From MVP to the "Real Deal"

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August 14, 2007

NEW YORK --  Montel Vontavious Porter was the one who challenged Matt Hardy to a Boxing Match at Saturday Night's Main Event, but it will not be the United States Champion who laces up the gloves against Hardy at Madison Square Garden. Instead, MVP has found a more than suitable replacement: boxing legend Evander "Real Deal" Holyfield.

Because of MVP's recent heart problems, both men were allowed to choose a surrogate. Hardy chose himself, and upon hearing of that decision, MVP announced that he would step aside and let one of the biggest stars in boxing history take his place on Saturday Night's Main Event.

At age 44, Holyfield is currently vying to win boxing's Heavyweight Championship for an unprecedented fifth time; he will get the chance to do so on Oct. 13 in Moscow when he fights Sultan Ibragimov for the WBO Heavyweight Title. Win or lose there, Holyfield's already the only man to do it four times, and the Atlanta native brings an impressive list of accomplishments into the bout, from Olympic medals to World Titles to his own boxing video game.

Quite frankly, his career record of 42-8-2 speaks for itself. Following an amateur career that saw him rack up a 169-11 record and a bronze medal in the 1984 Olympics, Holyfield turned pro later that year and quickly won the WBA Cruiserweight Championship. Six years later, he ascended to the peak of the highest mountain in boxing, becoming undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World by knocking out James "Buster" Douglas on October 13, 1990.

Throughout his 20-plus year career, Holyfield has been no stranger to big -- or unusual -- fights. After losing the undisputed title to Riddick Bowe in 1992, Holyfield rebounded to regain it a year later in one of the most infamous fights in boxing history. During the seventh round, a fan known as "The Fan Man" parachuted into the ring, causing a 20-minute delay; "The Real Deal" eventually won the bout via majority decision.

In 1997, after regaining a share of the Heavyweight Championship for a third time by defeating Mike Tyson, Holyfield met the former champion in a rematch in Las Vegas. In one of the most nefarious moments in boxing history, Tyson bit off a chunk of Holyfield's left ear, drawing a disqualification to allow Holyfield to retain the title.

"The Real Deal" is also no stranger to bouts at Madison Square Garden. His professional debut -- a unanimous decision victory on Nov. 15, 1984 -- came on the corner of 33rd and 8th.  One of the greatest bouts of his career came 15 years after that; in March 1999 -- still in the midst of his third title reign -- Holyfield engaged in a 12-round slugfest with British star Lennox Lewis; both men battered each other raw, but the fight ended in a Draw, and "The Real Deal" retained his titles.

Most recently, Holyfield's last MSG fight was a unanimous decision loss to Larry Donald in 2004. Now, just two months before he tries to become the second-oldest man to ever win part one of boxing's Heavyweight Championships, he will return to the MSG ring to face Matt Hardy, who has no professional -- or amateur, for that matter -- boxing experience whatsoever. 

Holyfield, has already fought twice this year -- defeating both Lou Savarese and Vinny Maddalone -- and brings more experience, ability, and knowledge of the "sweet science" to the table. But while the bout between Holyfield and Hardy looks like quite the mismatch on paper, but stranger things have happened in boxing, WWE and Madison Square Garden to guarantee this match a "Real Deal" victory just yet.

By choosing to fight himself, what has Hardy gotten himself into? That remains to be seen, but if anything, Holyfield vs. Hardy will be part of another historic night in "The World's Most Famous Arena."

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