Max Kellerman

Tuesday, December 18
Updated: December 19, 2:46 PM ET
Please Evander, hang 'em up

By Max Kellerman
Special to

Evander Holyfield is going to end up in bad shape. It is inevitable. It is probably already too late.

Evander Holyfield
It won't be any fun watching Evander Holyfield the next few years, writes Max Kellerman.
Holyfield has been involved in as many epic battles as any heavyweight in history, save perhaps Muhammad Ali. Holyfield won his first title in 1986, a cruiserweight belt from the great Dwight Muhammad Qawi, in history's last truly great 15-round war. It was a brutal back-and-forth slugfest. It was only Evander's 13th pro fight, and already he had left no doubt about his all-time level heart, determination, will to win, and ability to absorb punishment.

He became as dominant a champion as existed in his day. His contemporaries were a still great Marvin Hagler, a prime Azumah Nelson and a streaking Mike Tyson. He was as good as any of them, unifying a relatively strong cruiserweight division while dominating quality fighters like Qawi (easily in their rematch), Ossie Ocasio, Rickey Parkey, Carlos de Leon and Henry Tillman. Other than the first Qawi fight, the great Holyfield dished out quite a bit of punishment without taking much in return.

That would change as he moved up to heavyweight, where even after putting on about 20 pounds, he would still often take on men who were yet another 25 pounds bigger.

As a heavyweight, Holyfield went to war with Alex Stewart (he fought Stewart twice, only went to war with him once) and Michael Dokes, Riddick Bowe (three times!) and Bert Cooper. He took on George Foreman and Michael Moorer (twice) and Buster Douglas and Mike Tyson (twice) and Ray Mercer and Lennox Lewis (twice), and now John Ruiz (three times).

He has proven himself one of history's greatest fighters and yet, despite the tragic examples so many great fighters who hung on too long have set before him, Evander Holyfield cannot say goodbye. And from his point of view, why should he? He just earned seven figures for beating a solid heavyweight contender in Ruiz, although the official verdict was a draw. He remembers how close he made his second fight with heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. He sees the world clamoring for Lewis to defend his title against Mike Tyson, a man Evander has knocked out once and beaten twice. He knows that everyone is saying he is washed up, but then they were all saying that after his tussle with Bobby Czyz, and that was before the Tyson and Lewis fights.

There is nothing he can do that can truly shock me anymore. Except retire.

Like Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali before him, Evander Holyfield is super-human inside the ring. There, he is capable of pulling off the impossible.

There is nothing he can do that can truly shock me anymore.

Except retire.

The pity of it is that he will not. He will keep on fighting. He will probably continue losing to good fighters more often than he will win, but even if he wins more than he loses -- so what? He will ultimately slur his words and require help living his life. He will ultimately serve as a reminder of the perils of boxing. Like Ali and Joe Louis before him, Evander Holyfield's name will be invoked as a warning for future generations of boxers, who do not know when to walk away.

Please champ, shock me one more time, this time outside of the ring, and hang 'em up for good.

Good run at Mohegan Sun
Holyfield and Ruiz capped an unusually busy three days of boxing up at the Mohegan Sun's top-notch new 10,000-seat arena. The festivities began with the first installment of ESPN's Thursday Night Special, which saw Omar Weis and Ray Olivera fight to a draw in a match Weis appeared to be dominating early. Olivera's jab got untracked midway through the fight and he was able to pull even by the end (though I had Weis winning six rounds to four).

The next night, Eric Harding beat up an apparently gun-shy George Jones en route to a stoppage win. Jones was coming off his fatal knockout of Bee Scottland, and may not have been able to psychologically recover in time for a test as stiff as Harding. It is difficult to say how much of a lingering effect the Scottland fight actually had on Jones however, because while Harding is not known for his punching power, Jones had never been in a professional fight with anyone nearly on Harding's level. Jones will now take some time off and will likely resume his career against a softer touch. As for Harding, other than Roy Jones, I don't know that I pick anyone to beat him at 175 pounds. On neutral ground (anywhere but Germany), I think I like Harding over Darius Michalszewski.

Finally, on Saturday, the Mohegan Sun hosted Holyfield-Ruiz III. Quite a three day run.

Hatton impressive
Ricky Hatton's demolition of Justin Rowsell was very impressive. Talk of a showdown with undisputed champ Kostya Tszyu might be a tad premature, but I'd make Hatton the favorite against anyone else in the division not named Zab Judah. Hatton looks like the real deal -- a top pressure fighter and volume puncher with handspeed and power. And a beautiful body puncher, too.

Finally, this Friday on Friday Night Fights we have Antwun Echols, the guy Bernard Hopkins said hits harder and gave him a tougher fight than Felix Trinidad, against undefeated prospect Lawrence Chapman. Should be good. Hope to see you all there.

Max Kellerman is a studio analyst for ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.

 More from ESPN...
Holyfield not retiring after draw against Ruiz
Evander Holyfield will ...

Fit to be tied: Ruiz, Holyfield settle nothing
Evander Holyfield was denied ...

Max Kellerman Archive

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story