What's Around Corner For Holyfield?

April 21, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Before Evander Holyfield lost his heavyweight crown to Riddick Bowe two years ago, the champion and his entourage were depicted as a model family with all the virtues of Bill Cosby's Huxtables.

But since regaining his title from Bowe in a memorable 12-round fight last November, Team Holyfield has become Team Turmoil. And the fighter nicknamed "The Real Deal" is now being portrayed as "The Raw Deal" by the people cut loose from his purse strings.

On the eve of his championship defense against unbeaten Michael Moorer, there is growing concern that all the changes in Holyfield's corner could lead to his downfall.

With his guaranteed $12 million purse propelling him past the $100 million mark in career earnings, Holyfield seems intent on protecting all of his interest.

"I've managed to save some of it," he said, "and I'm trying to keep everyone from taking it. I've got to keep a lot of hands out of my pockets. I've got to secure my future. After I get through fighting, that's it."

In the past year, Holyfield has fired trainer Emanuel Steward and cut man Ace Marotta ($20,000 per fight), given a lesser role to adviser Hammer, dismissed strength coach Chaz Jordan and even given ballet instructor Marya Kennett the pink slip.

"He wants to be a one-man show," said Lou Duva, one of his original trainers. "I think he's making a big mistake. It reminds me of the saying, 'A lawyer who represents himself takes on a fool for a client.'

"Evander always joked that it was crazy in his corner the night of a fight. But he got a lot of motivation from myself, [co-trainer] George Benton and Ace all screaming at him. Now if he gets in trouble against Moorer, whose voice is he going to hear?"

Holyfield is hardly an exception in discarding those who helped him to success. Famous fighters routinely change handlers -- Sugar Ray Leonard switched trainers as often as Madonna changes love interests.

When a fighter loses a major match, as Holyfield did against Bowe in their first encounter, his damaged ego requires repair. But Holyfield did not receive sympathy from Dan Duva, who has promoted his fights since he turned professional in 1984. As soon as Holyfield lost his title, Duva turned to building England's Lennox

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Lewis as the next challenger for Bowe.

Duva remains Holyfield's promoter of record, and boasts of having made him a $100 million man. But their relationship is strained.

"When Evander lost to Bowe, he expected Dan to embrace him," said Holyfield's manager, Shelly Finkel, who has remained in place. "But that's not Dan's way. He'll work his butt off for you as a promoter, but he won't hug you."

Apparently feeling abandoned, Holyfield contemplated retirement. During the interim, Duva also signed a promotional deal with Moorer, and Holyfield felt even more betrayed.

"It's like raising a kid," said Kathy Duva, Dan's wife, who serves as publicist for their Main Events Inc.

"I think of Evander now as my kids becoming teen-agers. They can be very difficult to handle while fighting for their independence. But when the fighting is over, you usually grow even closer."

But Holyfield has only grown farther apart. He fired Lou Duva and Benton as his principal trainers, and hired Steward, who mapped the strategy for his victory over Bowe.

But Steward lasted only the one fight, and Donald Turner, who worked previously with Larry Holmes, became Holyfield's principal trainer.

In this case, Steward and Holyfield agree the difference was strictly money.

"I asked him for a flat figure -- $300,000," said Steward, training Julio Cesar Chavez in Mexico for his rematch with Frankie Randall. "But Evander said it was too much money. He told me, 'I can get anyone to carry my bags.' "

Said Holyfield: "Every man has a right to watch his own money. I've been fighting professionally for over 10 years. I don't think someone can come in and demand 10 percent for working one fight. I offered Emanuel a good number to work six or eight weeks, and it wasn't peanuts. He chose to move on. Fine."

Holyfield said he is comfortable h"It is predestined that I fight Tyson."

EVANDER HOLYFIELD working with Turner, a man who, unlike Steward and Lou Duva, 1/8 shuns attention.

"We're happy together," said the 31-year-old champion. "Don doesn't try to change my style. He doesn't discount what other trainers have done to help me. He doesn't try to break me down. He builds me up."

A few years ago, Holyfield seemed prepared to walk away from the ring, spend more time with his four children and work in a new field.

But he now appears rejuvenated, and talks animatedly of extending his boxing career until 1996, when the Olympic Games will be staged in his hometown of Atlanta.

If everything goes according to plan, he will have reunified his title by beating Lewis in November and survived a rubber match with Bowe, leading to a showdown with former champion Mike Tyson, who should have completed his prison sentence in Indiana for rape.

"Before and after every fight, I pray and ask God for guidance," Holyfield said. "I always question myself as to why I'm still fighting. I don't need more money, and I know I can do other things with my life.

"But God has plans for me to continue boxing. It is predestined that I fight Tyson. And when I win and finally retire, great things will be said about my career."

FIGHT FACTS

Who: Evander Holyfield (30-1, 22 KOs), Atlanta, vs. Michael Moorer (34-0, 30 KOs), Monessen, Pa., scheduled for 12 rounds.

What: For Holyfield's International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association heavyweight titles.

Where: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, 15,000-seat outdoor arena.

When: Tomorrow, estimated start of main event, 11 p.m. EDT

TV: TVKO, pay-per-view.

Promoters: Main Events Inc. and Caesars Palace.

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