Will boxing get a much needed shot-in-the-arm - or another black eye - on Saturday night when Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis try once again to unify the heavyweight championship of the world when they square off at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas?
The scheduled 12-round title fight highlights a pay-per-view card that features three other world title fights but all the attention is on the big fight. It seems that this last big fight of the '90s has a lot riding on it in addition to determining who is the undisputed heavyweight champion. That stems from the controversial draw decision that came out of their March 13 try at unifying the title in New York City at Madison Square Garden.
This time around, both fighters claim they will fight a "better fight" in the ring than they did the first time and both hope that if it goes to a decision, the judges get it right this time. Well, maybe the loser will hope they screw it up again and call it wrong, but it's doubtful that will happen this time and that's only if the fight makes it all the way.
If something goes awry, at least we don't have any out-of-state officials to goof it up. The referee is Las Vegan Mitch Halpern and the three judges - Chuck Giampa, Jerry Roth and Bill Graham - are all from Nevada so they've got no one to blame if they don't get it right.
Locally, the Carson Station sportsbook has the over/under of the fight at 10 1/2 rounds. They also list Lewis as a -$1.85 favorite with Holyfield now at $+1.65. That price varies at other sportsbooks and I've seen Lewis as high as a 2-1 favorite and as low as an 8-5 favorite, so shop around depending on which side you like.
Lewis was live on the ESPN2 Friday night fight card and he said - no big surprise here - that he will win. Lewis described what's in store for Evander.
"If he gets by my left jab he's gonna run into a right hand or uppercut so it's gonna be a difficult task for him," said a confident Lewis. "I will show everyone I am the best heavyweight in the world Saturday night."
Holyfield, who, along with Lewis, appeared on the HBO Saturday night telecast, said he will have a better fight plan this time around.
"I need to be more aggressive," he said. "I need to throw a lot more punches and throw short lefts and rights .... I will win this fight!"
As for the fight itself, I look for a war from the opening bell until it ends. While not discounting the weight and reach advantage for Lewis, as well as his being three years younger (33 vs. 36), I look for a much improved Holyfield to knock out Lewis early.
I base this on the fact that Holyfield has lots of room for improvement and Lewis probably doesn't. Don't forget, a weight and reach advantage only works if you use it. By that I mean, even though Lewis will outweigh Holyfield by about 25 pounds, it doesn't mean he hits harder. Hand-speed and quickness are more important than weight advantage.
That weight advantage only works if the heavier fighter out-muscles and/or leans on and puts his weight on his foe and holds and pushes and shoves and wears his foe down with that weight leverage. Lewis doesn't fight that kind of fight, so discount the weight when making your pick.
The reach advantage - Lewis has six inches on Holyfield - is more important as Lewis did use that six inches, with his long left jab, to keep Holyfield at bay the first time around and will do try to do the same this time. Holyfield must get under that jab and in close to do his damage. I believe after watching that first fight, he will make some adjustments and be able to do that.
The age factor comes into play because we all know fighters can get old overnight in this sport and Holyfield may be a shot fighter. I don't believe that has happened yet, but that's what makes picking a winner so tough this time around. Also, it's no secret that Holyfield has been tested in some wars in the ring and his chin is strong. Knocking Holyfield out is not easy and Lewis, who basically had his way in their first fight, still couldn't get the job done then.
The other side of the coin is the fact that Lewis has not been in any wars or tested against the level of opponents Holyfield has and when he was in a short battle, Oliver McCall knocked Lewis out with a one-punch shot to the jaw in their first fight in round two. Lewis has been hurt by lesser opponents than Holyfield has faced.
So, make your pick and plunk down your dough and we'll see what happens.
My official prediction: Holyfield to stop Lewis in round four or five, so I'll go with the under and the underdog.
- Other fights set for the pay-per-view telecast, which begins at 6 p.m., are the WBA cruiserweight (190-pound limit) fight between Fabrice Tiozzo and Ken Murphy and the WBA super lightweight (140-limit) title fight between Sharmba Mitchell and Elio Ortiz. The third undercard title fight is the WBA lightweight (135-limit) fight between Stefano Zoff and Gilbert Serrano.
- If you missed the fights last weekend on the ESPN2 Friday card, Dana Rosenblatt scored a split decision win over Vinny Pazienza in the main event. Pazienza knocked Rosenblatt down in round three, but couldn't finish him off and lost in an action-packed fight that could have gone either way. Baseball's Pete Rose, a close friend of Vinny, was there at ringside. Pete didn't look too pleased after the decision was announced. Could he have had a bet on Vinny? I bet he did!
- A mild upset on that HBO telecast Saturday occurred when Russian heavyweight Oleg Maskaev knocked Hasim Rahman out of the ring and out in the eighth round of their main event fight. A straight right to the jaw sent Rahman out and Rahman tumbled out of the ring onto the floor. He's OK but couldn't get back into the ring and was counted out. Rahman is now 31-2 with 26 KO's while Maskaev improved to 17-2, 13 KO's.
- This Friday (6 p.m.) the ESPN2 fights come from the Orleans Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas and the main event has Junior Jones, 46-4, 27 KO's, facing Tracy Harris Patterson, 62-6-1, 43 KO's, in a featherweight (126-limit) fight.
Alan Rogers is the Nevada Appeal boxing writer.