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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Evander Holyfield, Oscar Valdez, ’70s greats vs. future stars)

Photo by Amanda Westcott/Triller Fight Club
13
Sep

THE OLDTIMERS

Hello Dougie, hope you are well and healthy.

Evander Holyfield’s performance was really upsetting for me to watch. However fit he might appear to be, he was in a life-endangering situation. Why do you think the oldtimers are doing this? Do they think something like “these modern fighters would be nothing in my time, I’ll show them”? Or is their desire to compete so great that it clouds their minds so that they put themselves in harm’s way in order to, unnecessarily, prove something to themselves?

All of them have legacies that are being blemished by these I dare say circus acts. Do they view current scene as so low in quality that they are compelled to act? Anyway, this is a trend that won’t stop until someone gets seriously hurt.

Maybe there should be the age limit on sanctioned professional fights, I don’t know.

What do you think? Best wishes, and greetings from Serbia. – Vulic

I think commissions need to do their jobs. All fighters have a drive that compels them to challenge themselves and push their bodies beyond normal human limits. Those egos don’t go away after they retire or when they get old. Great fighters often have the fiercest pride; the fire in their bellies is what made them special competitors as young amateurs, during their peak pro years, and even when they were past their primes. Holyfield is never going to think he can’t do something, especially the sport where he forged his legend. If he’s willing to step into the ring (and he will be for as long as he’s able to stand on two legs – that’s no exaggeration), there will always be a promoter and/or platform willing to try to capitalize on his legendary status. It’s up to the state athletic commissions to say no. Boxing is a crazy business filled with crazy mother f__kers. The state commissions – including tribal and commonwealth – need to come up with unified safety guidelines, so a dangerous matchups can’t simply cross borders and state lines to see action.

Evander Holyfield’s performance was really upsetting for me to watch. I can imagine, but I wouldn’t know because I didn’t watch it. The highlights are ugly enough.

However fit he might appear to be, he was in a life-endangering situation. Why do you think the oldtimers are doing this? They’re FIGHTERS! They still want to do what gave them purpose as kids, adolescents and young adults; and what brought them fame and fortune in their 20s and 30s. If somebody is going to offer them a big bag of money to come back, they’re gonna go for it.

Do they think something like “these modern fighters would be nothing in my time, I’ll show them”? Or is their desire to compete so great that it clouds their minds so that they put themselves in harm’s way in order to, unnecessarily, prove something to themselves? I think it’s more of the latter. Holyfield probably had no idea who Vitor Belfort was. He wasn’t trying to prove anything to him. He was just challenging himself, setting a goal that would lead to another goal (like a Mike Tyson exhibition).

All of them have legacies that are being blemished by these I dare say circus acts. It might seem like that now, but if they’ve reached Holyfield’s level of greatness, an embarrassing loss isn’t going to alter their status as icons. Mike Tyson is still Mike Tyson despite getting trashed by Kevin McBride in his final pro bout. How many times did we see Roy Jones Jr. KTFO once he got long in the tooth? He’s still Roy Jones Jr.! Joe Louis was unceremoniously (and brutally) sent back into retirement by Rocky Marciano and then he took part in crappy exhibitions and pro wrestling bouts. He’s still the Brown Bomber, an American hero. People don’t remember Muhammad Ali for the Antonio Inoki exhibition. He’s remembered as The Greatest because he fought every top heavyweight of the 1960s and 1970s (and usually won). I can go on and on, but I trust you get the picture.

Do they view current scene as so low in quality that they are compelled to act? Maybe, there is a void, currently, of high-profile matchups between elite boxers in their primes.

Anyway, this is a trend that won’t stop until someone gets seriously hurt. That’s a scary and depressing thought, but you’re not wrong.

Maybe there should be the age limit on sanctioned professional fights, I don’t know. I’m thinking after 50, it’s gotta be a FRIENDLY exhibition.

 

HOLYFIELD AND THE TRILLER DEBATE

Hi Doug,

Maybe the consensus for your mailbag readers is to ignore Triller events and pretend debacles like Holyfield vs. Belfort don’t exist (if we pretend, they don’t exist, they can’t hurt us!), but I have to express my disgust and sadness somewhere.

What happened last night interfered with some of my most cherished memories, not just of boxing, but of family. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, but here’s my story.

I was raised in Ireland in the nineties. Boxing was my dad’s favourite sport, so it became mine too. While my friends and classmates were learning the names of their favourite soccer players, I was getting familiar with names like Tyson, Bruno, Lewis, and Holyfield.

My dad and I would talk about boxing often and he would tell me about how heavyweight fighters of the 90s era compared to the likes of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Those conversations would spark a lifelong curiosity about the lineage of boxing champions and the evolution of the sport.

Holyfield (left) on his way to stopping Mike Tyson in their first fight. Photo from The Ring archive

Between the years of 1996 and 1999, my dad and my brothers would stay up until 5am to watch Evander Holyfield face Mike Tyson (twice) and Lennox Lewis (twice). These are some of my favourite memories of spending time with family. Coming in as an underdog in the first fight with Tyson (which a lot of people forget was the fight of the year), most fans expected Holyfield to get finished early. Even back then, many felt that he was past his prime. But Holyfield won and it left an impression on me. It was the first time I ever witnessed an athlete defy the odds and public sentiment so dramatically, and I was a big fan from that point on.

A few years later, in 2003, me and dad watched the highlights of Evander Holyfield getting outboxed, outfoxed, and stopped by a resurgent James Toney. We watched these highlights in my dad’s hospital room as doctors and nurses helped to make him comfortable during his final days. It was a very sobering moment for me as a young man, witnessing the deterioration (albeit in different ways) of these two men that I held in such high regard. A few days later, Dad passed away at the age of 58 years old.

This weekend, at the age of 58 years old, Evander Holyfield got back into the ring. You can say it was free will. But everybody knows Holyfield’s primary motivation: he needs money, and that need was exploited by some unscrupulous industry newcomers.

I know that boxing has always been a colourful business that attracts chancers, crooks, and gangsters. But the people running Triller bring their own special brand of moral bankruptcy to the table. To throw the nearly 60-year-old Holyfield into the ring with a much younger pitbull (who’s had PED controversies in the past) on just a few days’ notice reflects the level of irresponsibility that Triller operates at. And in the end, Holyfield was just an afterthought. It was all to lure Jake Paul back into a mega-money event.

I imagine I’m not the only fight fan that was enraged with this insane main event. And while I hope Evander got paid a truckload of cash (an 18-wheeler!), I also hope that nobody reading your mailbag supported that Triller card, Doug. These people clearly don’t care about real boxing fans, so I’m very interested to see what kind of numbers they pulled in this weekend. Do they even know who their target demo is?

Regardless, I’m certain that the complete moral bankruptcy on display at Triller will eventually result in its financial bankruptcy.

Keep up the great work, Doug! – Kevin, (Based in Vancouver but from Dublin)

Thank you, Kevin, I will do my best. And thank you for sharing those very special and painful memories of your father with the Mailbag column. I can understand how it was extra heartbreaking for you to witness The Real Deal get treated like a rag doll (during and after the Triller Fight Club main event).

Sometimes boxing is so cruel to its heroes that I just can’t stomach it. I’ve never watched Holmes-Ali or Norris-Leonard or Joppy-Duran for that reason, and I never will. I love the sport too much to allow the dark side of it and the ruthless elements of the business make me hate it.

Having said that, I have no problem with anyone who paid $50 to watch Saturday’s s__t show. It’s their money. If they want to ball-up five $10 bills and cram ’em up their asses that’s their prerogative. God Bless ’em!

Also, while I understand your outrage, I don’t want to see Triller go out of business. I’m not a fan of the Fight Club “Legends” exhibitions, but it’s good for boxing to have another platform for legitimate matchups to be showcased on. Here in the U.S., just having Showtime, FOX, ESPN/ESPN+ and DAZN isn’t enough accommodate all the fighters who are deserving of network exposure (and those platforms don’t work with enough promoters). It’s great that we’ve also got Ring City USA on NBC Sports Net and UFC Fight Pass, but it’s not enough.

The TrillerVerz Tuesday night fights series kicked off with a well-received show headlined by heavyweight contender Michael Hunter at the Hulu Theater inside MSG on Aug. 3 and it continues tomorrow with what looks like a very solid card in Hollywood, Florida. That show has fighters from Miguel Cotto Promotions, Golden Boy, Thompson Boxing and Banner Promotions, and RDR Promotions, among others; and the matchups are legit: Undefeated (15-0) Puerto Rican up-and-comer Danielito Zorrilla vs. heavy handed Mexican veteran Pablo Cesar Cano is the quintessential crossroads bout at 140 pounds. There’s a scheduled lightweight match between once-beaten prospects Michael Dutchover (15-1) and Nahir Albright (13-1). There’s also a Mexican power puncher I’m familiar with from recent Thompson Boxing promotions named Miguel Madueno (24-0, with 22 KOs), who might just be “must-see TV.”

I skipped Holyfield-Belfort but I’m more than happy to shell out $2.99 for a one-month pass to watch TrillerVerz on Fite.TV and I hope they’re able to continue the monthly Tuesday night series (if they keep up the quality matchmaking). I’m also curious to see what they do with the Oct. 4 Triller PPV topped with Teofimo Lopez vs. George Kambosos.  

 

THOUGHTS ON OSCAR VALDEZ

Hey Doug,

Hope everything’s well with you. I decided for the first time ever to boycott a fight because of obvious reasons. I feel that if us boxing fans want change, we need to show it with our money not with words. In the end, Twitter, boxing forums and discussion boards are mostly a bunch of biased fanboys trying to defend their guy no matter what they’ve done, right or wrong. Posting and trying to win an argument there makes absolutely no difference, so I decided to use the only power I have to make my opinion count: my hard-earned cash.

I admit that at first, I was outraged by the fact that Valdez tested positive. He was becoming my favorite Mexican fighter and was excited to see him fight, so I felt sad and angry to see him fail a test. After I calmed down and saw exactly what he tested positive for I decided to inform myself a little bit more. I read everything that was reported by The Ring including both Dan Rafael’s article and the VADA response by Dr. Margaret Goodman, also read Tweets by Mr. Coppinger and Victor Conte’s opinion about the subject and came to my own conclusion: there’s a reason VADA prohibits these kinds of stimulants in and out of competition. And as Dr. Goodman said, I won’t get into that, we can all find it on the internet if we want to.

Now, since I didn’t watch the fight, I won’t get into all this robbery thing. From what I’m reading it seems fans were looking for reasons for them to score against Valdez just because they wanted him to lose rather than score the fight appropriately. Media I trust like you and Steve Kim (and others) scored the fight for Valdez calling it how you saw it while fans are screaming robbery.

The main thing here is that Oscar Valdez’s reputation was hurt a lot more during this whole fight camp than any loss inside the ring would have hurt him. If he did do this on purpose or trusted someone when he took these supplements, he will forever regret that decision. From now on, at least from a group of people, he will forever be looked on as a cheater. That’s a knockdown way more difficult to climb up from than any other.

I feel it’s easier to forgive a guy that comes out and admits his wrong doings rather than make up stuff like the herbal tea story. People can apologize and people forgive. If you don’t believe this look at how Mike Tyson is looked at today.  He was a convicted rapist, bit off a guy’s ear, admitted faking his tests in his own book, did all sort of nasty things in the last third of his career, threatened to eat Lennox Lewis children and now he’s everybody’s Teddy Bear.

America forgives, there’s a lot of proof out there (Tiger Woods anybody?). We’re humans and make mistakes. I’m sure Valdez is learning from whatever he did, knowingly or not.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned in recent years is to take responsibility of my acts and stop blaming results on others; stop making excuses. Guys need to man up and face the problems they created and stop making excuses or blaming others for it. Ever since I did that I managed to improve because I was able to identify mistakes I was making; things I blamed on external things were now clearer to me and I was able to change them and improve. If Oscar wants to turn things around, he really needs to do some soul searching, see where things went wrong and change that. He’s still young and can still change the narrative.

As of right now, I’ll continue to put my money where my mouth is.

Thanks Doug. – Juan Valverde, Chula Vista

That’s the right thing to do, Juan, just don’t forget to use some of that money to support VADA. If it wasn’t for Dr. Goodman’s testing organization, pretty much every active high-profile boxer would be able to claim they’re “clean” because they passed the sub-standard state commission PED tests. Nine out of 10 times when we hear about a positive drug test in boxing, it’s a VADA test.

I admit that at first, I was outraged by the fact that Valdez tested positive. He was becoming my favorite Mexican fighter and was excited to see him fight, so I felt sad and angry to see him fail a test. Valdez went from hero to zero with that positive test and the way he and his team handled it. All the fans he earned with his sensational performance and stoppage against Miguel Berchelt has been flushed down the toilet. As of now, and for the foreseeable future, he’s got the “The Mexican They Love to Hate” title that was created for Antonio Margarito and eventually passed on to his superstar stablemate Canelo.

After I calmed down and saw exactly what he tested positive for I decided to inform myself a little bit more. I hope other fans – and, more importantly, boxers – did the same thing. It sucks when fighter pop positive, but it’s always an opportunity for those fighters and the boxing world to bone up on whatever “The Banned Substance of the Month” is.

I read everything that was reported by The Ring including both Dan Rafael’s article and the VADA response by Dr. Margaret Goodman, also read Tweets by Mr. Coppinger and Victor Conte’s opinion about the subject and came to my own conclusion: there’s a reason VADA prohibits these kinds of stimulants in and out of competition. There shouldn’t be “out-of-competition” lists. If it’s a performance enhancer, it needs to stay out of the bodies of combat athletes.

Now, since I didn’t watch the fight, I won’t get into all this robbery thing. It was a close fight.

Valdez vs. Conceição. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

From what I’m reading it seems fans were looking for reasons for them to score against Valdez just because they wanted him to lose rather than score the fight appropriately. Hey, that’s how it goes when you’re “The Mexican They Love to Hate,” but in fairness to Robson Conceicao, the Brazilian boxed very well for much of the fight, especially the first half. But Valdez came on strong over the second half, landing the more effective punches in most of the rounds. That bogus point deduction didn’t help the challenger (I guess the ref and the official judges didn’t get the memo that Valdez is the TMTLTH).

The main thing here is that Oscar Valdez’s reputation was hurt a lot more during this whole fight camp than any loss inside the ring would have hurt him. No doubt about it. His image would have fared much better if he’d admitted he f__ked up, apologized to his fans, his team, his management, promoter, the WBC, the tribal commission in Tucson, and then signed up for extensive VADA testing for the next three-to-six months. And if he got through that period without a positive, return to the ring as humbly as possible.

I feel it’s easier to forgive a guy that comes out and admits his wrong doings rather than make up stuff like the herbal tea story. I agree, but what if that really is what he believes?

People can apologize and people forgive. They can. They don’t always do so, but hopefully most can.

If you don’t believe this look at how Mike Tyson is looked at today. He was a convicted rapist, bit off a guy’s ear, admitted faking his tests in his own book, did all sort of nasty things in the last third of his career, threatened to eat Lennox Lewis children and now he’s everybody’s Teddy Bear. Yeah, but that didn’t happen overnight, Juan. Tyson was “The N__ga They Love to Hate” for 10-15 years. The American public began to mellow on him as he began to mellow out with age (and a LOT of marijuana). But his brutal honesty (especially when he aimed it at himself) has always been a part of his appeal. I don’t think you can compare other boxers with Tyson, who was a bona fide global superstar. The public likes to see celebrities fall, but they also enjoy redemption stories among the famous. I think there’s going to be a contingent of fans that discredit Valdez going forward (and you can bet the cost of a VADA test that many of the same Valdez detractors will continue to root for other fighters who have tested positive for banned substances).

 

GREATS OF THE 1970s VS. FUTURE GREATS

Hey Dougie,

I hope this email finds you well. So, one good thing that came out of some covid lockdown time was I got a chance to scourer the internet and find some missing Ring Magazines to fill in the gaps in my 1970 collection. I read all the way from Jan. 1970 to Dec. 1979 this year. There were a few instances where some all-time great fighters in their division fought at the same time as some future greats were coming along but just missed the chance to mix it up in the ring. I would love your opinion on when you think the earliest year these future greats might have had a chance to take them out.

  1. Ali vs Holmes – I think Larry could have gotten the job done in as early as 1977. Let’s face it; Ali (and Frazier as well) we’re never the same after the epic Thrilla in Manilla. Ali probably received some gift decisions vs Young, Shavers and Norton in there 3rd fight. Holmes was a bit of an unknown until he won the title from Norton in a great fight in 1978 but based on that fight I think he takes it to Ali.
  2. Foster vs Galindez – Victor is probably just outside the top 10 as an all-time Light Heavyweight but he was clearly the 2nd best 175lb in the 1970’s. Bob was for sure an all-time great and maybe the best puncher ever at that weight. Bob retired in 1974 after a gift decision vs Ahumada (later coming back and fighting till 1978 against C level opponents). I think Galindez takes Foster any time in 1974. He won the title in 1975, defended it 10 times and regained it against Rossman in 1979.
  3. Monzon vs Hagler – Monzon retired in late 1977 after two good, clean decisions over #1 contender Valdes (who won the vacant title after Monzon retired). Hagler was coming into his own and was clearly one of the top middleweights but I’m not so sure if he fought Monzon in 1978 that he would have won. I’m a huge Hagler fan but I think he was still rounding into form at this time. He had the draw with Antuofermo in 1979 (which I thought he won) but it was a close fight and not a huge controversy. A properly, in shape and motivated Carlos wins in 1978.
  4. Duran vs Arguello – Duran still held the lightweight title in 1978 but never defended it again after beating De Jesus. Arguello was destroying Super Featherweights just 5 lbs. away and while he didn’t make the move up to lightweight until 1981 there was a great deal of talk about this matchup coming together if somebody could produce the money. I’m a huge fan of both fighter but I don’t see anyone in history beating Duran at 135lbs. I can’t see it happening for Alexis other than a knockout for Roberto in any year.

Peace. – JDonaher

Interesting “What If?” scenarios, JD.

I agree with your take on Ali-Holmes, even though Holmes was still raw and somewhat inexperienced in 1977. As you noted, Ali was not the same after the Frazier rubbermatch, and he needed gift decisions to defend his crown against Jimmy Young and Ken Norton in 1976. I think a motivated Holmes could have outpointed him over 15 rounds in 1977.

I’m not sure I agree with your Foster-Galindez pick. I know an aging Foster struggled with Ahumada in his final title defense in 1974, and that Galindez owned a couple stoppage victories over his countryman in Argentina (early in their careers), but styles make fights, and my hunch is that Foster would have still been tough, skilled and savvy enough to narrowly outpoint the aggressive Galindez in ’74, even though his vaunted power had begun to wane.

I agree with your Monzon-Hagler take, but it would have been a close 15 rounder, even in Argentina.

And Duran was just too big, too versatile, and too mean for the brilliantly skilled boxer-puncher from Nicaragua. I think Duran would have stopped Arguello by the championship rounds had they clashed in 1978.

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom’s or Doug’s IG Live every Sunday.

 

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