The “Next Level” For Holyfield? Are You Kidding?


A quick look at the odds for Saturday’s fight for the “geriatric” heavyweight title overseas:

BetUS Boxing Odds

Heavyweights
May 7 — Copenhagen
EVANDER HOLYFIELD -600
BRIAN NIELSEN +400

Under 9.5 Rounds -200
Over 9.5 Rounds +160

There was a headline on an Associated Press story this week that said “Holyfield Eyes A Championship Bout.” Well, of course he does. Everybody does. And the guys who have no business being in such a fight are the ones who seem to get the loudest about it.

Holyfield is fighting Brian Nielsen, who you may remember from years ago in Denmark. Well, you’d have to remember him from years ago because he hasn’t fought in years – nine to be exact. They’re asking quoting Evander saying things like, “If I win, I am moving to the next level,” which demonstrates that the AP will write almost anything if you stroke them the right way.

Maybe I shouldn’t speak too loudly about that, as Holyfield has actually been given three shots at a heavyweight title after the age of 40. All told, he has been unsuccessful in his last five heavyweight championship fights. I don’t have anything against Holyfield continuing to fight, because unlike a lot of the bleeding hearts out there (especially those who like to refer to these guys as “noble warriors” but don’t feel should have human qualities like independence of thought), I figure he has the right to make his own decisions.

But when it comes to selling the idea that he is, or would be, deserving of a title fight, based on his performance in Saturday’s fight, then it becomes my business, sort of. Evander Holyfield should not be elevated to a championship opportunity based on winning a fight where you have to lay -600 (6-to-1) on him, as you do at BetUS, for example. In fact, the notion is kind of insulting.

I know nothing of Brian Nielsen’s financial situation; in other words, whether he is coming out of retirement because he really needs the payday. I imagine if he’s training properly, he’s a “gym fight” or two, which would be something of a genuine simulation, sort of like what Henry Maske did when he came out of ten-year retirement four years ago to do a one-off against Virgil Hill.

But it’s not like this is a former champion, or even a very formidable fighter, who is coming out of mothballs to fight Holyfield. Nielsen has fought a number of recycled names, almost all of whom were over-the-hill, generally on his home turf, and not without much controversy. The legitimacy of many of his fights was openly questioned, perhaps none more than his fifth-round TKO of Jeremy Williams in April 2000, which was suspected to be a fix from some members of the Danish media who launched an investigation, which included a rather cryptic televised interview with Williams himself that just fueled suspicion. In a companion piece, we go into that in more depth.

Nielsen had been knocked out once in his career (maybe by “accident”) by Dickie Ryan (a loss he later avenged), but in his one true test, Nielsen was stopped in seven rounds by a comebacking Mike Tyson in his own backyard (October 2001). So even though the guy has a 64-2 record, don’t go overboard on what this fight really means for the career of Holyfield, should he win it.

Leave a Comment

More Columns