Originally created 05/14/98

Holyfield: `Akinwande will change'



NEW YORK -- Heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield says he expects to defend his WBA and IBF titles against a totally different Henry Akinwande from the one who quit against Lennox Lewis last year.

"I know one has the ability to change," Holyfield said in a teleconference call Wednesday from Houston where he is training for the June 6 fight at Madison Square Garden. "I hope he don't (change), but I have to have an open mind."

Akinwande, 33-1-1 with 19 KOs, barely put up a fight against WBC champion Lewis on July 12, repeatedly holding and grabbing until being disqualified by the referee in the fifth round.

Holyfield thinks Akinwande poses some danger in the first heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Garden since Riddick Bowe stopped Michael Dokes on Feb. 6, 1993.

"He definitely has the ability," Holyfield said of the 6-foot-7 Akinwande, who beat Orlin Norris in December to become the WBA mandatory challenger. "He's got fast hands and throws good combinations. He actually is very good technically and I'm going to have to put some pressure on him and fight him from the inside.

"I'll have to work myself in range where when I slip a punch that I can hit him back. I'll have to move around a lot and establish my range," Holyfield said.

The 35-year-old champion believes Akinwande will come to fight.

"One thing that you have to realize I tend to bring out the best of people," said Holyfield, 35-3 with 25 KOs. "They always go up another notch. I never fought anybody who fought below their standards. They tend to fight with more enthusiasm, because they feel they really have a chance and an opportunity to make a point.

"That always keeps me on edge," Holyfield said. "I know they don't lay down for me and I don't expect him to lay down for me."

Holyfield knows that Akiwande is unlikely to create the excitement and emotion his two victories over Mike Tyson did.

"I can't make a fight bigger that what it really is," Holyfield said. "I'm suppose to win and I expect to win."