Holyfield deals in what's real

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August 17, 2007

Only a fool would argue whether or not Evander Holyfield is boxing's "Real Deal." A genuine innovator of the "sweet science," the Atlanta native remains boxing's only undisputed World Cruiserweight Champion, and its first-ever four-time Heavyweight Champion of the World. Despite already securing a place in his sport's Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., Holyfield intends to make even more history on Oct. 13, when he meets Sultan Ibragimov in Moscow, and attempts to capture a World Heavyweight Championship for an unprecedented fifth time.

Clearly, boxing's "Warrior" is without peer. So when the ring icon generously grants WWE.com a moment of his time before exiting a local WWE live event, there's only one question that we find ourselves asking: Why would Evander Holyfield agree to represent United States Champion Montel Vontavious Porter at Saturday Night's Main Event, in a boxing match against Matt Hardy?

Before we get an answer, let's review. To hear MVP tell others in the SmackDown locker room, Holyfield is a close, personal friend and "sparring partner" who agreed to step in after doctors allegedly insisted that the Ballin' Superstar drop out of his fight with Hardy. Based on a recent diagnosis and treatment for a serious heart ailment, MVP and Matt were permitted to name a surrogate in their place; however, after Matt elected to stay in the fight, MVP threw a strategic haymaker by naming Holyfield.

"Mismatch" fails to accurately label Saturday's radically revised challenge in Madison Square Garden; think "train wreck waiting to happen," with Matt Hardy as the only passenger on board. For all his vaunted mat abilities, Hardy is the first to admit that he has no formal boxing training. So how can one possibly compare him to an Olympic bronze medalist with professional victories over pugilistic legends like George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes and Riddick Bowe? Quite frankly, and with all due to respect to Hardy, one can't.

That said, Evander Holyfield is every bit the full-tilt fighter whose fists of granite have pummeled out a dominant 42-8-2 record over the past 20-plus years. Rather than bob or weave around WWE.com's questions, "The Real Deal" doesn't pull any verbal punches about the seemingly one-sided contest with Hardy, his Oct. 13 bout in Moscow's Khodynka Arena, or an opportunity to become the second-oldest boxing champion in history.

"It's not a goal that I ever set out to reach," Holyfield admitted. "I wanted to retire as Heavyweight Champion of the World back in 1999; unfortunately, that decision went to Lennox Lewis."

By "that decision," Holyfield refers to his second and final bout against the now-retired British brawler, who won on judges' close but unanimous scoring in Las Vegas back in November 1999. Though fighters are trained to instinctively keep their arms close to their body when covering up, the "Warrior" is surprisingly open as he relates how losing that fight affected him, and how his critics began to view him.

"I went through some changes," he revealed. "Then, after I lost three fights in a row [to Chris Byrd, James Toney and Larry Donald], everyone thought that I should quit; they said that my age had become the difference. It's a thrill to let people know that age ain't nothin' but a number, and on Oct. 13, I'll be the only fighter in the world to ever become the World Heavyweight Champion five times. And I'll still have six more days before I turn 45."

Before he laces up the gloves against Ibragimov, Holyfield will go toe-to-toe against Matt Hardy this Saturday, in the Mecca of both boxing and sports-entertainment. He realizes that he's the heavy(weight) favorite going into Saturday Night's Main Event, but he's taking nothing for granted -- especially when it comes to canvassing WWE Superstars' abilities or resourcefulness.

"I'm honored," Holyfield told WWE.com about his upcoming fight with Hardy. "I've always been a wrestling fan, since the days of Dusty Rhodes and all those other great guys in the ring that I watched. And today's [WWE Superstars] have more athleticism than ever; they walk the ropes and do all these incredible moves that keep fans on the edge of their seats. I'm glad that I'll be a part of it."

As for his connection to the Superstar who considers himself "half-man, half-amazing," Evander Holyfield has no problem with stepping in for MVP…though he offers up some sparring advice for those who have a problem with the United States Champion.

"I'm the kind of guy that doesn't like to give up anything," he explained. "When I get inside the ring, I surprise people. MVP doesn't surprise anybody. If he's gonna get'cha, he's gonna get'cha."

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