Holyfield to meet the Beast from the East

Why is Evander Holyfield planning to step creakily into the ring against the current world heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev, a St. Petersburg fighter who’s a quarter of a meter taller and 11 years his junior?

It’s not delusions of grander.  Far from resembling the hulking, near-mute Mohammad Ali, Holyfield seems to have a grasp of the unforgiving reality he faces as a 45-year-old fighter whose glory days are long gone.  The view has to resemble something like a toilet bowl as your head is propelled toward it by the school bully, in this case played by Valuev.  In Holyfield’s last bout, a loss in Moscow, the role was played by another Russian, Sultan Ibragimov, with all the intensity of DeNiro in “Raging Bull.”

Holyfield insists he has to keep setting a good example for his son, who apparently still hasn’t learned the lesson of perseverence in the 16 years since Holyfield first reconsidered retirement for this reason.

Why is it that great athletes see all of life as a playing field, or, in this instance, boxing ring?  As a Wisconsinite, I still hate to see Brett Favre in a Jets uniform, even if he is going strong, and it’s practically like crying in my borsch to see Holyfield cruising for a bruising against a seven-foot tall Petersburgian.

Now Holyfield’s likening himself to Obama.  From a recent New York Times article:

“This country is built on proving you can do it,” he said. To heck with prevailing sentiment: “I came up on the wrong side of the tracks, so nobody ever believed in me anyway.”

I respect the insistent never-say-die mantra.  I admit it’s rotten luck to be best remembered for having your ear bitten off by Mike Tyson.  But you’re just tarnishing your own already fading legacy.

And it should be said that a loss to the “Beast from the East,” which is predicted even by those who categorize Valuev as a novelty act, will only fuel to Russia’s xenophobic anti-American posturing, and, even in certain circles, racism.  Chest-beating, of course, will seem petty in the face of Holyfield’s calm modesty, but that’s all the more reason why Holyfield’s master-stroke at this stage would be to back out.


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