Evander Holyfield is no stranger to unedifying ends to a career. ‘The Real Deal’ has reached seemingly natural conclusions before. After Riddick Bowe knocked him out in the rubber match of their legendary trilogy, Holyfield made a mockery of those claiming he was finished by stopping Mike Tyson two fights later. The calls got louder when he emerged from a controversial three-quel with John Ruiz without his WBA championship. They reached fever pitch as first Chris Byrd, then James Toney and finally Larry Donald pounded him in consecutive defeats.
At 42 years of age, this felt like the end. Nine fights would follow, with seven wins as Holyfield and his fans conned themselves into thinking the flame had not burned out. Those seven wins came largely against fighters more shopworn than he was, and the two losses came in world title fights, proving that Holyfield was no longer a force at championship level. Holyfield retired on a win, against a past-it Brian Nielson in 2011, and that appeared to be that. Until last night, when the 58-year-old ring great was knocked out by former UFC star Vitor Belfort in the headline attraction of Triller’s latest twisted variant on the fight game.
Evander Holyfield agreed to fight the 44-year-old MMA standout on eight days notice, when Oscar De La Hoya withdrew after contracting COVID-19. There was conjecture during the week, as nobody was clear whether Holyfield’s comeback would be a sanctioned bout or an exhibition. It was fought as an exhibition, but this was not the glorified sparring that Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. treated us to last November. Far from the atmosphere of that surprisingly uplifting evening, this was grimly uncomfortable to watch.
Holyfield missed with every punch he threw, was staggered by an innocuous-looking body shot, and fell through the ropes after a mistimed left hook. Just a minute in, it was clear that allowing Evander Holyfield into a boxing ring in 2021 is cruel and exploitative. This was just leeching from the name of a fighter who gave us more than enough in his career. In fact, he’d given us more than enough 20 years ago. The only mercy here was the brevity of this horror show. Holyfield was knocked down by an untidy flurry of Belfort punches, and while he did rise, he was soon stopped by a further barrage of shots.
Holyfield claimed the stoppage was early. It was not. Holyfield refused to rule out an exhibition with Tyson. He should. The former undisputed champion should never be allowed to fight again. It is frightening that in an era where name value and modified rules allow almost anyone to have their turn in the squared circle, celebrities and old pros alike, we may not have seen the last of Holyfield in a prize ring.
The rest of the card did little to redeem this odious pay-per-view. This funhouse mirror distortion of the sport was merely solidified in the preliminary fights. David Haye promised a knockout when he took on his billionaire holiday pal Joe Fournier. Instead, he entered into a glorified spar with his friend, going to a points decision against a 9-0 part-time fighter who had never fought above cruiserweight. Haye knocked Fournier down once, but allowed his chum to see the final bell in this exhibition scrap. ‘Hayemaker’ called out Tyson Fury afterwards, a laughable proposition to anyone who saw the Bermondsey puncher lose twice to Tony Bellew a few years back.
The battle of the UFC legends was settled quickly and decisively, as Anderson Silva crushed Tito Ortiz via first-round knockout. Silva defeated former world title challenger Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in his last bout, while Ortiz was making his pugilistic debut. ‘The Spider’ appears to have a knack for these freakish pseudo-fights, but his opponent would do well to leave combat sports behind at the age of 46. Instead, Ortiz quickly called out Logan Paul on Twitter.
Amazingly this heavily-hyped boxing pay-per-view also featured a fight between two boxers, as Dubliner Jono Carroll scored a majority decision over Andy Vences in a WBA super featherweight title eliminator. Boxing on a boxing show? It’ll never catch on.