| Evander Holyfield (left) and Nikolai Valuev during their WBA heavyweight bout in Zurich on Saturday |
Evander Holyfields loss to 7ft Russian Nikolei Valuev has added another chapter of controversy to the 46-year-olds colourful life. His management team demanded a rematch after Valuev retained his title with a majority points decision on Saturday night.
The ringside judges gave victory to Valuev 115-114, 116-112 and 114-114. But as ring announcer Michael Buffer revealed the scores, condemnation rang out in boxing circles, and from the spectators in the arena.
Holyfield, who would have become the oldest heavyweight champion in history had he won the World Boxing Association title, ruled out retirement, while his management team insisted their man had been robbed.
We are not suggesting anything underhand that might have gone on, but we do strongly disagree with the way the judges saw the fight, Ken Sanders, his manager, said. Thomas Brooks, the American fighters coach, added: Everyone who saw it knows he won that fight.
Holyfield, who now has 10 defeats on his career record of 42 fights, was gracious in defeat. He said: I thought I had won the fight, I thought I had won more rounds than he did. My goal is to be heavyweight champion of the world, I am not interested in fighting for the sake of it, I want to be a champion again. That hasnt changed.
Holyfield has strong financial incentives to seek a rematch with Valuev. There are support payments of $500,000 annually for his 11 children, concerns over his health, a lost fortune of $250 million, and the upkeep of his 109-room mansion and grounds in Atlanta to consider.
Wilfried Sauerland, Valuevs promoter, said a return fight is possible. It was a very close fight and a draw might have been all right. As I predicted it was a battle between Holyfields great boxing skills and Valuevs size. 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.
Yet Holyfield ended a whisker away on the judges cards from winning the title. Had he won the final round — rather than Valuev on all three judges cards — the result would have been reversed.
But this was tiresome fare. Valuev was one-dimensional and Holyfield fought only in bursts as he danced on his toes for 12 rounds, avoiding the Russians right hand. It was Valuevs jab that shaded the fight for him. The atmosphere was only heightened by the novelty element for a 12,500-strong Swiss crowd willing 11-1 underdog Holyfield to an improbable victory.
Inspite of landing flush on Valuevs jaw with overhand left and rights, Holyfield could not emulate the knockout which a 45-year-old George Foreman executed on Michael Moorer, in Las Vegas in 1994, to become the oldest winner of a heavyweight belt.