Is Holyfield still the real deal or will Fres reign surpreme?

By Rea Frey


Is Holyfield still the real deal or will Fres reign surpreme?

Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield has beaten the likes of Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Larry Holmes, Michael Moorer and George Foreman. In recent years, his age and injuries have left many questioning if he still has what it takes to become a true champion. Though his last several fights have been peppered by losses, Holyfield is coming off a victory and still has the desire to become the undisputed heavyweight champion. His first step is in taking on top contender Fres Oquendo Friday, November 10, 2006 in San Antonio, Texas. The younger Oquendo is strong, virile and prepared for the challenge at hand. Today, both fighters discussed their plans for the upcoming bout broadcast by M&M sports, available through pay-per-view distributed by Fox.

Holyfield began. “I feel that I recovered from the injuries that I had back then and where I’m at now, I’m a lot better than what people have seen me in four or five years. I’m looking forward to the fight Friday on the 10th and everybody can judge it themselves. It’s kind of strange to explain that I’m this or I’m that when they can check it out themselves. It’s a rebirth. I’m a lot better. Back then, I had three shoulder surgeries. The three opponents that I lost against shows they were a lot better than I thought they were. Chris Byrd, James Toney and Larry Donald. I’ve suffered three setbacks for that decision to fight when I was injured but I’m back now. I trained hard for this fight. It’s my season. I can’t be denied when it’s my season. Only one person can have a season at a time. It’s my season.”

Oquendo spoke next. “My career has been great. In the past, I’ve been blackballed by the powers in boxing [he was inactive for about two years]. I have a new promoter. A new manager. A fighter needs a little time off sometimes. I’ve been fighting for nineteen years straight and I’m still young. I’m only human. Come Friday you’ll see a motivated, focused Fres Oquendo. I’m training hard. I’m focused. I’m going to get that title that’s been taken away from me my last two title tries. I’m going to be spectacular and God willing, we both come out with great health.”

A reporter asked how many fights Holyfield thinks he has left in him and what he thinks of the current Russian flavor in the heavyweight division. “Actually,” he answered, “I take one at a time. I am ready for this one and you know, realistic, I’m a person that looks at all my setbacks. I understand what the problem was. I solved the problems so the only thing I have to do now is solve the problem Friday. Come out and fight the way I know I can fight. I’m the head of my family, so everybody in the family knows they don’t talk against the head! We all win, we all lose. That’s just how it is in my house. With me, I’ve realized there are a lot of good fighters that just haven’t gotten the opportunity to do so. I just hope I get my opportunity before they get theirs. I’m not wishing anybody bad luck, but I just hope I get my opportunity where I can just close this chapter out and allow whoever’s next to be next.”

Fres countered. “This is my time. He’s had a great opportunity, he’s had his great runs. I used to train in my gym, Hamlin Park in Chicago, and I used to see posters on the walls and one of them was Holyfield, and I never thought I’d be fighting him – he’s a legend. That’s why I’m just so hungry for the glory of this heavyweight championship that he’s already experienced several times. Come Friday it’s just going to be another day in the office. I work hard, I’m a very technical fighter. Overall, this is my moment of time to shine.”

On questions of why people doubt him, Holyfield responded: “My belief is just that a lot of people think good guys finish last. They say, ‘He’s old now. He don’t have the youth that he used to.’ And they’re right. But what I’ve gained is more knowledge. I know how to fight, I know when to fight. I know when not to fight. I don’t make as many mistakes as I used to. I think I’m more of a full package than I was. I fought good fights all the time. Sometimes I would make bad decisions and make fights closer than they needed to be. But I’ve got just as much energy as when I was young because I’ve learned how to fight smartly. I’m hoping that I won’t have to fight them all,” Holyfield continues, referring to all of the current heavyweights. “My hope is that this fight here will be so sensational and grow so much money that they will have to do what I tell them to do. That they’ll have to fight each other and then the best one fights me. I just request that this fight be so great. Realistic, Fres is a good fighter. He’s a technical fighter, but with me, I realize I tend to bring out the best out of all fighters. I’m looking for something I don’t know. I don’t know what to expect. I realize that all I need to do is to look better than my opponent. I promise I will look better. I’m still not as big as everybody but I can fight everybody. I’m sure I can go out and make this fight great. I think we complement each other in our styles, and it will be a graceful fight.”

Fres spoke briefly on what he feels gives him the edge. “My confidence and my work ethic and the mental phase of my life. I’m 100% mentally ready. I learned that boxing is 80% mental and 20% physical. I got 5 beautiful kids that I dearly miss and love. My mother-in-law just recently passed. I miss her so much. She was like my second mother. I don’t take nobody lightly even though he’s up there in age. It will be the Holyfield of the 90s and the Oquendo of now.”

One reporter asked Holyfield what he initially expected to become in boxing after emerging from the Olympics. “When I came back from the Olympics in 1984,” he began, “they asked me – what are your plans when you retire? I told them I’d retire at age 28. That’s what I told them. What happened when I turned 28, I became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Somebody reminded me that I was supposed to retire then, but I was 21 when I said that, and I thought 28 was old! I wasn’t about to give it up when I was the champion. At age 8, my coach Carter Morgan told me if I didn’t quit, I would be heavyweight champion of the world. I worked for 20 years to get there. I got tired in 1992. Riddick Bowe beat me. When I came back, I said I’m going to get my belts back. In beating Riddick Bowe, I had two of the belts back. My next fight was with Michael Moorer. When Michael Moorer beat me, I knew I couldn’t retire until I became heavyweight champion of the world one more time. I’d held the title three times but never undisputed. If I have to stay here until 50, I will! I will become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. I do think I will have that by 2008. I’ve taken care of my body. I didn’t live a hard life. I came from a hard neighborhood, but my life hasn’t been hard. I didn’t burn the counter for 4 cents.”

On his recent fighting restrictions which included a suspension imposed by New York after a loss there to Larry Donald, Holyfield said, “I can go anywhere and fight. The only restriction was New York. When you’re not invited, don’t go. All you have to do is pass an exam. How in the world do you pass the exam and still not be able to fight in New York? It just keeps them from making money.”

Both fighters thanked the press and assured them it would be a worthwhile fight. Tune in November 10, 2006 on Fox’s pay-per-view to see if Holyfield is still the real deal or if the younger Fres Oquendo has what it takes to beat a legend.