Holyfield can't escape reach of Tyson's shadow


April 21, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- If George Foreman is as clever as think he might be, he retires now. He made the money. He got better press than Norm Schwarzkopf. The fighter-turned-preacher-turned-fighter can go back to preaching and claim, without fear of contradiction, to have found the strength of Samson. He might even get a shoe commercial out of it. He's got to get a hamburger endorsement, or this isn't the America I know.

What more can he reasonably accomplish? You only get so many moral victories in life.

That leaves us with Evander Holyfield, and who knows what to make of him?

He is the champion of the world, and maybe the universe, and all he's done is beat a fat Buster Douglas and a fat, old George Foreman, who fended Holyfield off for 12 rounds. Who's next, Larry Holmes? It's a logical progression. They can stage the fight in a used-car lot, with Evel Knievel as the referee.

What is it with Holyfield? Maybe Foreman is indestructible. I know Holyfield hit him with at least one punch that seemed to explode on contact, and Foreman just shrugged. It was like trying to knock down a mountain, any one of which would be, by the way, only slightly slower than Mount George himself.

Or maybe it's just that Holyfield, the only heavyweight champion with a ballet teacher, is really a built-up light-heavy who can't punch.

There's only one way to tell about Holyfield, and that's for him to fight Mike Tyson.

Yes, Tyson. Obvious, isn't it? Tyson wasn't there Friday night, but you couldn't miss his presence, which hung over the place like a Foreman-sized shadow. Holyfield had the belts and Foreman had the fans, but it's Tyson -- ask anyone, especially Tyson -- who is the best heavyweight in the world.

Lou Duva, who heads the Holyfield management team, was addressing that subject just the other day.

"My bitch with the press," he was saying, "is that they don't give Evander the respect he deserves. It may come as a shock to the press, but Mike Tyson ain't the champ no more."

It may come as a shock to Duva, the noted grammarian, that Tyson would be a heavy favorite if the fighters were to meet.

Will they?

They have to eventually, of course. But Don King is standing in the way, and King can be just as big an obstacle to surmount out of the ring as Foreman is in it. King will want his cut, and he'll want a huge cut for Tyson. And so there will be squabbles.

The pre-fight buildup would be easy to envision.

Evander, what do you think of the fight?

"Mike Tyson is a great fighter, and I look forward to the opportunity to see who is the better man in the ring."

And Mike?

"I just want to kill him."

Anything else?

"I'll fight him anywhere. I'll fight him right here in the street."

That's the way it would go. And, I believe, once it gets into the ring, Tyson would run right at him and knock Holyfield down, or either screw himself into the ring missing with a fearsome left hand.

What you don't know about Tyson -- and maybe only a fight with Holyfield would answer this question -- is whether the post-Douglas Tyson is the fighter the pre-Douglas Tyson was. It is being suggested that, because it took six rounds and a quick whistle by referee Richard Steele for Tyson to beat Razor Ruddock, he might be slipping. But Ruddock is a legitimate fighter, and Tyson had already knocked him down twice. Nowhere is it written that you have to knock everyone out in the first round.

They're scheduled to meet again in June, unless something better comes along, in which case Ruddock gets bought off. You have to love boxing.

And you have to like Tyson. I think the Tyson of today is pretty close to the Tyson we knew before he went to Japan and ran into Buster. I think the Tyson of today takes Holyfield out in a relative hurry.

Believe me, Holyfield was not exactly impressive against Foreman. Holyfield was hit hard a few times, and if Foreman could have ever produced something approaching a combination of punches, he might have had Holyfield in trouble. Unfortunately for Foreman, one punch in a row was all he could muster. He's 42. Tyson is still about half that age, and he can produce punches at a terrifying rate. Of course, what isn't terrifying about Tyson?

Foreman, who admits to being surly as a young fighter and who grew up to be everyone's favorite grandfather, was saying that, deep down, all boxers are good guys.

Even Mike Tyson?

Foreman thought for a minute. "Yeah, even Mike Tyson. Deep, deep . . . deep, deep . . . deep down. I mean really deep. I mean, all the way from here to China deep."

That's the guy that Holyfield has to fight. And if he beats him, he's a great champion. But until he does, he's going to have trouble finding anyone to believe it.

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