OK, so it’s not exactly what the boxing world has been longing for.
While Evander Holyfield’s credentials as a Hall of Famer are undisputed, and the thrill he provided has been passed down through generations, it’s not as if anyone has asked for new highlights.
The “Real Deal” has not been in a public prize ring for a few months, has not worn a legitimate title belt for more than two decades and is much closer to his 60th birthday than his 30 to say nothing of his 40th and 50th.
By the way, for those crawling up Wikipedia now, he will be 59 years old in October.
Still, he’s set to return to the boxing spotlight – or at least the equivalent of 2021 – in Hollywood, Florida on Saturday night, where he’ll stand in for Oscar De La Hoya to meet former MMA ace Vitor Belfort in a round of 16 – round match of some sort at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Belfort was supposed to meet De La Hoya first, but the “Golden Boy” was marginalized with COVID, which resulted in Holyfield answering the call that last occurred when he stopped Brian Nielsen in 2011.
The show was originally scheduled for Los Angeles but went across the country when the California state commission refused to sanction a fight with a 58-year-old headliner.
The pay-per-view show, which is available for $ 49.99, begins at 7 p.m. ET and features three boxing matches alongside the main Holyfield-Belfort game – including another pair of former MMA stars in Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz, former cruiser / heavyweight title plaintiff David Haye against fellow countryman Joe Fournier and junior lightweights Andy Vences and Jono Carroll.
On the microphone, for the first time in any capacity in nearly three years and for the first time in a Holyfield fight since 2004, will be ex-HBO star Jim Lampley.
Now 72 itself, Lampley unsubscribed from the Network of Champions when it decided in December 2018 to end the regular boxing content at Madison Square Garden.
Holyfield was 6-2 with a no-contest in nine consecutive fights on other networks.
As for Lampley, his on-ring agreement with the Triller Fight Club was announced in the spring and should begin with the airing of Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos on the 19th. The fight has since been referring to Australia and the Middle East – particularly or Saudi Arabia the United Arab Emirates – reported but still pending.
Still, he claims to feel the same nervousness and fear as this unorthodox show approaches.
“I have no idea what this fight looks like in the ring or why – I’ll start studying on Friday,” he told Boxing Scene. “I just want to go to the ring somewhere and see if I can still see fights.
“Must favor the heavyweight division, but we’ll see.”
In fact, most of Belfort’s MMA fights have been fought at weights below, which is where Holyfield cemented his reputation in the ring. The Brazilian was UFC champion at £ 205 and fought twice for the belt at £ 185. Meanwhile, Holyfield was an Olympic bronze medalist at 178 pounds and a professional world champion at 190 pounds before winning heavyweight titles weighing 208, 217, 215 and 221.
Belfort’s first opponent, De La Hoya, was a champion at six weights ranging from 130 to 160 pounds.
“Belfort is part of the seemingly culture-wide MMA urge to prove something about their ability to function as boxers,” Lampley said. “It goes without saying that the fight against Holyfield is a very different equation than the fight against De La Hoya, regardless of physical condition or age. I’m not sure if it’s easier or more difficult, but after the preparation it makes sense for Belfort to get paid.
“Evander is, I suppose, never completely out of shape – too vain for that. Tyson ‘defeats’ Jones, so go ahead and try to set up Holy-Tyson III. “
Speaking of Tyson-Jones, her fight in November was part of a trill show that broke the boundaries between fights with the likes of Snoop Dogg on the main event microphone and a Wiz Khalifa smoking together. Having Lampley on the team this time around isn’t going to bring back the gold standard of him, Larry Merchant and Emanuel Steward, but it will no doubt feel a little different than the opener.
The team will again include Snoop, Lampley said, but almost everyone else is new. Mario Lopez may return to host the event, but moving from the west coast to the east “threw confetti in the air”.
The Tyson Jones show drew more than 1 million viewers.
“A pig cannot and will not try to put lipstick on,” Lampley said. “They know they’ve hired a truth-teller, and I’ll encourage Shawn Porter to go that route too. But I don’t expect it to be HBO. I just want to call out fights and have fun in this changing world. You don’t have to prove anything, and you won’t try.
“Not judgmental about the coverage of a 58-year-old fighter.”
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This week’s title fight schedule:
WBC Super Featherweight Title – Tucson, Arizona
Oscar Valdez (Champion / No. 2 IWBR) vs. Robson Conceicao (No. 14 WBC / No. 84 IWBR)
Valdez (29-0, 23 KO): First title defense; WBO title held at 126 pounds (2016-19, six defenses)
Conceicao (16-0, 8 KO’s): First title fight; Gold medal won at the 2016 Olympic Games (lightweight)
Fitzbitz says: It’s an interesting fight for Valdez in his first title defense. He’s on the move after a big championship win and meets a guy with an obvious street credo. He’ll have enough. Valdez in 10 (99/1)
WBO Flyweight Title – Tucson, Arizona
Junto Nakatani (Champion / No. 4 IWBR) vs. Angel Acosta (No. 1 WBO / No. 6 IWBR)
Nakatani (21-0, 16 KO’s): First title defense; Never fought over nine rounds
Acosta (22-2, 21 KO): Seventh title fight (4-2); WBO title held at 108 pounds (2017-19, three defenses)
Fitzbitz Says: Nakatani is a talented left-hander who has beaten some good competitors while Acosta is a blast who has played one below at a title level. Call it a clue to the champion. Nakatani in 9 (55/45)
IBF Flyweight Title – London, United Kingdom
Sunny Edwards (Champion / No. 2 IWBR) vs. Jayson Mama (No. 3 IBF / No. 31 IWBR)
Edwards (16-0, 4 KO’s): First title defense; Five wins in a row by 10- or 12-round decision
Mama (16-0, 9 KOs): First title fight; Second fight outside the Philippines (1-0, 0 KO)
Says Fitzbitz: Edwards is one of those fighters who is supposed to be better than the sum of his physical parts. Combine that with a lead role on a home stage and it’s a win. Edwards by resolution (85/15)
Last week’s picks: 1-1 (WIN: Ioka; LOSS: Straffon)
2021 votes record: 28-10 (73.6 percent)
Overall selection record: 1,184-385 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Only fights in which the full titleholder of a sanctioning authority is involved – no intermediate, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if there is no “super champion” in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has been reporting on professional boxing since 1995 and has been writing a weekly column for the boxing scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.