Originally created 11/08/97

In twilight of career, Holyfield may have saved best for last



LAS VEGAS -- In the twilight of his career, Evander Holyfield may have saved his best fights for last.

With two wins over Mike Tyson, only some unfinished business with Michael Moorer and one last chance to unify the heavyweight title remain for Holyfield's late rush toward greatness.

Thought of as washed up only three years ago and given little chance in his first fight against Tyson, Holyfield now is only two victories away from his cherished goal of being declared the best heavyweight of his era.

He goes after the first of those victories Saturday night when he tries for revenge against Moorer -- who beat him in April 1994 -- in a scheduled 12-round fight to unify the WBA and IBF versions of the heavyweight title.

"You realize my best days are these last days," Holyfield said. "People will say, `Why did this man end up fighting so well at the end?' "

At the age of 35, with many battles in the ring taking their toll, it is near the end for Holyfield. But he wants to be the one who writes the ending, which could come in a possible fight against WBC champion Lennox Lewis next spring to unify all three portions of the title.

"It will be this fight and maybe another fight," Holyfield said. "Then I have a press conference after I beat Lennox Lewis and tell you guys what I'm going to do."

If there are only two fights left, Holyfield will go grudgingly from a sport that has captivated him since he began as an Atlanta teen-ager many years ago.

Though he has amassed riches beyond his wildest dreams -- the $20 million he gets for Moorer will bring his earnings in his last three fights to about $65 million -- Holyfield's love of boxing will make it hard for him to leave.

It showed all this week as Holyfield appeasred to be everywhere, talking to the press, showing off his new line of clothes at a local mall and holding a spirtual rally only two nights before the fight that drew thousands of people.

"This is more than money," he said. "I still enjoy it. It's a lot of fun. This is what I love to do."

Holyfield (34-3) gets a chance to avenge one of the few losses on his record when he meets Moorer (39-1), who gained a narrow majority decision over him when they first met April 22, 1994, with Holyfield then holding both the IBF and WBA titles.

If he's successful -- he's a 12-5 favorite -- then a fight with Lewis to unify the heavyweight title for the first time in more than five years is about all there is to motivate him.

Holyfield weighed in at 214 pounds, four less than he did for his last fight against Tyson. Moorer, showing some flab around the midsection, weighed 223, nine pounds more than his last fight against Vaughn Bean.

"He (Lewis) is the only guy I can honestly say I haven't fought in my era," Holyfield said. "If I don't get the opportunity to fight Lennox Lewis, I don't have the motivation to fight anybody else."

That's ruling out Tyson, of course, who can't return to boxing until at least July. Holyfield has ruled out a third fight with Tyson, but fighters have been known to change their minds.

First, though, Holyfield must take care of Moorer, the IBF champion whose awkward left-handed style and punishing right jab helped him come back from a second-round knockdown to win the first time they met.

Two days later, Holyfield was in an Atlanta hospital being diagnosed with a heart problem that would cause his premature retirement. Holyfield later blamed a bad left shoulder and his own attitude for his defeat.

"I came in there with some problems I couldn't erase," Holyfield said. "I beat myself the last fight. He didn't do much of anything and if he wasn't doing anything, I did nothing."

Moorer would go on to lose the titles in his next fight when George Foreman knocked him out with a right hand in the 10th round of a fight Moorer was dominating. He came back to win the IBF title with a decision over Germany's Axel Schulz but looked terrible in barely escaping with a decision March 29 over the lightly regarded Bean.

Moorer still chafes at Holyfield's excuses and believes he was never given him the proper due for winning the heavyweight titles.

"It took away from my victory," Moorer said. "People who know boxing know I've been cheated out of it. But I got the victory and I got some titles so I'm not worried about it."

Moorer has vowed to be more aggressive for this fight, but that may work in Holyfield's favor.

Holyfield likes to fight boxers who come right at him and fights best on the inside, as he demonstrated against a more than willing Tyson. Moorer, meanwhile, is more effective with his cautious style of using his right jab and staying a good distance away.

"If he fights aggressive, it's better for me," Holyfield said. "When a guy hits me, it makes me throw more punches. It makes me forget about what pain is or how tired I am. If I don't have time to think, it just goes by like that and I take care of business."

The fight, Holyfield's first since Tyson's infamous biting of his ears, is expected to draw a crowd of about 12,000 to the UNLV campus arena. It is being sponsored by the Mirage hotel-casino, where Holyfield first won the undisputed heavyweight title by knocking out James "Buster" Douglas with one punch in the third round Oct. 25, 1990.

There will be three undercard title fights on the card. The main event is not expected to start before 11:30 p.m. EST.

On the undercard, Nate Miller of Philadelphia defends the WBA cruiserweight title against France's Fabrice Tiozzo; Uriah Grant of Miami defends the IBF cruiserweight title against Imamu Mayfield of New Brunswick, N.J., and Puerto Rico's Wilfredo Fazquez defends the WBA featherweight title against Genaro Rios of Nicaragua.