There’s a freeze-frame Baba O’Riley “I bet you’re wondering how I ended up in this situation” joke to be made about this Saturday’s only big-name combat sports main event. This was, until recently, an Oscar De La Hoya vs. Vitor Belfort-led pay-per-view going head-to-head with a terrific Showtime card led by a super bantamweight unification between all-action Stephen Fulton and Brandon Figueroa.
Then, in late July, Canelo Alvarez’s planned September 18th undisputed title fight with Caleb Plant collapsed at the last minute. Showtime jumped on the opportunity to take its timeslot, leaving Triller, in a rare bit of good fortune, running virtually unopposed on the 11th.
Then De La Hoya got COVID, taking virtually all of the event’s intrigue with it.
Luckily for Ryan Kavanaugh, this created the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. He and his company had another legend to slot in, one who’d been raising a fuss after a guaranteed fight fell through earlier in the year
And that, dear readers, is why 58-year-old Evander Holyfield is headlining a major boxing event in 2021. I’m sure this will end well.
People who only know Holyfield for the Bite Fight may not appreciate how special a fighter he was. “The Real Deal” was the premier Cruiserweight of his time despite sharing an era with the great Dwight Muhammad Qawi, and he put together an equally impressive Heavyweight run despite rarely weighing in above 220 pounds. He sports wins over Buster Douglas, Larry Holmes, Ray Mercer, George Foreman, Riddick Bowe, John Ruiz, and Hasim Rahman; hell, the guy nearly claimed a title at 46 against Nikolai Valuev, a man who outweighed him by more than 95 pounds.
In his day, Holyfield was a skilled, vicious, and functionally indestructible tank of a man who could hold his own against virtually any other pugilist on the planet. This is not his day. It’s been over a decade since he last laced them up against Brian Nielsen, who himself hadn’t fought in nine years by the time he fell to Holyfield in 10, and he left an inordinately large piece of himself in the ring.
Part of what made De La Hoya a reasonably palatable centerpiece was that he didn’t have too much mileage on him. The guy wasn’t broken when he left the sport; sure, he had nothing for Manny Pacquiao, but he’d given Floyd Mayweather everything he could handle just two fights prior. That’s not the case with Holyfield, who’s not just a decade older than De La Hoya but went through some of the most brutal wars this sport has ever seen.
With Oscar, it was “I hope he doesn’t embarrass himself.” With Evander, it’s “I hope he doesn’t get hurt.” And no, the size difference isn’t enough to make up for that. If Holyfield does wind up being bigger than Belfort, who no longer has a catchweight to worry about, it won’t be by much.
Holyfield’s one saving grace here is that they’re only fighting for eight two-minute rounds, but even then, this one comes down to how merciful “The Phenom” winds up feeling. If Belfort actually comes out looking to finish, it won’t take him long.
Prediction: Belfort via third-round TKO
MMAmania will have LIVE coverage of the FITE PPV main card, which kicks off at 7:00 PM Eastern.