Holyfield barely loses title fight to Valuev
ZURICH, Switzerland - Nikolai Valuev likely ended Evander Holyfield’s last chance at winning a fifth heavyweight title, narrowly defending his WBA title by majority decision on Saturday night.
The 46-year-old American, attempting to become the oldest heavyweight to win a major belt, started the fight by moving around the ring to neutralize Valuev’s long reach advantage.
The 7-foot Russian, the tallest and heaviest champion ever, struggled to close down Holyfield early but began asserting his jab as Holyfield tired.
One judged scored the bout a draw, while the others had Valuev winning 116-112 and 115-114.
“Of course I am disappointed,” Holyfield said. “I thought I had done enough to get the win. Now I have to go home and think about my future.”
Holyfield (42-10-2) had not fought since losing a one-sided decision to then-WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov over a year ago, and was much criticized for this latest comeback attempt. Some critics suggested he was putting his health at risk by fighting at such an advanced age.
Still, the “Real Deal” appeared in great shape for the fight and was never seriously hurt by Valuev (51-1), who has avoided the top heavyweights and did little to improve his standing in the division. He was vulnerable to Holyfield’s right hooks, many of which landed, even if the Russian also was never stunned.
“He made me work very hard for the win,” said Valuev, the overwhelming favorite and underwhelming winner. “Holyfield was unbelievable with his speed. The fight was fought at a great tempo for the whole 12 rounds.”
Later rounds were largely uneventful, with the Atlanta native dancing and looking for the rare opportunity to attack in combinations. The Russian, who carried a weight advantage of almost 100 pounds, planted himself in the center of the ring and rarely unleashed power punches.
“His hands are not as slow as everyone thinks they are,” Holyfield said.
For Valuev, it was the biggest win on a weak resume. He has so far refused to fight either of the Klitschko brothers, who hold the other major belts and are considered the top two heavyweights in the world.
Holyfield has refused to say if he would retire should he lose or draw against Valuev. Struggling with financial problems, Holyfield may try to use the better-than-expected result to score a big payday against another champion or Riddick Bowe, who has recently made a similarly worrisome comeback.
Holyfield won one of three epic battles against Bowe in the 1990s, when he beat Buster Douglas, George Foreman and Mike Tyson twice to become a dominating figure in the sport.
This fight was put on in front of 12,500 largely pro-Holyfield fans in Zurich’s Hallenstadion. Holyfield entered to a standing ovation, wearing a red robe fit for a king.
Valuev was booed, and there were even scattered whistles while the Russian national anthem played. The fans similarly showed their displeasure when the judges’ scorecards were read.