Has Boxing Failed Evander Holyfield?

Image Credit: Evander Holyfield Twitter

This weekend, former heavyweight champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield steps back in the ring.

The 58-year-old will face former UFC champ Vitor Belfort, in a professional bout sanctioned by the State of Florida. The fight goes down at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

However, Holyfield has no reason to be back in a boxing ring on a professional level.

The Really Real Deal

Holyfield (44-10-2, 29 KOs) has been away from the sport for a decade. His last fight was a win he gained back in 2011 when he was 48. Appearance-wise, Holyfield has always lived up to his namesake: “The Real Deal.” He is a statuesque athlete and former gold medal Olympian.

However, physicality could be an issue for any person rapidly approaching their sixties. In the era of the veteran’s resurgence in boxing, the exhibition is the perfect platform. Innately, it protects fighters who don’t know their limit.

Unfortunately, Holyfield still believes that staying in shape equates to athletic durability. Instead, Holyfield believes his appearance in the ring this weekend will showcase the importance of long-term self-care.

“Well, the thing is that I’ve been in good shape, and I’ve been taking care of my body,” Holyfield told MMA Junkie. “I didn’t have a lot of bad habits that a lot of people have, and that’s a big part of it.

“Talking to the younger people, you take care of yourself while you’re young and when you get older still take care of yourself. If you take care of yourself on both sides you’ll be alright.”

Holyfield only jumped into the fight to replace original opponent Oscar De La Hoya. “The Golden Boy” withdrew from the Belfort bout after getting hospitalized with COVID-19.

Boxing’s Failure

Still, the facts regarding Holyfield remain. After losing a decision to journeyman Larry Donald in 2004, Holyfield had his New York boxing license revoked.

Why the revocation? Because of his deteriorating skills. In addition, the California State Athletic Commission, which initially sanctioned the De La Hoya vs. Belfort fight, followed suit.

In essence, Triller shopped for a license and found their Huckleberry in Florida. The convenience of Indian tribal casinos and their independent athletic commission’s sovereign status allowed the fight.

Similarly, WBC junior lightweight world titlist Oscar Valdez used the same loophole. Valdez defends his title against Robson Conceicao on Saturday in Arizona.

Valdez tested positive for the banned substance phentermine ahead of this event. However, he has been allowed to fight by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission in a ruling on Thursday, Sept. 2. In addition, the WBC did not strip Valdez of his title, even after the positive test.

After a long era of shady boxing promoters and unscrupulous trainers, boxing is still failing its gladiators. The fact that people want to see an aging former champ in a real battle is startling. However, the fact that many will profit from Evander Holyfield in a pro bout at this age is disgraceful.

“This is like a one-off because after every fight I’m like, ‘I don’t know,'” Holyfield said. “After each and every fight you have to make a decision: Are you going to do it again or not?’ At any given time if I decided I don’t want to do it no more, it’s O.K.”

Boxing should owe its legends the right to compete under the safest of conditions. Why? Because you don’t play boxing. This bout severely tests those boundaries.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.