 rounds tonight at Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center. The bout is supposedly box office poison, and the Review-Journal’s John L. Smith sneers, “forget the pre-fight physicals. Just have these two fossils carbon dated.”
For those who say I’m making too much of their 88 years of experience, we’re not talking about knuckleball pitchers. Professional boxers — especially the heavyweights who have experienced the kind of ring wars Holyfield and Botha have endured — don’t age like regular people. The brain can only take so much cannon fire.
Others will point to the entertaining comeback of former heavyweight champ George Foreman as a sign stranger things have happened in boxing.
Forget that Foreman was a far greater ring strategist than either of Saturday’s combatants.
Once a big swinger, Foreman changed his style to a chopping, defensive posture that maximized his undeniable weight advantage and minimized the risk to his head. Not so Holyfield and Botha. They figure to go at it like a couple of ‘roidheads in a biker bar.
Call it entertainment if you’d like. I call it inviting trouble.
Holyfield turned pro during the first half of the Reagan era. He has traded shots with some of the biggest names in the division — from the previous generation. He lost two bouts overseas in 2008 to guys named Ibragimov and Valuev, but was undefeated in 2009. (He didn’t fight.)
Botha’s career has been consistent: Always game, never gifted. The last great fighter he took on was Lennox Lewis, who won by technical knockout in two rounds. If you’ve forgotten the fight, it’s understandable. It was a decade ago.
I wish I could forget that fight, Mr. Smith. I attended said farce at an AEG-owned hockey arena (seriously) in south London, and I’m very sorry to say it wasn’t the only time I’ve paid to watch The White Buffalo come out on the losing end of a horrific mismatch