Holyfield needs to learn to say 'when'
By Rob Scott (August 23, 2004) 
Photo ©
In life there always comes a time to say 'when'. In a boxer’s life the question of when, comes up on many occasions. When should I block? When should I throw the right hand? Experience wise, when should I go for that title shot? One question that almost every notable boxer has seemed to side step at some point is the question of, when should I hang up the gloves? Evander Holyfield is another in a long line of boxing greats that can’t grasp that meaning of 'when'.

He has an unprecedented 4 heavyweight titles to his credit. He is considered the best cruiserweight champion of all time. With hundreds of millions in earnings, Holyfield is one of the top earners in the history of the fight game. With accomplishing everything that a fighter can in boxing, why doesn’t Evander say when?

The answer to that question is the same; the same answer that was connected to all the greats. From Louis to Ali to Leonard, they all became addicts. Boxing fame became their drug. Having dealt with drug addicts, the similarities do exist. A drug addict chases that first high. The power of being heavyweight champion is immense. Unlike many alphabet champions, with the exception of his last reign, Holyfield was considered 'The' champion when he reigned. He reaped the benefits of being champion.

On November 9, 1996, Holyfield received the high that no boxing rehab could bring down. This was the night that he beat all the odds and upset Mike Tyson. This achievement was made when everyone told him that it couldn’t be done. Saying that he can’t do something wakes up the competitive spirit in Holyfield. He thrives on proving people wrong.

The fickleness in boxing always seemed to amaze me. When Marco Antonio Barrera was featherweight champion, he was deemed unbeatable. After his loss to Manny Pacquiao, there were cries that Barrera should retire. For Holyfield going into the Tyson fight, it was opposite. He was advised to retire before then. In every spectator’s eye, Holyfield had no chance, and yet after this fight he was the unbeatable one. He beat the odds, the critics and 'the Man'. Holyfield had the world at his feet. He had power in abundance. In many cases, power is worse than any narcotic in the world.

Fighters ask when to block. They ask when to throw the right hand. The problem with the modern day Holyfield is, his mind says these things, but the signal doesn’t get out fast enough. He isn’t able to block and throw like yesteryear; as we witnessed in his fight with James Toney.

It is true that the heavyweight division is wide open. For some heavyweights, that openness is like a vertical door to walk through to get to the top. Holyfield’s opening seems to be more horizontal, to which it seems more like a pit instead of a door, that he is destined to fall in. His fall may bring the clichés that are inevitable with all the fighters that become ignorant to the word 'when'. Brain damage and a tarnishing of one's legacy are only two of these clichés.

The truism in life and in boxing is “What goes up – Must come down.” Holyfield’s current train of thought is what came down, will go back up. The odds are against him, but they have been before. That seems to be just the way he likes it. But one still has to wonder, when will the 'Real Deal' keep it real himself... and learn to say 'when'?
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2004