Boxing: Holyfield aims for an early knockout

TWO DAYS before his first win over Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield quietly told his trainer Don Turner that he would win. Most people expected Tyson to trounce him. Now Holyfield has let the world know that Lennox Lewis faces an early exit from the biggest fight of his career.

Three rounds, Holyfield has said. The World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion obviously believes it will as effective to play on Lewis's mind as it will be to punish his body in Saturday's unification fight at a sell-out Madison Square Garden.

"I've never heard him predict like this," said Turner. "He says Lewis will be beaten in three, and I look in his face and I see a man who is supremely confident in what he can do. For the last two weeks he has made statements which has shown me he can climb insurmountable mountains.

"Joe Frazier, Ezzard Charles and Roberto Duran had the same approach. Evander is in tune, the whole camp is in tune. I've been around 13 world champions and this guy is unbelievable."

Lewis's trainer, Emanuel Steward, sees mind games being as important as muscle power. Steward believes Lewis analyses things too much. "Nobody will know what is going on in Lewis's mind on the night of the fight," he confessed.

"So I'm not sure whether he will immediately jump on Holyfield or if the fight will be more of a chess match.

"But Lennox is craving for the recognition he has never had and I expect him to explode. I can't see this fight going more than five rounds. Whoever wins, there's no doubt this is going to be the last great heavyweight fight for a long time. Apart from Lennox and Evander, there's nobody else out there."

A lot is being made of Lewis's suspect stamina. If he comes into the fight closer to 18 stone than 17, it could be a problem. Some believe Lewis is too big and in his last fight, against Zeljko Mavrovic last September, there were times when the World Boxing Council champion looked tired.

"It's all psychological," added Turner. "I think Lennox will fight the fight of his life, and that is what we are preparing for him to do. Evander doesn't have to fight one way. But it would be easier to beat Lewis by fighting on the inside. Why should he stand on the outside when Lewis's leverage is at its maximum?

"Evander has said Lewis had lumberjack power. I've never seen him chop down a tree, that's just Evander's analogy. The ability to counter- punch like Evander does takes a lot more savvy and it's one of the most important ingredients of a great fighter. If Lewis comes in swinging the theory would be to punch with him. If Lewis misses, a counter-punch will do the job as well.

"I saw Oliver McCall knock Lewis down and I'm sure he's thinking about that. He's a big guy; I've seen him staggered by Shannon Briggs, but any heavyweight can be staggered. If Lewis rises to the occasion, I think Holyfield will rise higher," said Turner.

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