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Jackie Kallen: Is Evander Holyfield Still the Real Deal?

By Jackie Kallen

Are you serious, Evander? Should we all stop for a second and try to guess why you might want to risk your life and health by getting into the ring again with guys who may be 30 years younger than you? OK. The second is up. Could it possibly be M-O-N-E-Y?

Even with eleven kids to support, it always defies logic when I hear that a guy like Evander is broke. Excuse me. How the hell does a person go through $100 million? That is a lot of spending. How many Bentley’s can you drive? How many homes do you need? How many Versace suits can you own?

Holyfield is certainly not the only millionaire to burn through his cash. Think: Tyson, Ali, Joe Louis. But none of them fought into their forties. All ended their careers in the last days of their thirties. Not that they couldn’t have used the lean green, but someone cared enough about them to say “No Way.”

The AMA has their own feelings about older fighters getting into the ring. But we won’t drag them into this. Let’s just use our own common sense. Should any boxing commission license Holyfield? Despite the fact that ageism is an ugly thing, allowing a man close to 50 years old to exchange punches with a kid should be illegal. It should be disallowed in every state for the boxer’s own good.

Holyfield is admittedly one of the best fighters to ever lace up the gloves. In his prime he was amazing. But after his two losses to Bowe back in the mid-nineties he hasn’t been the same guy. Lennox Lewis beat him. John Ruiz beat him. Chris Byrd beat him. Larry Donald beat him. And James Toney destroyed him.

After the Toney fight in 2003, I hoped Holyfield would quietly retire and leave us with fond memories of the 1984 Olympics and the exciting matches against Qawi, Foreman and Holmes. But my hopes were dashed when he kept truckin’ along, fighting the likes of Sultan Ibragimov and Nikolay Valuev–losing to both. He did beat Frans Botha in 2010, but Botha wasn’t at the top of his game then either.

The last time Holyfield stepped into the ring was on May 7, 2011 when he stopped Brian Nielsen in Denmark. Of course Nielsen was 46 at the time. Not exactly in his prime. Do boxing fans actually enjoy watching men in their forties go at it? While I admire their athleticism, courage and spirit–I can’t say it’s as compelling as watching Canelo or Danny Garcia.

My ex-champ James Toney is 44 and still fighting. I never would have predicted this when he won his first title in 1991. I always thought he’d have walked away with a solid bank account when he turned 35. Instead, a Russian boxer named Denis Lebedev shut him out in Moscow last year. Fifteen years ago that guy would not have been able to win one round against James.

Same with Bernard Hopkins. Chad Dawson made him look old in both fights. He is still an incredible specimen and one of my favorites, but I don’t ever want to see him go out the way Ali went out against Holmes.

You can add these over-40 boxers to the list: Vitali Klitschko, Anthony Tarver, Cedric Boswell, Oliver McCall, Roy Jones, jr., Nate Campbell, and Tony Thompson.

Boxing is known to be a young man’s realm. Of course there are exceptions in every sport. George Blanda played pro football until he was 48 years old. Then there is 45-year old hockey player Chris Chelios and 49-year old baseball player Jamie Moyer. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played basketball at 42. But when it comes to a hurtin’ game, there is none crueler than boxing. I, for one, have a problem watching a 45 year-old man getting punched senseless.

Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.”,

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