Holyfield, nearly 41, yet to hear final bell

Saturday, October 4, 2003

LAS VEGAS -- In the two decades he has toiled in the ring, Evander Holyfield has fought brilliant fights, known great moments, and captured the hearts of millions of boxing fans.

He's won pieces of the heavyweight title four times, stopped Mike Tyson when no one gave him a chance and earned the label of warrior he wears so proudly on his boxing trunks.

When he fights tonight against James Toney, though, Holyfield will be reduced to fighting a plump former middleweight champion in something billed as a "special heavyweight attraction." He's doing it just two weeks shy of his 41st birthday, a time when most fighters have long since stopped taking punches for a living.

But don't try to tell him he can't be heavyweight champion again.

"I have a lot left in the tank," Holyfield said. "If I knew how much I have left, I think it would be scary."

What scares some people is the way Holyfield has been fighting in recent years. He's won only two of his last seven fights, hasn't knocked anyone out in six years and looked slow and confused when Chris Byrd outboxed him for 12 rounds in December.

Ask him why he's still fighting when he has more money than even Mike Tyson can spend, and Holyfield dances around the subject with moves he doesn't have anymore in the ring.

He wants to win the undisputed heavyweight title once again, Holyfield will say. He fights because he thinks he's still better than most of the current undistinguished crop of heavyweights.

And he wants to show the world that he still has what it takes.

"My whole life, people have wanted to retire me. They have said that I was no good. They have said that I was too small, but all it is, is talk," Holyfield said. "The most important thing for me is not my age. It is that I have taken good care of myself. I am going to continue to fight as long as I feel that I can at the highest level."

Despite his age and recent record, Holyfield is an 8-5 favorite in the scheduled 12-round fight at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino, which will be televised on pay-per-view.

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