Evander Holyfield insists he has at least one more great fight left in him. If he summons it Saturday night, he'll become the oldest man to regain a world heavyweight title.
ZURICH, Switzerland — Evander Holyfield insists he has at least one more great fight left in him. If he summons it Saturday night, he'll become the oldest man to regain a world heavyweight title.
Standing between the 46-year-old American and a record fifth championship is the tallest and heaviest boxer to hold a major belt, Russia's Nikolai Valuev.
With Holyfield's skills clearly diminished, some observers fear he is risking his health by getting in the ring.
The Atlanta native is undeterred.
"I've been boxing for 38 years and have always had to make adjustments to fight someone," said Holyfield, now over a decade removed from his two wins over Mike Tyson. "Sometimes his arms are going to be longer than yours. This time they're a lot longer."
Holyfield will also concede nearly 100 pounds to the 7-foot Russian, who has lost once in 50 career bouts and comes in as the bookmakers' overwhelming favorite.
Holyfield weighed in Friday at 214.3 pounds, while Valuev tipped the scales at 310.8 pounds. The weight difference is greater than that between the standards for cruiserweight and light flyweight, the lightest in all of boxing.
The 35-year-old Valuev said he watched the "legend" Holyfield a decade ago and dreamed of meeting him in the ring.
"I don't think (age) is going to play a big role," the Russian said. "We are just two boxers who will fight one another. Only that matters."
But the fight between Valuev, who has avoided the biggest names in the division, and the aging Holyfield has generated much skepticism.
Frank Maloney, the British promoter of ex-champion Lennox Lewis, described the bout as a "freak show."
"It's a sad state of affairs that Holyfield is fighting for a world title," Maloney said in Britain's Daily Telegraph. "Holyfield was one of the great heavyweights and he is now reduced to fighting and losing to ordinary fighters. I just don't know why he can't seem to call it a day."
Maloney also had poor words for Valuev, whom he once co-managed.
"He is not a great fighter," said Maloney, adding that the young Holyfield would have beaten him with his speed and heart.
Holyfield has consistently downplayed his age and size disadvantages, and plans to rely on mobility to neutralize Valuev's long reach and huge fists, which have knocked out 34 opponents.
"If he has to take one step, then I can come at him. You can't do this when your front foot is up," he said, mimicking Valuev's jab and a planned counter. "If I catch him with a good shot and he doesn't see it coming, I know I'll knock him down.
"He doesn't even try to move at all. He's going to take your best shot, and I'm punching in combinations."
While Valuev has great power, he has benefited from a number of close decisions and has yet to gain the recognition that has been given to the Klitschko brothers, who hold the other major belts. This would be the biggest win of the Russian's career.
Holyfield can look to the example set last year by the similarly sized Ruslan Chagaev, who beat Valuev by majority decision to take the WBA crown. Valuev regained the title by beating John Ruiz after Chagaev had to relinquish it because of injury.
Holyfield, 42-9-2 in his career with 27 knockouts, is 0-3-1 in his last four title bouts and hasn't fought since losing a one-sided decision to then-WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov over a year ago.
"It's been a tough seven years," said Holyfield, who has lost five of 11 fights in that span.
His dismal run prompted New York state to revoke his license three years ago.
Holyfield underwent five hours of medical tests in Germany last month to show he was fit to fight. He is expected to earn between $750,000 and $1 million for the fight.
But a loss or even a draw could finally end his storied career.
"I have to answer that question when the fight is over," Holyfield said.