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Articles of 2009

The Fascinating Dynamic Between Evander Holyfield And Tyson

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This past Friday Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson appeared together on the Oprah Winfrey show. Tyson was Oprah's guest on Monday, October 12th and was there to talk about the recent documentary released earlier this year on his life, “Tyson.” During the interview Winfrey asked Mike why he bit Evander Holyfield's ear twice during their rematch. Tyson answered saying that he was mad that Holyfield was head-butting him and was pissed because Holyfield was such a great fighter and he desperately wanted to beat him.

When Tyson was asked if he apologized to Evander afterward, he said he did but he didn't mean it and just did so to quiet the people around him who thought it was the politically correct thing to do. Tyson went on to say that he wished he and Holyfield could sit down and talk so he could sincerely apologize to Evander. Holyfield was watching the show and called Winfrey's producers and said he'd be willing to sit down and talk to Mike if he wanted.

“I wanted to tell the kids if we can come together, we know you can come together,” Holyfield said. And that they did. When Evander was introduced he and Mike shook hands and embraced each other. Although Tyson said he was going to apologize but never really did, Evander said he forgave Mike a long time ago. In place of apologizing, Tyson spoke of his admiration for Holyfield saying, “I want the world to know that this is a beautiful guy, I just want you to know it's just been a pleasure…..being acquainted with you.”

Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield first crossed paths at the 1984 Olympic Trials. At that time Tyson was viewed as a terror and was having a hard time getting other amateurs to spar with him. Cus D'Amato, who knew a thing or two about subterfuge, played that out to it's maximum; he instructed his minions to spread the rumor that Mike was Sonny Liston's illegitimate son, which wasn't a terribly outlandish assertion being that Tyson was born in 1966 and Liston passed away in 1970.

The rumor only added to the Tyson legend. But light heavyweight Evander Holyfield was one of the few amateurs who had no qualms about getting into the ring and doing battle with Tyson. And according to most reports, (two coming from fighters who made the 1984 Olympic boxing team and were there, Meldrick Taylor and Tyrell Biggs) Tyson got the worst of it just as often as Holyfield did. And remember Tyson was 25 pounds heavier than Holyfield at that time. So Mike knew for a long time that Evander not only harbored no trepidation about fighting him, but always believed he could beat him if they ever fought.

Another thing came out during the Oprah Winfrey show, and that was how Tyson took notice how Evander took apart the heavily favored Ricky Womack twice to make the Olympic team. Prior to their box-off, Womack was viewed as a killer and Holyfield was thought of as being just a stepping stone. However, Evander beat Womack twice in 24 hours and that marked his arrival, which Tyson took note of. Most forget when Tyson and Holyfield met the first time there was no demand for the fight – even Don King tried to talk Mike out of it because Holyfield looked so terrible in his last two bouts versus Riddick Bowe and Bobby Czyz. Only Tyson was the driving force behind the fight and insisted King make it or he would. During the show Tyson said he viewed Holyfield as his biggest rival. In other words Holyfield was to Tyson what Joe Frazier was to Muhammad Ali and the fighter he'd most be measured against historically.

More than that Tyson felt it was safe to meet Holyfield now and thought it was the perfect time for them to get together since their 1991 scheduled fight was interrupted due to Tyson injuring his rib and then going to prison. In 1991 Holyfield was the champ and Tyson had no choice but to fight him if he wanted to regain the title he lost to Buster Douglas in 1990. Holyfield, like Frazier, wasn't the least bit intimidated by the superstar fighter of his generation and always believed he had the superstar's number. One of the biggest dynamics that was missed and didn't get much coverage during the Ali-Frazier trilogy was how much it bothered Ali that Frazier wasn't the least bit awed by his presence and reputation, something which drove Ali more to look for an angle possible to try to unravel Joe.

Although Ali couldn't get to Frazier, he never lost his confidence or questioned whether he was the greater fighter, as opposed to Tyson who hit Holyfield after the bell rang to end the first round of their first fight, and was dismayed when Holyfield practically climbed over the top of referee Mitch Halpern and clubbed him with a right hand to the head. At that moment Tyson got the message that just as it was in the amateurs, Holyfield had no fear of him whatsoever and showed up with the sole intention of winning the fight.

Holyfield, who turned pro five months before Tyson, always played second fiddle to Mike. Unfortunately that's still in play today mainly because Tyson's hand speed, accuracy and power made him more identifiable and thought of as a great fighter. But Evander has always been the tougher fighter mentally and never sat in awe of any fighter. Holyfield came back to win a lot of fights where things weren't going his way – Mike never did once in his career. Who can forget when Riddick Bowe had Evander all but out in the tenth round of their first fight and by the end of the round Bowe was hanging on and was looking for the bell to end the round.

What I'm about to say isn't going to go over well with some, but it's astonishing how it's said in some boxing circles that Holyfield never met the real Mike Tyson when they fought. Really? If that's so, why did Holyfield need medical clearance from the Mayo clinic before their first bout could be sanctioned? And if that's not such a big deal someone please pass along the last time a challenger needed medical clearance before he could fight the heavyweight champion because he was thought to be so unfit physically based on his two preceding fights? In addition to that Holyfield is four years older than Tyson and had a much tougher and less brilliantly managed career. If anything Tyson didn't fight the best Holyfield more-so than the opposite. Actually Evander resurrected his career off of his two stoppage wins over Tyson and only looked like the great fighter he was once after beating Tyson in their rematch. And that was in his next fight against Michael Moorer five months later.

Throughout his entire career Tyson was always given the benefit of the doubt for a loss or poor showing that other fighters never get. The score and result count more in combat sports than it does in any other sport because it's man vs. man. History says Holyfield is 2-0 versus Tyson and must rank as the greater fighter. If winning doesn't matter then why bother keeping score?

Evander Holyfield is one of the toughest fighters mentally and emotionally in boxing history, and Mike Tyson will be the first to admit it. When they were sitting next to each other on the set of the Oprah Winfrey show, Mike sat there and grabbed Evander's wrist a few times in a sign of unity. Yet Evander never once tried to warm up to Mike, and that's because he's a harder and colder man and doesn't know what it's like to be in awe of another fighter. Mike Tyson seemed to need Holyfield's approval whereas Evander Holyfield doesn't need or seek the approval of any fighter. When Tyson looked at Holyfield it was if he thought to himself 'you are really a tough bastard and I respect that.' Whereas Evander came across suggesting you're another top fighter who I had to go through and beat, and I always knew I could. Although I'm sure some will just brush Mike's deportment as being nothing more than him having mellowed, because in their perfect world Tyson feared no fighter.

And for those who may think this opinion is reading tea-leaves, how many times did you watch Tyson before a fight and just know you saw fear in his opponents' eyes? Mike Tyson was an all-time great heavyweight champion, but Evander Holyfield was the tougher and greater fighter and must rank at least one slot above him. Due to their mental makeup Mike Tyson could never beat the best version of Evander Holyfield who fought as a heavyweight, something that came out in two fights when Holyfield was the fighter more on the decline, and it was rather obvious watching them interact as 43 and soon to be 47 year old men.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

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Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

Ten Boxing Wishes For 2010

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As 2009 comes to a close, one reflects on what went well and what went wrong during the year in boxing. There were many highlights. Pacquiao vs. Cotto and Showtime’s Super Six tournament were part of the best that boxing had to offer. But there were some low points too therefore the industry has some work to do in order to keep generating fans. Here are some suggestions for 2010:

10. Better pay per view cards

Paying 40 to 50 bucks to watch the main event gets old real quick. Why do we have to sit through a horrible under-card to get to the main course? It’s like being fed spam appetizers before the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems that the pay per view promoters just don’t get it. Are they watching what they put on or do they only watch the “big fight” as everyone else is slowly being conditioned to do so?

9. Time to make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight

Okay, I understand he’s the son of one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. But he’s had 42 fights against low to mid level competition and has never managed to look spectacular. It’s time to throw the 23 year old out of the nest to see if he can fly. My suggestion is a fight against Sergio Mora or maybe even Yuri Foreman. Neither of these guys can punch. They may outbox Junior but they won’t totally humiliate him.

8. No more ridiculous Pay Per View mismatches

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez should’ve never been made. It was a ridiculous fight when it was announced and it was more ridiculous when it took place. Unable to bring Manny Pacquiao to the bargaining table for a third match against Juan Manuel Marquez, someone figured that pairing up the 135 pound champion against a natural 147 pounder like Mayweather would be a great idea. The pay per view generated over a million buys but the fact that millions of people were treated to an incredibly boring mismatch is what’s truly worrisome. I can guarantee you one thing about this card. The sport of boxing lost fans once the show was over and done with. Talk about short term thinking.

7. Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola shows up for a fight in amazing shape

It was painful to see Chris Arreola take a beating from the Ukrainian giant, Vitali Klitscho. The champion certainly earned his “Dr. Ironfist” moniker as he plowed his powerful shots into the former #1 WBC heavyweight contender’s face. He reddened and bloodied the young Mexican American with an assortment of weapons and foot movement seldom seen on a six foot seven inch heavyweight. Arreola was brave and unrelenting in battle. He never stopped coming forward and took chances when he could. His work in the ring at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t the problem. Where Arreola let himself down was outside the ring. His unwillingness to condition himself into a finely tuned athlete cost him certain immortality as the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican descent. Arreola has the heart and skills but it was his mental fortitude that broke down. Anyone who’s followed the Riverside fighter knows that his best weight is somewhere in the 230 pound range. It certainly isn’t at the 252 pounds he registered on the scale at the Staples Center.  Those fifteen to twenty extra pounds might have made all the difference in the world. Maybe he would’ve been a little quicker, maybe he could’ve sustained a faster pace in order to tire out the champion. In his most recent fight against Brian Minto, Arreola weighed in at a career high 263. It looks like “The Nightmare” isn’t willing to change for anyone. At this pace, the only nightmares he’ll be providing will be to the management of Hometown Buffets all across Riverside.  Just kidding “Nightmare”!

6. More respect for the lighter weights

Real boxing fans know that the most exciting fighters in the sport are usually found toiling in weight divisions south of 154 pounds. Pacquiao, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez, Juan Ma Lopez, Vic Darchinyan, Rafael Marquez and countless others have been the real driving force behind this sport. It’s those great fighters that have made boxing fanatics out of casual fans. The heavyweights may get all the money and glory but it’s the little guys who make the sport shine and it’s time they received greater compensation. It’s dismaying to think that a mediocre heavyweight can make three or four times as much as the great Rafael Marquez.

5. An American Heavyweight champion

Speaking of heavyweights, two Americans tried and failed at dethroning Vitali Klitschko this year. Both Kevin Johnson and Chris Arreola did their best to wrestle the belt away from “Dr. Klitschko” but came up short since they were easily outclassed. What happened to the great American Heavyweight? Where’s our new Joe Frazier or Ali? Even a new Gerry Cooney or a Ken Norton would do at this point. I’ve got a feeling that the only way we’re going to see an American champion is if Klitschko retires. My money is on Arreola. Although undisciplined and rough outside the ring, he’s got tons (no pun intended) of natural talent. He’s without a doubt the most talented American heavyweight on the scene.

4. More ShoBox

The Showtime Cable network gave us the best boxing on TV for the price of a cable television subscription. Their ShoBox series has been a proven hit for Senior VP of Sports Programming Ken Hershman. The concept is simple yet brilliant. Match up two up and comers with great records and let’s see what happens. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many have passed the ShoBox test and went on to bigger and better things. Others have been exposed as having padded records and eventually their careers stall and take a dive.

3. More safety in Mexico so I can attend a show without a gun battle breaking out

Having lived near the Tijuana border all my life I’m dismayed at the war zone that the city has evolved into. Every day there are reports of shootings fueled by the drug war trade. Believe it or not, there was a time when Tijuana was safe and most wouldn’t have thought twice about crossing the border for some seafood and nightlife. No more. Having covered several boxing cards on Revolucion Avenue many years ago, I got a taste of just how important the sport is to Mexican fans. It’s also important to me but not that important. For now I’ll stick to covering shows at the Pechanga Casino and in the less dangerous city of L.A. I never thought I’d say that.

2. Pac Man vs. Mayweather

This is the fight everyone wants to see. Seeing how Mayweather dominated Pac Man’s arch enemy, Juan Manuel Marquez, you have to wonder if the Filipino can handle Lil’ Floyd’s speed and size. One thing is for sure, betting against Pacquiao doesn’t usually work out for me. It never has. There’s no future in it. So if the fight gets done it’s Pacquiao by TKO in ten.

1. And finally

One final wish is reserved for all the readers of TheSweetScience.com I wish you all a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the site. It’s very much appreciated.

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Articles of 2009

A Very Special New Year's Day Column

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It has been just over four months since Nick Charles, the play-by-play announcer for Shobox: The New Generation, was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer and forced to take a medical hiatus from the monthly show that has aired since 2001.

Since then he has undergone grueling chemotherapy treatments that have resulted in him losing all of his hair as he forces himself to live as normal of a life as possible. Through sheer force of will, as well as the strength and support that he receives from his wonderfully loving family and his strong Christian faith, the 63-year-old Charles has managed to keep his weight up while not falling prey to the always lingering threats of depression, cynicism and negativity.

If one was unaware that he was battling such an insidious disease, you’d never know from talking on the phone to him that he has been to hell and back. He has lost none of the inspiring energy that has endeared him to members of the boxing community and legions of worldwide viewers.

“I’m doing great,” Charles said during a telephone conversation on December 30th. “I’ve been off the chemo for a month, and the doctors have told me that I’m 80 percent in remission. I’m going to see them again in three months. It may come back, but if it takes one year, or two years, or however long, I’m going to make the most of the good time.”

As physically and emotionally wrenching as the grim diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been, even for someone as perpetually positive as Charles, the longtime announcer said a lot of good things have come from it.

Having been married three times, Charles is the father of four children: Jason, 38, Melissa, 34, Charlotte, 22, and Giovanna, 3 ½.

While Charles is not big on regrets, he is the first to admit that he wasn’t always there for his older children. For many years he traveled the world as a CNN correspondent, often putting the demands of his career above all else, including those closest to him. Nowhere was the strain more evident than in his relationship with Melissa.

Having been divorced from Melissa’s mother since 1977, Charles said his relationship with that daughter has been especially “hot and cold, all of our lives.”

His illness has enabled them to forge a relationship that has been “based on a massive amount of forgiveness and understanding.”

“This has had a tremendous healing effect on both of us,” said Charles. “My illness has had a fortifying effect on a lot of things, the most important of which is my relationships with my family.”

That also includes his first wife, with whom he has had an often acrimonious relationship over the past three decades.

“It took a long time for the scab to become a scar, but we had lunch one day and it was so great to once again see the gentle, soft sides of each other,” he explained. “The whole divorce process creates a hardness that doesn’t always go away.”

Charles is also the grandfather to three children, some of whom are about the same age as his youngest daughter. He jokes that he has a “nuclear 21st century family” because of the similar ages of two generations of children. One of the hardest things for him has been the realization that he can’t always play with them in manner in which he would like.

“The hemoglobin is the fuel in your tank, so when it’s low you can’t will yourself to do things no matter how much you want to,” said Charles. “You can’t just sleep it off or work through it. I don’t want the kids to wonder why I can’t play in the backyard with them, or kick a soccer ball, or throw them in the air.”

Particularly difficult is when Giovanna reminds her father of how handsome he is, but then innocently asks him what happened to his hair, eyebrows and lashes.

“You try to keep things on a need to know basis, which is not easy when dealing with curious kids,” said Charles.

While Charles might look like the kind of guy that things have often come easy to, the reality is that his beginnings were far from auspicious. But, he says, his often challenging Chicago childhood blessed him with the steely resolve that has helped him so much during the arduous journey he is now on.

“I had it pretty rough growing up,” he explained. “I remember the lights and the heat being shut off and eating mustard sandwiches. I went to work at 13 and always had insecurities about the future. But I always expected and saw the best in people, so when I got sick, never once did I say 'Why me?”

Since taking a leave of absence from Shobox, the outpouring of support from the boxing community has warmed Charles’s heart. For a guy that is battling for his life, he actually considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by so much goodness in both his personal and professional lives.

“I always hear that boxing people are ruthless, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Charles. “I’ve probably received about 1,000 e-mails, and people are always following in sending their best wishes. From the relatively unknown people in boxing to many of the more famous people, there has been an outpouring of true affection.”

Charles said that the Top Rank organization has been exceedingly kind and gracious. He was touched beyond description when he learned that officials in Oklahoma got special permission to have a seamstress sew “Keep Fighting Nick” onto their sleeves. He chokes up when talking about cut man Stitch Duran giving up an endorsement opportunity so he could put Charles’s name on his outfit. He never tires of hearing shout-outs from fighters on television.

Charles has always been a people person with an inordinate faith in the goodness of his fellow man. Battling this illness has only made his already strong faith in humanity even stronger.

“Adversity is a great teacher, and it really teaches you who your genuine friends are,” said Charles. “I have a lot of friends.”

He also has a remarkable wife, Cory, a CNN producer to whom he has been married for 11 years. She is the daughter of an electrician, a self-made woman who exudes all of the warmth of her native Brooklyn. She has reinforced her husband’s spiritual base by her love, optimism and strength of character.

“If I get down, she reminds me to not get too caught up,” said Charles. “I believe in eternity, and that has put me pretty much at peace.”

More than anything else, Charles wants to get himself back behind a microphone sooner rather than later, and hopefully on Shobox. He is the first to admit that viewers “don’t watch the series to see Nick Charles,” but he is proud of the fact that he was “part of the identity” of such a popular show.

“And people love comeback stories,” added Charles. “That’s the message I’m getting from the people out there.”

In boxing the word “champion” is often overused because it pertains only to winning belts and receiving worldwide recognition for being the best at your craft. The reality is that life’s real champions have other qualities, such as the innate ability to treat people well and always make them feel better about themselves, especially when the recipients of the goodwill are in no position to give them anything back.

By that standard of measure, Charles is as much, if not more of a champion than all of the boxers he has covered during the nine years that Shobox has been on the air.

I know I speak for scores of others when I say, “Happy New Year, Champ. We hope that you are the comeback story of the year in 2010.”

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