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MVP = TKO
NEW YORK -- When MVP chose Evander Holyfield to replace him in the Saturday Night's Main Event Boxing Match challenge, it was clear that he wanted to see boxing's "Real Deal" score a knockout. Holyfield did just that, all right, though it was the cocky United States Champion, not nemesis Matt Hardy, he left sprawled on the canvas. (WATCH)
Thanks to MVP's recent diagnosis and treatment for a heart condition, both he and Hardy had been allowed to choose surrogates. When Hardy passed and chose to step in the ring for himself, the smug U.S. Champion called on one of boxing's biggest legends. On paper, it looked like a total mismatch, and there were whispers in the locker room all week, with many observers wondering if Hardy knew what he had gotten himself into.
Once inside the ring, it looked like the "paper" would be accurate. Hardy, who has no boxing experience whatsoever, appeared overmatched and solely defensive against the four-time Heavyweight Champion of the World. In the first two-minute round, Holyfield was dominant, using his six-inch reach advantage to keep Hardy at bay and seemingly toy with his inexperienced opponent. "The Real Deal" knocked Matt to the canvas three times, with Hardy showing heart, but barely beating the referee's 10-count on the last of the three knockdowns. The bell rang seconds later, signifying the end of the round.
Hardy said he had a primarily defensive strategy going into his fight with Holyfield because of his boxing inexperience. He believed that game plan would save him from being knocked out.
"That's one reason I didn't throw too many punches," he said. "Going into a fight with a fighter as skilled as Evander Holyfield, I didn't want to get too punch-happy and possibly leave him an opening to hit me and knock me out. If he gave me an opening, I'd take it, but my main strategy was to be on the defensive."
While it looked like Holyfield was on his way to an easy victory, MVP's ego ended up derailing the fight in the second round. During the between-round break, the U.S. Champion verbally sparred with Holyfield's trainer, even at one point shouting insults in his direction.
"He's my fighter tonight!" MVP brashly yelled at Holyfield's corner man. "I'm taking care of this! Have you ever trained him to fight a wrestler before? That's MVP's area of expertise!"
It appeared as if Holyfield shrugged off the discord, but that thought wouldn't last long. As the bell rang for Round 2, "The Real Deal" seemed hesitant about hitting the wobbly-legged Hardy. That's when an irritated MVP jumped into the ring and demanded that his chosen surrogate, "Finish the job and knock him out!"
When Holyfield turned away from MVP, the brash U.S. Champion made the mistake of grabbing his fighter's shoulder and turning him around. After a moment of disbelief -- which MVP used to further berate Holyfield -- the four-time champion turned and cold-cocked MVP with a right hook, sending him crashing to the canvas face-first. The referee signaled for the bell to call off the fight, and Holyfield graciously hugged Hardy while MVP laid motionless on the mat.
After the bout, Holyfield took a moment away from preparing for his next fight -- an Oct. 13 bout in Moscow against WBO Heavyweight Champion Sultan Ibragimov -- to tell WWE.com exactly why he struck MVP.
"You know, he kept talking too much. I was whooping Matt Hardy, and he wanted to act like he was part of it," Holyfield stated. "Sometimes, that can push you over the edge and you have to put people back in their place. I was able to do that, and hopefully everybody realized that I'm not a bad guy like him. I'm a good guy."
For Hardy, going toe-to-toe with "The Real Deal" was "an honor and an amazing experience," one which he admits that he wasn't sure he would survive.
"Honestly, stepping in the ring with Evander Holyfield -- one of the baddest men to ever step into a ring -- was the most intimidating experience I've ever had inside the ring," Hardy confessed. "I've been in the ring with a lot of tough guys, but I was out of my element. I've never boxed -- amateur or professionally -- but I was in there with one of the best ever. I wanted to survive, and I didn't know how long I would make it. Still, considering I took 30 or 40 of his punches and was still on my feet, while MVP took one and got knocked out, I think I did well."
Not only did Matt Hardy survive his battle with Holyfield, but by not being the one who was knocked out, Hardy went two up on the United States Champion in non-wrestling competition. The questions now are: How will MVP respond, and what lies ahead between the cocky champion and his seemingly fearless challenger?
To get the full results of Saturday Night's Main Event, click HERE.