Holyfield is next target on Tyson's title hit list Nov. 9 fight is set in wake of Seldon KO

September 09, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- The huge banner hanging behind the two fighters in the interview room at the MGM Grand Garden read: "Finally, Mike Tyson versus Evander Holyfield, Nov. 9."

But this fight did not take place when it first was scheduled five years ago. This news conference was held yesterday, one day after Tyson stopped Bruce Seldon in the first round for the World Boxing Association title.

Five years ago, Holyfield was the undisputed champion, a force in the heavyweight class. A showdown with Tyson, seeking redemption after his humiliating loss to Buster Douglas, would have been a dream match.

Twice, it failed to happen. The first time, Tyson suffered a rib injury. The next time, Tyson was indicted for rape and spent the next three years in an Indiana prison.

Today, Tyson vs. Holyfield looms as a mismatch -- almost as predictable as Tyson's 1-minute, 49-second knockout of WBA champion Seldon on Saturday night.

It is enough to face Tyson's fury in a ring, but Holyfield aggravated the situation yesterday by suggesting this would be just another title fight.

All but ignoring Tyson sitting by his side, Holyfield told the media: "The only thing that stands between regaining a championship is time."

Tyson's eyes all but glowed with anger. "You've got nothing coming, man," he said. "I'm going to like this. I'm going to have a good time this fight."

No one has ever questioned the size of Holyfield's fighting heart, but serious doubts have been raised about its physical condition.

He temporarily retired from boxing in 1994 after losing his crown to Michael Moorer. Experiencing breathing problems, he was suspected of having a heart abnormality.

The Nevada Athletic Commission considered barring Holyfield from fighting in the state after his third fight with Riddick Bowe.

Holyfield had Bowe at the point of an early knockout, but suddenly backed off, ultimately losing his opportunity and the fight.

Holyfield said he was suffering from a virus three weeks before his last meeting with Bowe and was forced to curtail training.

Holyfield also looked less than overwhelming in his most recent bout, on May 10, when he stopped blown-up cruiserweight Bobby Czyz in five rounds.

To qualify for a Tyson match, Holyfield had to submit last month to a battery of tests at the Mayo Clinic, and was given a clean bill of health. The report further suggested that no restrictions should be put on his career.

"To be the man, you've got to beat the man who holds the belt, and that's Tyson," Holyfield said. "And he knows I'm probably the one guy who doesn't fear him."

However, Holyfield, who was a witness to Tyson's lightning defeat of Seldon, could be too macho for his own good.

Since launching his ring comeback last year after three years in an Indiana prison on a rape conviction, Tyson has needed fewer than eight rounds to dispose of Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis, Frank Bruno and Seldon, removing titles from the last two.

After clearing his head from the left hook that finished his short championship reign, Seldon said: "I didn't realize how hard he hits. He's a destroyer . . . a great fighter and just a real bad man."

The crowd of 9,500 apparently felt cheated by Seldon's quick exit. The first of the two knockdowns seemed more push than punch. Referee Richard Steele stopped it after a solid left hook sent Seldon crashing to the canvas for the second time, headfirst. He got up on rubbery legs, his eyes unfocused.

Jay Bright, who became Tyson's chief trainer on his return to the ring, said: "Mike is in a no-win situation. If he knocks out guys in one or two rounds like he's been doing, people say he's not fighting anybody. But if someone should carry him into the late rounds, they'll say Mike doesn't have it anymore.

"But the bottom line is that Mike Tyson is exciting. That's why people come to see him fight, be it one round or 12."

Pub Date: 9/09/96

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