Old, fat? Boxing has place for you

MIKE LITTWIN

June 19, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

LAS VEGAS -- You see them hanging out by the doughnut store. Or by the Burger King, munching on an extra-large order of fries.

These out-of-shape, 40-somethings will even go to Denny's if that's what it takes.

They're out there because they know somewhere in town lurks a talent scout in search of someone just like them to either fight for the heavyweight championship of the world or do Elvis $l impersonations -- or both.

Now, it's Larry Holmes' turn. Thank you. Thank you very much. Where did they find him -- on "Star Search"? Or would it be "Starch Search"?

Believe me, I'm as surprised as you are. Last time I saw Holmes, he was climbing over a car in a parking lot. Now the former champ, with the emphasis on former, is fighting Evander Holyfield for the heavyweight title. I want Holmes?

Holmes gets $7 million tonight. Say it with me, slowly, and now tell me what Cal Ripken's worth.

Holmes gets $7 million and he says of Holyfield, "What's he gonna do to me? He don't hit that hard."

Holmes is betting $7 million that although he's 42 and a grandfather and in about the same rounded-off shape as your typical 42-year-old grandfather, he's fighting a guy who can't hurt him. And he's probably right. He's been beaten before, and for less money. Mike Tyson ran him over for just $3 million.

That's what the heavyweight division has come to. In Holyfield, they've got a boring champion who can't sell tickets on his own, or how do you think a Holyfield-Lennox Lewis fight would do? Now, Holyfield-Joe Louis. . . .

So, we get Holmes. We had Foreman. Who's next -- Ezzard Charles? Does anyone have Archie Moore's number?

Is Ingemar Johansson still alive?

And the weird thing is that some people actually think Holmes might win this fight. Holyfield started out as a 7-to-1 favorite, and now he's down as low as 4-to-1. That's the kind of respect Holyfield gets. He's a very nice man, and he looks terrific, but few are persuaded he's a great fighter.

Here's Holyfield's reign of not exactly terror: He wins the title by beating Buster Douglas, unless that was John Williams. As a heavyweight champ, Douglas made Leon Spinks look like Rocky Marciano. After beating a young and fat Douglas, Holyfield beats old and fat George Foreman in a fight where Holyfield's name is barely mentioned. He signs to fight Mike Tyson, who was, of course, otherwise engaged. He fights someone named Bert Cooper (actually a no one named Bert Cooper) instead, and Cooper knocks him down before losing. And now Holmes.

He says he didn't want to fight Holmes. He had signed to fight the winner of the Holmes-Ray Mercer fight, and who could have guessed that Mercer could lose to someone who had turned pro when Watergate was just a hotel?

"I didn't feel like going into another fight where it didn't matter how I won," Holyfield, thinking back to the Foreman fight, said the other day. "If I put him out in the first or second round, he was an old man and it's bad for the sport. If it goes 12 rounds, people are going to say Holyfield doesn't have enough to stop him. Either way, I felt myself ridiculed."

And no wonder. Have you seen Holyfield train?

He looks like something out of the Terminator series. Some kind of wire is always attached to him, monitoring his heart or maybe it's his bank account. He trains in a harness. Of course, here in Las Vegas, who doesn't use a harness?

Whatever you think of Holyfield, even if it's that he's a bulked-up light-heavy, you can't really think he'll lose to Holmes. Yes, Holmes has the famous jab, but, come on, he's 42 and not what you would call mobile. And Holyfield really wants it.

Maybe he won't knock Holmes out. But it's going to be about 100 degrees outside in the Caesars Palace parking lot, and Holmes could pass out. The most important person in Holmes' corner just might be the guy who mans the water bottle.

If Holmes can go the 12 rounds, that would be a great victory for all us middle-aged folk. But didn't George Foreman already do that?

And if Holmes does go the 12 rounds, what can Holyfield say? All he can do is promise that he'll fight someone his own age and waist size soon. People are talking about a Holyfield-Riddick Bowe match in the fall. That would be a start.

Meantime, Foreman is here trying to help stir up interest.

Whom does he like?

"Larry Holmes," he says. "Unless you ask me why. Then I like Holyfield."

He is here to sell that $39.95 pay-per-view ticket. When you've got Holyfield as a draw, somebody has to.

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