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WHAT IF Tyson Fought Holyfield in 1991? …MARKARIAN

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Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson had a contractual agreement to fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship on November 8th 1991. The highly anticipated event never happened because of an apparent Tyson rib injury and then later was delayed when Tyson went to prison, among other reasons.

Tuesday November 8th marked the 20 year anniversary of the planned Tyson/Holyfield fight date at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada.

A caption in the July 22, 1991 edition of Sports Illustrated: Heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield will finally fight Mike Tyson because, after much wheeling and dealing, that’s what both men what.

Mike Tyson, the 25-year-old, No. 1 contender fresh off of four dominating victories since the shocking defeat to Buster Douglas in February 1990, wanted his heavyweight title back. The above SI story said gross for the event projected over $100 million with Holyfield earning a guaranteed $30 million and Tyson $15 million guaranteed.

Tickets for the event ranged from $1200 to $200 dollars at the roughly 15,000 seat arena of Caesars Palace, where many high-profile boxing events were held at the time. Dan Duva, Holyfield’s promoter, and Don King who promoted Tyson, agreed–Tyson vs. Holyfield was to become the richest fight in boxing history.

At the time, before the handshaking and contractual finalities took place, and before the idea of prison for Tyson entered into the equation, two factors blocked Tyson/Holyfield from happening in 1991 – money and George Foreman.

Roughly twelve months before Holyfield and Tyson agreed to terms, George Foreman fought on the undercard of Tyson’s first bout since Douglas defeat against Henry Tillman in June 1990. The Tyson/Foreman twin bill idea meant to build interest for an eventual clash between the two sluggers. After Foreman’s brave losing effort versus Evander Holyfield in April 1991, Don King offered the 42-year-old former champ a $20 million purse to face Iron Mike.

Foreman and his promoter Bob Arum, refused, saying they wanted a rematch with Holyfield.

In July 1991, less than two weeks after Tyson beat Razor Ruddock for the second time, Holyfield/Tyson fight was made to the dismay of Foreman and Bob Arum. Immediately after Holyfield/Tyson signed an agreement for November 1991, Foreman with help from promoter Bob Arum filed a $100 million breach of contract suit against Holyfield.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Bob Arum received a letter from Dan Duva with contract terms for Holyfield vs. Foreman II on July 8th, 1991. Foreman was to earn $12.5 million. Arum learned the following day that Holyfield and Tyson had a contract to fight instead. An enraged Arum said, “They used (Foreman) like a fool.” Holyfield’s team had two offers for Tyson; they could accept the $15 million and fight in November or take $25 million guaranteed to face Holyfield in April, considered step aside money, allowing Holyfield to give Foreman a rematch.

Tyson took the $15 mil. Tyson told Don King, “Forget the money.” He wanted the heavyweight belt again by any means. The undefeated, undisputed champ, 29-year-old Evander Holyfield stood in his way.

Holyfield preferred Tyson over Foreman. Despite beating Douglas who beat Tyson, The Real Deal was not fully recognized as the heavyweight champion in the public eye at the time. Tyson’s loss to Douglas was viewed by many as a fluke. It seemed a matter of time before Iron Mike would be crowned king again. Leading up to the fight Holyfield said, “You can’t hide from the fact that Tyson’s the man. I wanted to fight Tyson because he was champion. Even if he was not champ now, I still want to fight him.”

The New York Times wrote that Tyson vs. Holyfield sold out in 14 days, breaking a Caesars Place record previously held by the 1987 Hagler-Leonard fight which sold out in 16 days. Although excitement was brewing for the heavyweight showdown, Tyson’s legal troubles began to surface.
On August 3, 1991, the New York Times also reported a grand jury investigation involving Mike Tyson about a complaint filed with the Indianapolis Police Department by an 18-year-old woman accusing the ex-champ of sexually assaulting her on July 19th, 1991.

The NY Times article says a representative from the Indianapolis Police Department expected a special grand jury to investigate the Tyson issue within the week.

Despite the potential roadblock of what was the richest fight in boxing history, Seth Abraham, of TVKO-PPV told the NY Times, “We are going forward, (and) awaiting developments.”

On October 20th 1991, The Chicago Tribune stated Tyson pulled out of his bout with Holyfield because of a rib injury. “The announcement came only hours after a request by Tyson to delay his rape trial was denied by Marion County (Ind.) Judge Patricia Gifford,” said the Tribune.

Meanwhile a frustrated Dan Duva told the Tribune that Tyson injured his ribs on October 8th, nearly two weeks before Tyson cancelled. Don King hoped to reschedule the event for January 20th 1992, one week before Tyson would go to trial for rape and eventually get convicted. Nothing came of it.

In the end, Foreman never got his rematch with Holyfield and Tyson had to wait four years to get another fight. But what would have happened if a close to his prime Mike Tyson took on an agile, quick, undefeated heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield? Some find pre-prison era Tyson too ferocious, others say the outcome would have been the same in ’91 as it was in 1996 and 1997 when Holyfield officially beat Mike Tyson twice. Tyson vs. Holyfield November 8th, 1991 is an argument that can never be answered but an argument nonetheless.

Evander Holyfield 26-0 vs. Mike Tyson 41-1
Opinion Poll – Below is a compilation of viewpoints on the fantasy bout from boxing writers, trainers, and fighters. Who would win a fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in November 1991?

Jack Hirsch – President of the Boxing Writers Association of America
What amazes me is that people always bring up Muhammad Ali’s three year layoff as a reason he was beaten by Joe Frazier, yet completely ignore that Tyson was out of the ring for a similar amount of time.  When Ali lost to Frazier he was 29, Tyson was 30 when beaten by Holyfield.

Had they met in 1991 when their first fight was scheduled to take place, it would have been a better Tyson for sure, but I still don’t think it would have been enough. When you get past the charisma and mystique of Tyson, Holyfield was a better fighter and much stronger mentally.  He always had this thing about wanting to prove he was superior to his great rival Tyson.  Mike did not quite have the same passion about proving he was better than Holyfield, in part because he was made out to be invincible and probably bought into it to an extent.

Holyfield on points in a good competitive fight would have been the likely result, had the two squared off in 1991 as originally planned.

Robert Guerrero – Multiple division champ and pound for pound contender
Mike Tyson had already lost to Buster Douglas so his aura of invincibility was tarnished coming into to his fight with Holyfield. As it turned out, Holyfield wasn’t intimidated when they finally fought and he defeated him.  Tyson was never the same after his loss to Douglas so no matter what, I think Holyfield would have beaten him regardless of the circumstances.

Danny Jacobs – Middleweight prospect
Personally I think Iron Mike would have beaten Evander for the simple fact that Mike already took an L. Tyson knew another loss wouldn’t be good.  He would have trained the hardest he had ever trained and would have been 100% focused. I pick Tyson, and not because I am from Brooklyn.

Thomas Hauser – Chairman of BWAA Membership Committee/Award winning author
Tyson was a better fighter before he went to prison than afterward.  But by 1991, he’d already lost to Buster Douglas and was on a downward slide.  Given what happened in the two Tyson-Holyfield fights, it’s hard to pick against Evander.  But I still think that Tyson at his best (circa 1988) was better than Evander at his best.

David Avila – West Coast Bureau Chief of TSS/Founder of Uppercut Magazine
I was very disappointed because I had a debate with a good friend of mine over this fight. For two years I had insisted that Evander Holyfield would be the guy to beat Mike Tyson if they met. We had a bet going on and it had to wait a few more years. I had always felt that Holyfield’s style and toughness was a perfect match for Tyson’s aggression. It was a perfect style match up.?

Terry Norris – Former four-time junior middleweight champion
Tyson would have knocked him out, he was too strong. And Holyfield was a very good fighter but Tyson was the man back in ‘91. Much respect to both those guys. They are two great fighters.?

Brad Cooney – CEO www.8CountNews.com
I think the same thing would have happened to Tyson in 1991 as what happened to him in 1996/97. Tyson met his match against a guy in Holyfield that had boxing skills.

Ryan Maquinana – www.Boxingscene.com
By 1991, despite two good wins over Razor Ruddock, Tyson wasn’t the same complete fighter he was when he was undisputed champ, especially after he took that first loss against Buster Douglas just a year before then. Holyfield was on a roll, stopping Douglas and decisioning Foreman before stopping a determined Bert Cooper who gave him fits early. I think I’d have to favor Holyfield if they met in ’91. But the Tyson who stopped Trevor Berbick was just an awesome machine. I think he’d beat the ’91 Holyfield.”

Lyle Fitzsimmons – www.CBSSports.com
That’s a toughie. I’m not as reverential of Mike as a lot of people. I think he lost to Buster because of the style, not because of corners or marriages or anything else. So I think a heavyweight Evander would have always been a task for him, because Evander was a better all-around fighter. That said, I think it would have been far less decisive in 1991 than it was five years later.

Ryan Songalia – www.RingTV.com
We want to believe that Mike Tyson, prior to prison, would have beaten Evander Holyfield. But the truth had been on the wall for some time. Tyson had become increasingly reckless under his Don King-appointed trainers, and basically became an explosive street fighter. Tyson had shown his defensive holes in the first fight with Frank Bruno, as well as the two fights with Ruddock. I feel that Holyfield just knew enough tricks to keep Tyson off balance and exploit the holes.

Maybe Tyson doesn’t get stopped like in the first fight years later, but I think Holyfield would have gotten him.

Tim Starks – Founder of www.Queensberry-rules.com
You can’t talk about a Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield “what if” in 1991 without rewinding to Tyson-Buster Douglas in 1990. The usual explanation for how Douglas beat Tyson was that the bully had been unmasked, that the balloon of intimidation and invulnerability finally got punctured by an inspired Douglas who had nothing to lose. I think that’s part of the way true. But spending more than one weekend watching the Tyson marathons on ESPN Classic, I always notice how much his technique degenerated from the days of Cus D’Amato to the fateful night in Japan. He had stopped bobbing and weaving so much, lost track of his body attack, and the combination punching that helped make his blend of speed and power so fearsome had all but disappeared.??On the rehab trail, Tyson rediscovered some of his form, and some of his nerve, against Razor Ruddock, where his body punching was painful to behold and he responded with grit to being rocked by Razor. That offers at least the chance that Tyson might have fared better against Holyfield than he eventually did. But we’re also talking about prime, unbeaten heavyweight Holyfield in ’91 — there were not yet any of those draining wars with Riddick Bowe that would later come, no struggles with hepatitis A. I’ll take prime heavyweight Holyfield over diminished Tyson every day. It’s just too bad we have to daydream about it, instead of getting to witness it.

Martin Mulcahey – www.Maxboxing.com

Styles makes fights, but I think timing can play an equally important factor which is why I lean slightly towards Tyson in this time-frame. From late 1990 to late 1991 Tyson fought in three month intervals, which was key to keeping Tyson focused and sharp since his style was dependent on timing. Two good wins over Razor Ruddock and evisceration of Alex Steward showed he was sharp, while at the same time Holyfield was turning in sub-par performances against Bert Cooper and Larry Holmes. This version of Tyson defeats Holyfield, but only after surviving a furious Vander comeback in the championship rounds.

Mario Ortega – www.15Rounds.com
While we will never quite know what would have happened if 1991 versions Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson would have clashed in the ring, it is my belief that “The Real Deal” would have still prevailed, much as he did 1996. With everything that was going on in his life at the time, I don’t think Tyson would have been up mentally for the challenge of a prime Holyfield. I believe Holyfield would have survived the early onslaught and out boxed Tyson down the stretch, perhaps taking a unanimous decision.

Virgil Hunter – Trainer of super middleweight champion Andre Ward
Holyfield always had the style to beat Mike Tyson. He had more boxing skill. Tyson at the time was great but Holyfield would beat him. You could just watch Holyfield’s fight with Dwight Muhammad Qawi to figure that out. Qawi obviously was not as strong as Tyson, but he threw similar combinations. Holyfield was prepared to defeat Tyson in 1991 because he fought Qawi.

Ramon Aranda – Managing Editor of www.3morerounds.com
In my opinion Tyson could have beaten Holyfield in 1991.  Now granted, Tyson had been exposed by Buster Douglas and was not the same fighter he was during his prime years as heavyweight champ.  However, he had a lot to prove and Holyfield, at that particular point in time, was quite receptive to going toe-to-toe with opponents, as we saw in his fights with Riddick Bowe, and Bert Cooper.  That type of strategy would have been his downfall.

The Holyfield we saw against Tyson in 1996 was more conservative with his punches and a better defensive fighter, which was to his benefit against an aggressive Tyson.  In 1991 however, Holyfield would have slugged it out and gotten knocked out.

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BJ Saunders Improves to 30-0 at the Expense of Mildewed Martin Murray

Arne K. Lang

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There was a time several months ago when it appeared that Billy Joe Saunders was in the driver’s seat as far as securing a match with Canelo Alvarez. The lucrative assignment went to BJ’s countryman Callum Smith, but there’s a strong possibility that Saunders and Canelo will lock horns in 2021. If so, Saunders will bring an unblemished record. Tonight, behind closed doors at Wembley Arena he advanced his ledger to 30-0 (14) with a predictably one-sided decision over UK veteran Martin Murray. Saunders was appearing in his seventh world title fight and making the second defense of his WBO 168-pound belt.

Saunders, a close friend and training partner of fellow Traveller Tyson Fury, represented England in the Beijing Olympics at the tender age of 17. Now 31 years old (but with the emotional maturity of an adolescent) he is the classic example of a cagey southpaw.  That’s another way of saying that while a purist can appreciate his artistry, he doesn’t have a fan-friendly style. He is the British equivalent of Demetrius Andrade.

Martin Murray was making his fifth stab at a world title. The 38-year-old campaigner from St. Helens, near Liverpool, previously fought Felix Sturm and Arthur Abraham in Germany, Sergio Martinez in Argentina, and Gennadiy Golovkin in Monte Carlo. His fight with Sturm ended in a draw, but that was back in 2011 and Murray has put a lot of mileage on his odometer in the interim. Tonight, that showed as he did not instinctively let his hands go when he saw an opening. The scorecards read 118-110, and 120-109 twice. Those scorecards were similar to Saunders’ tour-de-force vs. David Lemeiux, but that was an unexpected eye-opener, whereas tonight Billy Joe was expected to win as he pleased.

This may have been the last rodeo for Murray (39-6-1), five times a bridesmaid. He can leave with his head held high. Always in shape, only Golovkin was able to stop  him and it took GGG 11 rounds. BJ Saunders hopes to fight the winner of Canelo vs. Callum Smith, but there is also talk of a rematch with Chris Eubank Jr who gave him his toughest test back in 2014.

Co-Feature

In a lightweight match framed as a WBA title eliminator, James Tennyson (28-3, 24 KOs) blasted out previously undefeated Josh O’Reilly, now 16-1, in the opening round. It was the sixth straight win by TKO for Belfast’s Tennyson who moved up in weight after being stopped in the 4th round at Boston in a bid for Tevin Farmer’s IBF 130-pound title. O’Reilly, a Hamilton, Ontario native appearing in his first fight outside Canada, was on the deck twice before the referee waived off the mismatch. The official time was 2:14.

More

Twenty-eight-year-old London light heavyweight Lerrone Richards improved to 14-0 (3) in a monotonous 8-round contest with 36-year-old Finland journeyman Timo Laine, 28-14 (15). Laine fought to survive, not to win, and Richards won every round on the referee’s card.

Undefeated super middleweight Zach Parker (19-0) was scheduled to fight former Edgar Berlanga victim Cesar Nunez, a 35-year-old Spaniard, but the fight fell out when a member of Nunez’s team tested positive for the coronavirus. Parker is ranked #2 by the WBO.

Photo credit: Dave Thompson / Matchroom Boxing

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Boxing Exhibitions: Side Show, New Angle, or Something Else? Part Two

Ted Sares

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Boxing Exhibitions: Side Show, New Angle, or Something Else? Part Two

YouTuber Jake Paul (2-0) says he wants to fight English YouTuber KSI, and then maybe Ryan Garcia, Conor McGregor, and some of the top UFC fighters (using boxing rules). This comes after his recent coldcocking of former NBA star Nate Robinson.

“There is a long list of opponents that I want, you know Conor McGregor, Dillon Danis. I’m going to knock them both out.”– Paul

Jake and his brother Logan are participants in a continuing side show and the more attention they get, the more this freak show will last. In that vein, this writer will no longer mention them except to quote the following from a poster named VashDBasher: “Hopefully these exhibition matches with these retired fighters don’t get out of hand. Not to mention these youtubers with single digit fights making more money than a lot of top prospects and contenders. Boxing is turning into a sham with…”

Exhibitions: The Fire Has Been Ignited; Will It Burn?

Jorge Arce and Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. launched the tour when they faced off in September in Tijuana but it was done under the radar.

The super-hyped and much anticipated Tyson-Jones exhibition is now in the past, but already it appears that many others will take place. After all, this one—though a stylistic stinker– reportedly pulled in close to 1.2 million PPV buys!

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” – usually attributed to P. T. Barnum

Mike Tyson, coming in at a svelte 220 pounds wants to continue and asserts “my body feels splendid. I want to beat it up some more…I will do it again.” If he does, it may well happen in Europe.

Others are coming out of the woodwork sniffing around like dogs smelling Purina chow but the chow in this case is money and plenty of it. Suddenly, the “seniors tour” seems to enjoy the certainty of a Cher’s final tour. Ex- fighters like Glen McCrory, Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe, Johnny Nelson, Buster Douglas, Shannon Briggs, Erik Morales, Evander Holyfield, Marco António Barrera, and possibly Oscar De La Hoya (in a traditional comeback rather than an exhibition) are all looking to get in on the action.

 “The rumors are true, and I’m going to start sparring in the next few weeks.” –De La Hoya

The usually quiet Holyfield in particular has made a lot of noise saying among other things that, “Roy Jones was a good local opponent for Tyson, but a fight with me would be a global event and the only one fight that anyone wants to see is a fight between us. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t make it happen…”

But the “Real Deal” also has said he won’t fight for less than 25 million which is pretty much tantamount to saying he doesn’t want to fight.

Tyson vs. Holyfield III? Don’t bet on this one happening.

However, if there is money to be made, Floyd Mayweather Jr will be hovering about like a helicopter perhaps looking to fight Manny Pacquiao in a mega fight, but Manny may be looking to fight everybody’s favorite opponent, UFC star Conor McGregor. A real fight involving Floyd against a risky opponent would be of enormous interest, but keeping in mind that one of his mottos has been “my health is my wealth,” that is not something to bet on.

Ted Sares can be reached at  tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Errol Spence Jr’s Near-Death Experience Has Made Him More Well-Grounded

Bernard Fernandez

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Maybe it’s a good thing that Errol Spence Jr. had to learn the hard way that talent, like life, is a perishable commodity. Even so accomplished a world boxing champion as Spence had to discover that harsh reality in the blink of an eye, or however long as it took for his fast-moving sports car to veer out of control and produce a knockdown far more perilous than anything the man known as “The Truth” ever has had to face in the ring, or likely ever will.

The Errol Spence Jr. (26-0, 21 KOs) who puts his IBF and WBC welterweight championships on the line against two-division former titlist Danny “Swift” Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) Saturday night in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, could have, and maybe even should have, died in the early morning hours of October 10, 2019, on a virtually open stretch of highway near Interstate 30 in downtown Dallas. Spence’s white Ferrari, capable of hitting speeds up to 200 mph, went over the center median and flipped over several times. It seemed miraculous that Spence (who was cited for misdemeanor driving under the influence), who sustained significant injuries, could be ejected from the car yet somehow recover to the point where he could fight another day.

“It’s just a miracle for things to turn out like they did,” Spence has said. “For anybody to be ejected out of a Ferrari … I mean, it could have been so much worse. I could have lost a leg, an arm. I could have been paralyzed or had brain damage. I could have been killed right then and there. But I didn’t have to deal with any of that. I’m just blessed. I’m definitely going to heed this warning. You go through what I did, you definitely don’t take things for granted as I once did.”

His professional return Saturday night will not only be met with as much public anticipation as is standard for fighters occupying as elite a level as does Spence, but even more so given his career-long 14½-month layoff (his most recent bout was a 12-round split decision over Shawn Porter on September 28, 2019) and questions attendant to how well he has recovered from his near-catastrophic experience. Has the ordeal in any way diminished him physically or psychologically? Was he imprudent in choosing to forego a less-risky tune-up fight for a matchup with the very formidable Garcia, who previously has held the WBC and WBA super lightweight and WBC welterweight belts? Can he demonstrate that he still is as special a fighter as he had been before his car crashed? Or maybe even better?

Not all of the answers will be provided in the Showtime Pay-Per-View main event, but enough will be to ascertain whether Spence can still claim to be the best 147-pound fighter on the planet (as listed in The Ring magazine ratings) or, even if victorious, reveal himself to be at least somewhat damaged goods.

Not that he was prone to preening and chest-thumping before, but, if anything, Spence, although highly confident he will come away with his undefeated record extended, still presents a public posture similar to that of his understated trainer, Derrick James. That is a stark contrast to the bombast for which Garcia’s father-trainer, Angel Garcia, is noted, and has even ratcheted up a notch for this fight. Angel has even gone on record as predicting that Danny will stop Spence in seven rounds.

“He’s going to go out there and show the world what true champions are made of,” Angel said of what he expects from his son, a +340 underdog in contrast to Spence’s -450 favoritism. “Danny don’t just know how to win, he knows how to kick your ass.”

Noting that his date with Spence had already been twice-delayed, the 32-year-old Danny figures all good things come to those who wait, and his patience is about to be rewarded. “Boxing is a sport of timing,” he said. “And the time is now. I feel great. I had a tremendous camp and did everything I’m supposed to do. Now it’s time to go out there and do what I do best, and win.

“I’ve been the underdog in many fights. I don’t worry about the critics or the media. I know that I’m a great champion, and a great fighter. And that’s what I’m going to prove Saturday night.”

James, for his part, is only too glad to yield the megaphone to Angel Garcia. He’s not about to talk smack about the Garcias because, well, he believes no good can come for those who brag about what they expect to do before they do it.

“I don’t make predictions for myself or my guy, but (Angel Garcia) is supposed to believe in himself,” James said. “He’s supposed to believe in what he thinks his son is going to do. Why wouldn’t he? At the same time, we feel the exact same way. I don’t go in there saying we are going to get a knockout. I can’t predict anything like that. But I can predict that we will be victorious.

“My guy’s quiet, I’m quiet. If you believe in yourself, you don’t have to talk about it.”

Any changes in Spence might not be obvious inside the ropes, but he insists his lifestyle has undergone a radical makeover that can only serve to benefit him in the time he has left at or near the top of a brutal sport that chews up and spits out those who can’t appreciate that today’s glory can soon become tomorrow’s memory.  For one thing, he has traded a Ferrari’s massive horsepower for, well, a different sort of horse power.

“I think it did renew my focus and got me back to the thing that got me to the top of the mountain,” he said of his reconfigured priorities stemming from the accident. “After a fight I started taking a week off, then two weeks off to a month off. Now I’m grinding hard again. You realize that having this time on earth is a luxury. Being young (Spence was 29 at the time of the crash, and is now 30), you think you’re invincible. You think nothing bad can happen to you. But when something does happen to you, you realize that time is important, especially time spent with your family and loved ones.

“That’s why I actually moved out of downtown (Dallas), got a ranch with horses, cattle and things like that. I got a pool and I’m outside with my kids. I just had a newborn son.”

Still, Spence knows that saying he’s as good, or better, than he previously had been is not going to convince any doubting Thomases until he delivers the goods. Danny Garcia, proud and tough, poses the test he needs to pass before any lingering suspicions can be laid to rest.

“I’m a realist,” Spence said. “I know people have a lot of questions. Am I still the same? Am I a shadow of myself? Those are questions that need to be answered.”

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