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Holyfield vs. Botha this Saturday night

Evander HolyfieldBy Jim Dower: Former IBF/WBA/WBC heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield (42-10-2, 27 KO’s) will be facing South African Francois Botha (47-4-2, 28 KO’s) this Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada. The 47-year-old Holyfield hasn’t fought in close to two years since losing a controversial 12 round majority decision to WBA heavyweight champion Nikolay Valuev. Holyfield fought well enough to get the win in that fight, but failed to throw enough punches to please two of the judges.

Rather than staying active and continuing to stay busy against top opponents, Holyfield has stayed out of the ring until now. This fight matched two aging fighter, as Botha is 41, and hasn’t taken on an upper tier heavyweight since being stopped in the 8th round by a young World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko eight years ago in 2002.

Botha fought reasonably well in that fight, but ended up walking into a big right hand from Klitschko and mowed down. Botha fought one more time against Clifford Etienne in July 2002, and then stepped away from boxing for five years between 2002 to 2007. Since making a comeback in 2007, Botha has chalked up three wins over 2nd tier opponents Bob Mirovic, Ron Guerrero and Timo Hoffmann.

In Botha’s last fight, he fought to a 10 round majority draw against 6’7” Cuban Pedro Carrion in October 2009. Botha is many years removed from fights against the likes of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Michael Moorer and Shannon Briggs. Botha was stopped by all of them with the exception of Briggs, who Botha fought to a 10 round draw with in 1999.

It’s hard to say where a win for either of these fighters takes them. With both of them in their 40s, badly slowed and not nearly what they used to be, it would seen not likely that they would be able to tempt one of the bigger stars in the heavyweight division like the Klitschko brothers into fighting them. And it would also seem not likely that Botha and Holyfield could beat any of the top contenders in the division in order to get ranked high enough to gain another shot at a title.

Botha, once a trim fighter in the 220s, has weighed in recently in the 250s for his fights. He doesn’t look in shape at that weight and looks to be carrying around an extra 30 pounds of fat. For his part, Holyfield looked in excellent shape in his last fight two years ago against Valuev, but the problem was that Holyfield didn’t throw enough punches in the fight.

Letting his hands go has been one of Holyfield’s problems in his fights in the past 10 years. Holyfield was a sensational fighter up until 1999, when he began to struggle and take losses. Holyfield went through an especially rough period between 2002 and 2004, losing three consecutive fights. He took two years off and returned in 2006, winning four consecutive fights against B ranked fighters before getting soundly beaten in a failed title challenger against WBO heavyweight champion Sultan Ibragimov. Holyfield fought poorly in that fight, but redeemed himself in his last fight against the 7-foot Valuev in December 2008.

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