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Twenty Six Years Ago Holyfield Started His Journey

Rick Folstad



Holyfield-Williams_posterAnyone here think Holyfield could pull it off, get another title crack and grab a belt?Pop quiz: Who is Lionel Byarm and what does he have to do with aging fighters, auspicious beginnings, world championships and the 1984 Olympics?

Hint: He’s a former cruiserweight out of Philadelphia nicknamed The Boiler. In the 1980s he fought several times at the old Blue Horizon.


Give up? Lionel Byarm was the guy Evander Holyfield beat in his pro debut back on Nov. 15, 1984 in Madison Square Garden.

If you didn’t know the answer – if you didn’t know Lionel Byarm from Lionel Barrymore –  don’t worry. That’s a healthy sign.

If you did know who Byarm is and you‘re not a close friend or a family member, you’ve been spending too much time reading boxing publications and hanging around boxing gyms.

Remember the year 1984?  Well, some of you do. That’s the year my 26-year-old son was born.

Twenty-six years.

Ronald Reagan was president, Amadeus won the Oscar for best picture, and some of the hit songs of the year included “Jump” by Van Halen, “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr., and “When Doves Cry,” by the singer formerly known as Prince.

And Holyfield made his pro debut, winning a six-round decision over Byarm.

Reagan is no longer with us, Byarm retired from the ring 22 years ago, the songs are all golden oldies, and Holyfield is somehow still at it, still mixing it up. Still chasing after world heavyweight titles at the staggering age of 48.

Does Bernard Hopkins know about this guy?

Holyfield is set to defend his World Boxing Federation heavyweight title against Sherman “Tank” Williams on Jan. 22 on pay-per-view from The Greenbrier’s’ Colonial Hall in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It’s a rare match-up between a guy who is very old in fighter years against a guy who is just a little old in fighter years.

Williams is only 38, making him a spring chicken compared to “The Real (old) Deal.“

The fight is called “Redemption in America: The Journey Begins Now,” which is a catchy slogan until you realize it’s a little late for Holyfield to be starting out on any kind of journey. He’s at that age where going to the kitchen for a cold beer can seem like a long trip for some of us.

What the journey refers to is Holyfield’s quest to become heavyweight champion of the world. Again.

I think a better slogan would have been, “Retirement in America: It’s been a Fun Ride, But I‘m Tired Now and Going to Bed.“

Twenty-six years.

That’s a long time to be lacing them up until you realize Holyfield has only had 55 fights in that period, which averages out to about two fights a year. Not a busy dance card. Willie Pep had almost 70 fights just between 1952 and 1958. Wear and tear shouldn’t be a major problem.

Holyfield is like Hopkins. He’s one of those aging legends you kind of forget about until they’re suddenly scheduled for another fight. That’s when you scratch your head and say, “Didn’t he retire two years ago?“

Nope. He’s just been waiting for the right time and the right fight.

As for Williams, he doesn’t bring to mind one of the Klitschkos. Maybe the best thing you can say about him is that he went the distance – an eight-rounder – against former world champion Ruslan Chagaev, who is about as well-known in this country as my mailman.

Still, Williams is looking at this fight as a chance to beat a future Hall of Famer.

“I’m excited about this fight,“ he said. “Not just because I’m fighting Holyfield, but what beating him impressively or knocking him out can do for me. It can get me in a better position to fight Vitali Klitschko or David Haye. They’ve been fighting hand-picked looney tunes. January 22 is going to be great with me beating Holyfield and taking the WBF title.“

I wouldn’t get too cocky, Sherman. You lost to Tye Fields and Obed Sullivan. I don’t think you’ll make Vitali’s to-do list even if you somehow beat Holyfield.

And don’t sell the old guy short. He’s been fighting all his life and if he’s gotten soft, he isn’t the same Holyfield most of us remember.

Twenty six years? That’s peanuts.


2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura



The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.



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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score



This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.


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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland



On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda


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