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The Better Value on The Best Fight Night Of the Year

Oct 3, 2003  By Alex Pierpaoli

Tomorrow night boxing fans get to absorb no less than 5 hours of knuckle-cracking, nose-smashing, lip-busting, fistic action in a marathon of fights likely to produce at least one candidate for Fight-of-the-Year. If sheer volume of potential candidates counts for anything, October 4 is sure to be boxing’s night of nights for 2003. Of the two competing yet not quite simultaneous Pay-Per-View events, it is the earlier Goosen Tutor Promotions card from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas that holds the most intriguing and spectacular looking match-ups.

First, in a 12 round contest, Diego "Chico" Corrales and Joel Casamayor get it on to decide who is better at 130 pounds and which man is next in line to force a fight with the widely accepted, undisputed champion, Brazilian, Acelino Freitas. Casamayor, the Cuban southpaw who dropped a close decision to Freitas the current WBA and WBO champion in January of 2002 hopes to look impressive enough to force a rematch with Freitas. While Corrales, the freakishly tall 130 pound knockout artist, hopes to drive out the demons of a difficult and intrusive personal life and the psychological scars of his 10th round TKO loss to Floyd Mayweather two years ago.

Corrales, who completed a year in prison for felony spousal abuse—a conviction he does not refute but will not qualify or comment on, saying only that both he and his former wife made mistakes—has emerged at peace emotionally, and appears to be on track to recapture the glory of his pre-Mayweather career. After 4 straight knockout victories, all within five rounds since the start of this year, Corrales is hungry to get back into title contention and add his name to the ever-changing dozen of pound-for-pound best fighters in the sport. With an electrically charged win over Casamayor, the jocular and soft-spoken Corrales will vault into the upper tier of the division and position himself for the jump to 135 and a rematch with Mayweather or another potentially great match-up against lightweight Juan Lazcano.

When the styles of boxer and puncher collide it traditionally provides serious action and answers all the questions the combination of styles poses. Can the Cuban, Casamayor, keep Chico off of him long enough to pile up the points and box his way to an early lead? What happens when the slow starting southpaw gets a taste of Corrales bone-numbing power? Will Corrales’ difficulty in making 130 pounds be a factor like it was in the devastating loss to Mayweather? Does Casamayor have anywhere near the speed of Mayweather or the tools to keep Corrales from crowding him and landing heavy blows?

It is likely Casamayor will do well in the early rounds, assuming reports from his camp are correct and he is in superb condition. If he is careful enough to give Corrales angles and feed him straight punches in the early going a desperate Corrales should be easier to beat as the rounds go by. The difficulty Casamayor has in front of him is the same problem any heavy puncher poses for an opponent. Casamayor cannot afford any lapses in concentration with Corrales there waiting for an opportunity to catch him. But sometimes the success of a well executed strategy over a few rounds doesn’t breed further success.

This writer sees Corrales capitalizing on Casamayor’s overconfidence in the deeper waters of the fight. Corrales connects with a bomb in round 8 and is able to follow through and stop the southpaw by knockout.

Later, in the Goosen Main Event, 4-Time Heavyweight Champion, Evander Holyfield faces the current Cruiserweight King, James "Lights-Out" Toney in a 12 round heavyweight eliminator. In Holyfield-Toney, two Hall-of-Famers and perhaps the two greatest cruiserweights of all-time meet for little more than bragging rights as to who is the better fighter. Though no title is at stake, the winner of this fight will certainly emerge with a mandate to face either Roy Jones for his WBA title, or Chris Byrd for his IBF version of the belt.

James Toney is the anti-Mike Tyson, a bad-boy you can feel good about. Toney loves to trash talk but avoids talking about, or the actual practice of cannibalism which is more than can be said for Iron Mike. Toney’s worst night as a fighter came against Roy Jones Jr. nine years ago when he dropped a unanimous decision to the pound-for-pound best slickster from Pensacola. Toney rejuvenated himself recently with his huge April win over undefeated cruiserweight champ and former gold-medallist, Vassily Jirov. Now, a win over Holyfield may be the perfect prescription to lure Jones into a rematch and give Toney a shot at redemption.

Toney, one of the most tactically gifted and crafty fighters of this generation, can stand right in front of an opponent and make him miss with shoulder rolls, flexing hips and a single-step in either direction. Toney can throw combinations of varying force to the head and body to set-up the knockout blow that can be landed with either hand. He has surprising speed for a man of his bulk, who has a tendency to appear soft, or at least curvier than the chiseled angles of Evander Holyfield’s physique.

Evander Holyfield has been through it all. His place in history is secure as undoubtedly a top-fifteen heavyweight of all-time, and many would rank him within the top ten. He remains active in hopes of once more becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion. After his loss to Chris Byrd in December of last year, Holyfield underwent shoulder surgery to remove bone spurs in his left shoulder. That ailment Holyfield blames on his poor showing against the quicker Byrd and he assures fans that they will see a new fighter come Saturday night.

But can a "new" Holyfield of 40 years old, and he’ll be 41 later this month, be enough to beat a 35 year old Toney? Evander is the naturally larger and stronger man, but when Holyfield was growing into a heavyweight he often told critics not to judge a fighter’s size but his skill. Have Holyfield’s skills been dulled by punishment and time?

In a toe-to-toe battle, in which both men claim they will engage, Evander's reflexes will need to be 100%. In the past few years he has relied on his head, shoulders and forearms to help move and hold an opponent in an area where he can nail them with a punch. The conventional wisdom and Evander’s oft-quoted pre-fight point of view, is that if Toney stands in front of him it’s an easy victory for the 4-time Heavyweight King. But with his slower reaction time, Holyfield will see where he needs to land the combinations but getting his arms to obey may be like watching a tin man command his un-greased joints to guide his axe to the chopping block.

If age and battle-scars were the only factors that counted, Holyfield would have no way to win this fight. But those are just the types of situations that make him excel and do the impossible. Holyfield, the passionate Christian who wears scripture references on his trunks and sings gospel songs on the way to the ring, may as well be called The Resurrection Man. He has raised himself from the dead numerous times in bouts where no one gave him a chance.

Knowing Holyfield can often make the impossible probable, I still like Toney in the upset win. The problem with picking against Evander is that, as a great fighter, he is able to summon incredible energy and the will to win; and just when you think he is all-done, shot, spent, finished, punchy, whatever, he breaks out with a career defining performance like his first victory over Tyson or his workmanlike effort over Rahman. The issue here is that he is facing a man who is as great a warrior as himself, albeit one who started in a lighter weight class. Eventually a warrior like Holyfield will climb the steps to the ring and find he has nothing left. If that happens tomorrow night against Toney he’s finished, and this writer at least, thinks that’s exactly how this bout will unfold.

So, if the 2 all-action heavies aren't enough reason for you to plunk down 45 bucks, pop a six pack of whatever-you-fancy, and watch the leather fly, remember the 130 pound title-eliminator has all the potential to steal the spotlight from the big men. What is for certain about the Main Event from the Mandalay Bay is that Holyfield and Toney have long been considered two of boxing’s throwback-style fighters. They would have excelled and been considered great in any era and now they go to war with each other in a take no prisoners brawl. The spirit of competition in both men is so great that neither will be likely to let the other gain the advantage of landing just one punch more before the other fires back to land his own blow. And so the fight will escalate in each exchange and a battle like that cannot be missed.

Batten down the hatches, hide the women and children, these two are going to do damage.

Alex Pierpaoli has followed the Sweet Science for the past 17 years and is an avid boxing fan/writer. He has a degree in English from the University of Maine. Send comments or questions to:

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