Boxing: Holyfield seeks final confirmation of the truth about Bowe: History is no help to former champions seeking a rematch, but doubt is driving Evander Holyfield back into the ring tomorrow, reports Ken Jones in Las Vegas

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The Independent Online
ONLY two men, Floyd Patterson from Ingemar Johansson and Muhammad Ali from Leon Spinks, have regained the heavyweight championship in a rematch; eight others, including Jack Dempsey, Jersey Joe Walcott and Larry Holmes, have failed.

It makes sense to go with history. But it will have no consequence for Evander Holyfield in the Nevada desert here tomorrow when he attempts to recapture the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association titles from Riddick Bowe.

People ask why he is doing this thing. Why, at 32 and with earnings in excess of dollars 70m, he should want to be going back in there and working with people who don't think they are succeeding until they hear grunts of pain.

It isn't simply pride. Contentment can only come with irrefutable proof that Bowe was the better man when they went at it in Las Vegas almost 12 months ago. At first, Holyfield felt relief. In defeat he had gained a great deal of respect, more than he had ever been aware of as champion. Now he could get on with the rest of his life. Spend more time with his children. Smell the roses. He could say no again. 'When Bowe got the decision, right then and there I was relieved,' Holyfield said. 'I thought, 'Now I don't have to fight Lennox Lewis. I don't have to fight anybody. I can go home and rest and I don't have to worry about anybody calling me and telling me I have to be here or there'. Everything was off my back.'

Then it came to Holyfield. Perhaps he had lost to Bowe because he fought a dumb fight. The mistakes sharpened as pictures in his mind. He began to play around with logic. 'Bowe fought well, which caused me to look lousy. If I was able to go with my kind of fight, Bowe would've looked lousy . . .it could've been different.'

So is this a different, far more relaxed Holyfield? 'I've seen him like this before,' his promoter, Shelly Finkel, said. 'But it was before he won the title. The title, it just drains you. He felt weary from it. It wasn't that Evander was uncomfortable, but he has his private times. He has his own agenda, and that wasn't necessarily to be in the spotlight all the time. He did whatever he could, but he also wanted to raise his kids and do those sort of things. I felt he could handle it, and he did, until the Bowe fight.'

After Holyfield was outpointed over 12 rounds, the feeling was that he would settle for retirement. 'Now I just want Evander to enjoy what he has built up,' said his trainer at the time, Lou Duva. 'He isn't dedicated enough anymore to keep being champion. He is more interested in hanging around with stars, that MC Hammer guy. This should be it. He's had a good run. It's over.' Holyfield had shown immense courage, especially in a memorable 10th round in which he came back at a younger, more powerful man. He had lost the fight but improved his reputation. Really, it should have been enough.

Now the rematch. Holyfield's new trainer, Emanuel Steward, said: 'This is not about money. It's not about the title. It's about beating Bowe. That's all it is.'

The truth again. 'It's not an obsession,' Holyfield insisted. 'Listen, I was brought up to win. I was brought up to finish the job. You don't do a half-done job. I want to feel good about boxing. To be happy for the rest of my life I had to get back in there and see if I could do it. If I didn't, I'd always have a cloud around me.'

Go back 20, 50, 100 years. It could have been any number of ring warriors speaking.