Holyfield vows Bowe II won't be a rerun

Phil Jackman

November 01, 1993|By Phil Jackman

It was a year ago when Riddick Bowe wrested the heavyweight boxing championship from Evander Holyfield and, although the bout was close, Bowe won with superior punching power and, much to Holyfield's surprise, impressive stamina.

After months of reviewing the action in his mind, the loser finally arrived at a realistic conclusion: his game plan had been a disaster, his pre-fight attitude too relaxed.

Holyfield admits now it was a good thing he took a lot of time off, pondering his future, all but retired. "Losing was so far from my mind even after the fight, I really didn't know how to deal with it. I had never lost before," he says.

While it's true the challenger to Bowe's crown Nov. 6 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas hadn't lost a fight as a pro, he had certainly suffered setbacks as an amateur -- remember the 1984 Olympics? -- and in his personal life. Evander prides himself in the manner in which he has always reacted to adversity and that's his motivation this time.

It's mighty, his motivation, always has been, but it may have to be.

"I'm prepared to fight a far superior fight this time," he says, "and the reason for that is I realize the mistakes I made last time. I stayed inside too long. I allowed Bowe to be too active. He had more punches [talent] than I gave him credit for."

Really, though, Holyfield's main mistake was believing that Bowe wasn't the type guy who would hang in there to the bitter end. In RTC other words, he questioned Riddick's courage, and he wasn't alone in this respect.

"When the fight ended, I didn't sense a loss. I knew it was close, but I couldn't see him getting the match without me being knocked out. I wasn't plastered all over the ring," he said. After awhile, Evander came to grips with the fact he was beaten up pretty good, almost being flattened in the 10th round.

"It never seemed as though a guy could get the best of me over a long fight," he says. "But with Bowe, I couldn't believe his energy and his strength, especially after losing all that weight. I was the one that was exhausted."

Holyfield is sufficiently convinced that he was guilty of a "fight plan that wasn't to my best advantage." He's on record saying "I promise to win this time, Bowe has no chance."

The way he'll do it, he says, "is by sticking with what got me to the title, not being drawn into fighting a way I'm not suited for. I listened to what Michael Jordan said when he announced his retirement and it rung true to me. He said when you get to the top, there's nowhere else to go. You lose some of your enthusiasm to be at your very best.

"That got me to thinking I might be fighting too late, but then I thought about how some of the setbacks I had had served to motivate me and help to restore my enthusiasm."

All Holyfield's training the past several weeks has been directed toward using his hand speed and increasing his movement. "That's where my power comes from," he says, "speed and movement. I have to use those things until he's hurt. Then move in."

One of the motivating factors for the champion, according to the Bowe camp, is Riddick doesn't feel he has been given his due by Holyfield, a view the challenger disputes. "I never criticized his performance. I've talked about the things I didn't do, the mistakes I made. I didn't disrespect him," he says.

Regardless, Evander continued, "I'm not concerned about how Bowe has looked in training, how much weight he's lost or how he plans to fight. I'm not preparing for anything but a guy who will be as good as he was the first time, if he's not better.

"To me, it'll be the same fight whether he weighs 235, 250, 270 or 290. I'm in great shape [which goes without saying] and in good spirits. To give you some idea, I want it [the title] so bad, I'm boxing again. I wouldn't be if regaining the championship wasn't goal."

Just wanting it doesn't always get the job done, however, so Holyfield is doing a little more than simply hope to aid his cause: "I've gone back and looked at what I did before. Yes, he beat me, but not at my best."

Holyfield says he'll be at his best this time. "A smaller guy always has to use his skills to his best advantage. I have hand speed, foot speed and fire power. I'll have to use them as well as I can," he said.

"I've never seen Evander so confident," confides Emanuel Steward, who has moved in as head trainer after strategist George Benton was let go. "I've known him since he started out as a kid in the amateurs, and I'm convinced no big guy is going to outbox him. I think there's a possibility he'll stop Bowe in about the 11th round."

And another newspaper clipping is tacked up on the bulletin board in the Bowe camp.

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