For sequel, a different Holyfield His health, attitude upgraded for Moorer

November 08, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- Some 30 months ago, Evander Holyfield stunned the boxing world by announcing his retirement from the ring at age 31.

"Yes, I'm quitting," he said, in the bizarre aftermath of losing his heavyweight championship to Michael Moorer at Caesars Palace. Bloodied, beaten and badly dehydrated, Holyfield was diagnosed as suffering from a "stiff heart," a condition that resulted in extreme fatigue.

His personal physician, Dr. J. Roland Stephens, said it was "a miracle" he was able to finish the 12-round fight.

"Everyone wrote he was washed up, finished, a dead man in boxing," recalled his trainer, Don Turner.

Well, miracle of miracles, Holyfield, now 35, will again find himself across the ring from Moorer at the Thomas & Mack Center tonight, with both his World Boxing Association and Moorer's International Boxing Federation titles at stake.

And fresh off two convincing victories over fearsome Mike Tyson, he has never looked more trim or formidable.

It takes a lot of explaining, but Holyfield is prepared to supply the answers -- medical, mental and mystical -- as to what happened in that first fight with Moorer.

Medically, his alleged heart condition proved to be an embarrassing misdiagnosis. Holyfield's heart was found to be sound after numerous tests were required before he was reissued a ring license in the state of Nevada. He even paid a faith healer $250,000 to guarantee the positive results.

"I knew I didn't have a bad heart," he said. "When I got to the hospital that night, I thought the doctors were playing games with me."

Physically, Holyfield said he injured his left shoulder while training for Moorer, but decided to go through with the match.

"I felt I was so superior that I could beat him with one good hand," he said. "I still knocked him down in the second round, but when I went back to my corner, my shouler hurt so bad I felt I couldn't carry on. But when you lose, you have to take the blame."

However, it still rankles Holyfield that Moorer raised his hands in a sign of victory 10 seconds before the final bell.

"That really upset me," he said. "As bad as I felt that night, watching a tape of the fight later, I still thought I won.

"And it's made me even madder the past few weeks, hearing Moorer being interviewed, calling me a con man who hides behind his religion. I've never said I was better than another fighter."

Holyfield, however, acknowledges that fighting Moorer, a lefthanded, often cautious counter-puncher, presents more of a challenge than fighting an aggressive, walk-in slugger like Tyson.

"If [Moorer] wasn't doing anything in our first fight, neither was I, and I get frustrated with guys who don't come to win.

"In the past, I've had my toughest fights with defensive-minded fighters like Larry Holmes and George Foreman. But if a guy tries to take me out, my chances are better of getting to him first.

"Now I realize I have what it takes to wipe Moorer out, and I'm not going to stop attacking until he falls."

After Holyfield's surprising loss to Moorer in 1994, critics searched for a scapegoat and found a likely candidate in Turner, who had replaced Emanuel Steward in his corner.

Holyfield had also fired respected cut man Ace Marotta and counted on Turner, who had previously worked with Aaron Pryor and Larry Holmes, to fill both roles.

His cost-saving measures came under question when he suffered a severe cut over his left eye in the fifth round and the wound bled openly the rest of the fight.

"Everybody had me fired," said Turner, "but that's just boxing. I never worry about things I can't control. First of all, Evander likes straight shooters. I've never been a 'yes man' to any fighter. I've always told him the truth, and that's why I'm still here."

It turned out to be a propitious decision for Holyfield. Turner would formulate perfect battle plans to neutralize Tyson in the two fights that made Holyfield the unquestioned "people's champion," even if he owns only one-third of the fragmented title.

"Go back to 1994," Turner said. "Moorer was at his best, Holyfield was probably at his worst, but it was still a close decision.

"My faith in Evander never wavered. I knew he was one of the best fighters in the history of the heavyweight division.

"He should have proved his greatness against Tyson, who was (( supposed to be so indestructible. Evander beat Tyson easy. People have yet to see his true potential."

Fight facts

Who: Evander Holyfield (34-3), Atlanta, vs. Michael Moorer (39-1), Detroit, heavyweights, 12 rounds

What: For unification of the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles

When: Tonight TV: Pay per view, 9 p.m.

Where: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

Pub Date: 11/08/97

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