Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Holyfield-Belfort Preview

One might argue that recent times in the sport of Boxing have evolved into one of the oddest eras in the history of the sport. From YouTube stars/social media influencers embarking on forays in the sport whether serious or not, to retired fighters venturing on an exhibition circuit of sorts, to bouts featuring stars from differing combat sports disciplines, it has certainly not been the norm.  The latest on this odyssey will be the September 11th bout. Originally, this bout was to feature the return of former six-division world champion Oscar De La Hoya, who last competed in 2008, to the Boxing ring to face former UFC champion and MMA legend Vitor Belfort in an eight round Boxing match that unlike some recent events in recent times would be an official fight on both fighter’s Boxing records.  As some know however, De La Hoya was forced to withdraw from the bout, which was to headline a pay-per-view card promoted by Triller and streamed worldwide on FITE as well as carried on traditional cable/satellite providers in the United States, due to contracting the COVID-19 virus.

While Triller’s brief time as a promoter in the sport of Boxing has been marked with several bumps in the road due largely to the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic, they have carried on and will move forward with the event with former five-time world champion in two divisions and Hall of Famer Evander Holyfield stepping in to replace De La Hoya. Holyfield, who will turn fifty-nine years old on October 19th, has not fought since a 2011 stoppage of Brian Nielsen in Copenhagen, Denmark will be stepping in on a little more than a week’s notice. Although Holyfield was at one point penciled in to fight an exhibition with Kevin McBride, best known as the man who stopped former Heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson in Tyson’s last official fight in 2005 earlier this year, which was to take place on the undercard of the often postponed Lightweight world championship clash between undefeated champion Teofimo Lopez and undefeated mandatory challenger George Kambosos, which was to take place also under the Triller promotional banner, the fact that Holyfield has been inactive for a lengthy period in addition to his age was likely the reason why the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) declined to license him for the scheduled bout against Belfort.

This resulted in Triller moving the event, which was originally slated to take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA when De La Hoya was still on the card facing Belfort, to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL. While the decision to move the card and not postpone the event was likely due to wanting to get a promoted card actually staged after the plethora of problems Triller has had in recent months due largely to the Lopez-Kambosos postponements as well as the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL has been a hotspot for Boxing events staged in the state of Florida for many years and with the issue of licensing Holyfield likely resolved with the move to Florida, the task of staging an event that is mostly free of complications outside of the circumstances of De La Hoya’s withdrawing also seems likely.

As for what we are likely to see in the fight between Holyfield and Belfort, no one can really say with certainty. This is both due to the age of the respective combatants as well as the limited time both men will have had to prepare. The bout will be scheduled for eight two minute rounds, but will be an officially sanctioned bout, which means the result will go on each fighter’s record. Although Belfort is primarily known as a mixed martial artist (MMA) fighter with a record of 26-14, with 18 Knockouts (Excluding bouts that ended via submission), the forty-four year old Brazilian native has had one official professional Boxing bout and that bout came in 2006, which he won by first round knockout over a fighter named Josemario Neves, which took place in Brazil.

Belfort however, is a fighter who in his prime was known for having extremely quick hands for an MMA fighter and scored knockouts of 69% of his opponents. While not all of those knockouts came as a result of hand strikes (Punches), Belfort was one of the quickest-handed fighters in the sport of MMA and was an excellent counter puncher when given the opportunity.

Even though some may look at this fight as something that is not serious and may have also viewed it with that opinion when it was Oscar De La Hoya competing against Belfort, it is always interesting to see MMA fighters who are or have been known as great strikers with their hands attempt to step into the Boxing ring. Despite Belfort’s lack of overall Boxing experience compared to Holyfield, it will be interesting to see if Belfort is able to land more than occasionally on a fighter of Holyfield’s caliber.

As for what Holyfield will bring into this fight, everyone who has ever seen Evander Holyfield compete knows his reputation for being willing to mix it up and go to war with whomever his opposition was regardless of size or whether or not he may have been outmatched in the opinion of fans and experts alike. Those who have followed the work of this observer over the two decades and a half that I have covered Boxing and other combat sports know that towards the latter stages of Holyfield’s career I was very vocal both in my work both through various online outlets, in print,  as well as in various radio interviews about my concerns for Holyfield’s health because as is the case with many fighters, as he got older, he began to show the signs of a fighter who had been in one too many fights including, but not limited to slowed reflexes and eroding skills. This resulted in Holyfield taking significant punishment and appearing to be too brave for his own good at times.

Some may recall the decision of the former New York State Athletic Commission chairman Ron Scott Stevens, who after Holyfield lost a badly one-sided twelve round unanimous decision to Larry Donald in Madison Square Garden in November 2004, took a bold step in medically suspending Holyfield out of concern for the legend’s well-being. Although seen as overstepping by some especially given that in the United States rules and regulations, including, but not limited to the licensing of fighters vary by state, as someone who covered that fight and had already been expressing concern for Holyfield long before that fight against Donald, I applauded Stevens for at least trying to prevent what may have been a tragedy if it wasn’t addressed by those who regulate the sport, in this case the athletic commissions.

As most know due to the fact that there is no national regulatory board in the United States to oversee and regulate Boxing when it comes to licensing and regulation, the move by Stevens out of concern for Holyfield, did not last long and by 2006, Holyfield was given the green light medically to return to competition only with the provision that the initial medical suspension stand in the state of New York. While Holyfield went on to incredibly challenge for a World Heavyweight championship twice more in unsuccessful fights against former WBO world champion Sultan Ibragimov in 2007 and a highly controversial fight against former WBA world champion Nickoli Valuev in 2008, a fight that many, including yours truly felt Holyfield had won, he was not able to regain a Heavyweight world championship for what would have been a record setting fifth time in breaking his own record as the only man in Boxing history to win a World Heavyweight championship on four separate occasions before retiring.

Holyfield’s legacy has long been cemented as a former Undisputed Cruiserweight world champion, and his vast achievements that followed as a Heavyweight. Although Holyfield has always looked in great condition visually, the obvious question here is what could he possibly have left in terms of Boxing skill. Will the lengthy period he has been inactive help rejuvenate what were seen as eroding reflexes and diminishing skills in his latter career, despite still being able to perform well from time to time?  Obviously, I cannot answer that question, but if Vitor Belfort is able to land offense on Holyfield, the answer will likely come quickly.

As for what this might lead to long-term for both fighters, I cannot say either. My guess however, would be since this influx of exhibitions, and others coming from the outside of the sport appears to be something that will be continuing for the foreseeable future that if neither man here is seriously hurt, other opportunities will likely be available to both men.  We will have to wait and see what is in store when Holyfield and Belfort meet on Saturday night.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Holyfield vs. Belfort takes place on Saturday, September 11th at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL. The bout as well as it’s undercard can be seen worldwide on digital combat sports streaming network and pay-per-view platform FITE beginning at 7PM ET/4PM PT for $49.99. There will also be a free portion of preliminary bouts that will be streamed on FITE beginning at 6PM ET/3PM PT (U.S. Times). The pay-per-view card will also be available throughout the United States through cable/satellite providers. Contact your cable/satellite provider for ordering information.

To order Holyfield vs. Belfort on FITE click the following link: Triller Fight Club: Evander Holyfield vs Vitor Belfort - Official PPV Live Stream - FITE.  For more information about FITE including schedules, local start times in your area, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, and for instructions on how to download the FITE app please visit: www.FITE.TV.


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