Nikolai Valuev retained his WBA heavyweight title with a close majority decision against Evander Holyfield. In front of a boisterous sell-out crowd of 12,500 fans in Zurich, the Russian Giant was ahead 116-112 and 115-114 on two scorecards, while the third judge called the bout a 114-114 draw. “It was an honour for me to fight a legend like Evander Holyfield,” Valuev said. “He proved that he is a great boxer. It was a very close and a very fast fight.”
A victory would have made Holyfield the oldest heavyweight champion of all time, and the 46-year-old started out strongly, surprising Valuev with his speed and movement in the early rounds. “Niko was very cautious at the beginning,” coach Alexander Zimin stated. “That was exactly what he needed to be against someone like Evander Holyfield, who is very experienced and has a great tactical knowledge. It would have taken a bad ending for us if Nikolai had tried to attack him from the first bell on. After five rounds he slowly adjusted to the pace and Holyfield´s style. Our tactics worked better from that point on.”
Valuev controlled the center of the ring throughout the entire fight, but his long left jab – and also his big right – found the target more often from round six on. He also seemed to get the better of a spirited exchange in the ninth round. The Russian Giant then shifted up one gear towards the end and a good last round gave him the final edge on the scorecards. “It was a very close fight and a draw would have been all right,” manager Wilfried Sauerland said. “Like I predicted it was a battle between Holyfield´s great boxing skills and Niko´s size. I think that Holyfield won the first six and Valuev won the last six rounds. But Evander did not fight like a challenger in the second half of the fight. He only ran away and never punched. That is not how you win a title.”
The living legend, who received great support from the Swiss fans, was pleased with his performance. “I am honoured to have had the opportunity to fight for the title. It was a good fight,” he said. “Of course I am disappointed. I thought I had won the fight, I thought I had won more rounds than he did but I did not get the decision.” The four-time champion stated that Valuev was much faster than he had anticipated. “His hands are not as slow as people think,” he added. “He is very hard to hit because he is so big. He had a pretty good defence by the way he positioned his body, he is a hard target to hit.”I was trying to do the things my corner asked me to do by moving him around, when I did I was able to catch him off guard.“I have a history of proving people wrong and I think I showed tonight that I can still perform.”
Holyfield said he will take his time to consider his future options. “Now I will just have to go home, rest and think about my future. My goal is to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. I am not interested in fighting for the sake of fighting, I want to be a champion again.”
Maybe we will get a second chance against Valuev in Zurich. “It was a great event here in Switzerland with a fantastic crowd,” Sauerland Event managing director Chris Meyer said. “Holyfield was impressive and the close result makes a rematch a possibility. But Nikolai has to fight Chagaev first. There is no need for Chagaev to fight a different opponent before because Nikolai is ready and waiting for him. After that, we will see what happens.”
On the undercard, Francesco Pianeta defended the EU heayweight belt with a unanimous points victory over previously undefeated Johann Duhaupas. The judges scored the bout 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113. “It was the first time I went the full 12 rounds so it was a very good experience for me,” the 24-year-old said.