44-year old Evander Holyfield will get a chance to achieve his impossible dream of winning the undisputed heavyweight championship, as he is now signed to face WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov in Moscow, on October 13.
The fight was originally supposed to be the division's first unification bout in eight years, but WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev was forced to pull out due to injury. With Chagaev out, promoters needed an attractive drawing card. Enter Evander Holyfield, still one of the most popular fighters in the sport, and probably the second-best draw in the heavyweight division, behind Klitschko (which is arguable, maybe).
Holyfield (42-8-2) has won four straight fights during his comeback run, beating Jeremy Bates, Fres Oquendo, Vinny Maddalone and Lou Savarese. Compared to the three-fight losing streak that put him out of boxing and got him revoked in New York in 2004, he has looked phenomenal. Losing as badly as he did to career fringe contender Larry Donald was the sign of a finished boxer; his comeback after two years off -- starting last August -- has shown that "The Real Deal" does have some fire, and even a little power, left.
But all that said, and as great as Holyfield was, and as good of a human being as he is, he's going to be a big underdog. Ibragimov isn't the most highly-regarded heavyweight in boxing, but he's a big damn step up from Bates, Oquendo (who was never any good), Maddalone and Savarese. The 32-year old Ibragimov -- who won the title from Shannon Briggs in June via unanimous decision -- can fight. He's 21-0-1, with his draw that hideous spectacle against Ray Austin in 2006, a performance he seems to have recovered from.
He's got power, which is dangerous because Holyfield hasn't fought anyone with power since he came back. And he's also just 12 years younger, 12 years fresher, 12 years quicker, and 12 years less beaten up.
When George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer in the tenth round of their November 1994 fight, and became a world champion again at age 45, I think most people thought, "Well, that was sure as hell a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
So, the question now is, can I see it twice in a lifetime? It's essentially the same fight. I don't think I can. And while I have been critical of the fawning over the supposed rebirth of Holyfield's career over this mediocre winning streak of his, I wish Evander Holyfield nothing but the best. I hope he makes a fight of it. I hope if he goes down, he goes down swinging, and is proud of what he's done with his career, and how it ends -- which it should, if he is to lose.
I would be lying if I said I was genuinely excited for Holyfield/Ibragimov, but I'm intrigued. Evander is a great rooting interest, and it's a good story. But now the first real test of his comeback is signed. Does anyone really want to put faith in those four wins when the guy across the ring is a real fighter in his prime?