By Johnny Walker
There were two fights featuring world-famous names last Saturday night. One took place in Las Vegas, Nevada and had attracted mountains of mostly unjustified media hype. The other took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, and had garnered almost zero attention in the United States. Yet, either hilariously or sadly, depending on your sense of humor and point of view, the latter fight , featuring ageing heavyweights Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield and semi-retired Danish star “Super” Brian Nielsen, was the better fight to watch by quite a margin over the mega-dud, love-in bout offered up by Shane Mosley and Manny Pacquiao.
Given Holyfield’s less than stellar performance last time out against Sherman Williams, and the fact that Nielsen had been idle for the last nine years, there should have been no way that this fight could be more entertaining than the spectacle in Vegas, but it was.
Well, both of these old warhorses actually came to fight. They threw punches – sometimes in slow motion, admittedly – with evil intent, and an aim to actually do harm to the opponent. There was none of the ridiculously overdone tapping of the gloves and “excuse me, did that hurt?” posturing we saw with Mosley and Pacquiao. Both the 48-year-old Holyfield and the 46-year-old Nielsen were there to trade shots, and to put on a show for the fans.
Watch 5 parts of this fight on You Tube
Holyfield looked to be in his usual great shape and was much more energetic than in his last outing. Nielsen’s chest has fallen down to his waist, and he’s no body beautiful, but the old Dane still has a strong will and a fighting spirit.
Holyfield was busy early, working the Dane’s soft body and even throwing a few stinging combinations to the head like the Holyfield of old, while Nielsen mugged and entertained the crowd and landed the odd right hand blow in reply. Holyfield’s left hand, both the hard jabs and straight shots, seemed much quicker than in recent outings.
A spirited exchange took place in round three, as Holyfield trapped Nielsen in the corner and threw a barrage of head shots. Nielsen replied with some awkward uppercuts before spitting out his mouthpiece. Holyfield pumped piston-like left jabs off of Nielsen’s swelling face and dug a hard right into his soft gut. Finally, a powerful left hook by Evander put Nielsen on the mat as the round came to a close, with the Dane nevertheless getting up and staggering to his corner.
Sensing an opportunity to put Nielsen away, Holyfield geared up with a nice flurry of punches to start round four, landing a hard right hand as Nielsen covered up Arthur Abraham style, but still failed to block all of Holyfield’s shots. Nielsen continued to taunt Holyfield while rope-a-doping him, hoping Evander would eventually tire himself out. At this point, Holyfield reverted to one of his old tricks, and started to lead with his skull, clipping Nielsen with a head butt, and not for the last time. Nielsen’s left eye was left much the worse for wear as a result of Holyfield’s head-work.
Holyfield continued strafing a woozy Nielsen with hard shots in round five. Nielsen attempted to counter, but often fell short of his mark. A hard right-left combo from Holyfield had Nielsen bouncing off the ropes, but the tough Dane continued to stay upright, and even managed to tag Holyfield hard on the chin with a right-left combination of his own.
In striking contrast to the disgruntled, booing group in Las Vegas last Saturday night, the Danish crowd was energized by this fight, getting a chant of “NIEL-SEN, NIEL-SEN” going in round six. Fired up by his supporters, the crusty Dane rallied and held his own in round seven, and at the end of round eight he actually had Holyfield in a bit of trouble, landing a couple of left-right combinations that had Evander on the back foot, as the crowd again chanted Nielsen’s name.
After an uneventful round nine, where both men appeared to need a break, round ten saw Holyfield again step up the pace against the weary Dane. After an exchange of left jabs, Holyfield pushed Nielsen onto his rump on the canvas–and no, they didn’t touch gloves when the latter man got to his feet.
During an exchange on the ropes, Holyfield proceeded to butt the now-irate Dane once again, and was given a warning by the referee. Finally, Holyfield trapped his foe in the corner with numerous blows, including a couple that appeared to be rabbit punches, and the fight was called off, giving Holyfield a tenth-round TKO victory over Nielsen, who protested vehemently about the fouling, and who, despite his bloody face, appeared ready and able to continue.
So what is the moral of this story? That hype does not always equate to an exciting boxing match, for one thing.
As for the winner in Copenhagen, it pays to remember that back in the 1980s, when it first dawned on people that the Rolling Stones were getting a little long in the tooth, people made fun of them – calling their Steel Wheels tour the “Steel Wheelchairs Tour,” for instance. But a decade later, nobody was laughing, as the ageing band continually turned in stellar live shows and became “respected rock and roll veterans,” who, if they weren’t quite as exciting as in the early days, could still deliver a sturdy, rocking good time.
Perhaps Evander Holyfield should be viewed in the same way. He has continued to fight even while people have mocked him for doing so, firm in his belief that he still can still cut it. As some old injuries have healed, Holyfield seems to be regaining at least some of his old fire and form, though he will never be able to completely turn back Father Time. However, with this fight, Evander certainly convinced me that he can’t do any worse than the Kevin Johnsons and Juan Carlos Gomez’s of the heavyweight division if he was to ever meet one of the champions. He might even do better than them.
As happened with the Stones, maybe we should start to admire Holyfield for what he can still do at age 46, rather than mock him for wanting to do it.
When all was done and dusted, Evander Holyfield and Brian Nielsen, two grizzled veterans, outshone that other duo in Vegas who were supposed to deliver a sensational match on Saturday, and proved that the old boys still know a thing or two about delivering a crowd-pleasing fight. No glove-touching allowed!
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