Boxing: Rhetoric does not ruffle Lewis

'I never said Holyfield was a hypoquit. I said he was a hypocrite. This fight will show who the best heavyweight is'

FROM THE widespread expressions of shock and amazement, you would think that Evander Holyfield had said something really outrageous. Like, for instance, announcing his imminent conversion to atheism, or his intention to turn over his $15m mansion for use as a homeless shelter. Instead, all he did was predict the outcome of a boxing match in which he happens to be taking part.

According to Holyfield, Lennox Lewis will not see the end of the third round at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. A knockout blow within the first nine minutes of fighting will allow him to add Lewis's World Boxing Council belt to those he already owns from the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation, making him, in the words of the promoter Don King, "the unmitigated, the unadulterated, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world" - the first such since Riddick Bowe in 1992.

This does not seem an especially rash claim. Predictions of that kind go back to the days of Cassius Clay, and probably far beyond. Yet Holyfield is more usually noted for being as economical with such rhetoric as he is with his cash, and his claim will add a bit of spice to the early rounds of a fight that might otherwise, if Lewis's familiar tactics prevail, take a while to come alive.

But by the normal standards of pre-fight hype, this is kindergarten stuff. Even Lewis had to work hard to become aroused by Holyfield's uncharacteristic rashness. "I do look upon it as an insult," he said in his usual mild, unemphatic way at yesterday's pre-fight press conference. "I think he'd better wake up and apologise. If he's saying something like that, he'd better try and live up to it. I fail to see who Evander's knocked out in three rounds yet in his whole career." Lewis had obviously overlooked Holyfield's third- round knock-out of James "Buster" Douglas to capture the undisputed title in 1990 from a man who had himself stopped Mike Tyson in 10 rounds earlier that year.

"It's quite amusing to me that he should pick the hardest competitor he's ever met against whom to make a prediction like that. When it comes to the third round, I'm going to be talking to him and saying, 'I'm still here.' Fourth round, 'I'm still here.' "

Resisting attempts to make him modify his forecast, Holyfield responded: "I've been in this game for so many years that I should have the confidence to say what I'm going to do. I thought about it. I thought, 'what would the people like? Would they like a surprise, or would they like me to foretell it?' I've always been a guy who's surprised people, ever since I got into boxing. I surprised people who never thought I'd beat Bowe, who never thought I'd beat Tyson, who never thought I'd be anything. So this time I decided not to surprise you. I said it, and people seem kinda upset, but I'm sticking with it. I'm not telling you to believe me. It's up to you whether you believe me now or believe me later. This is not predicting. This is truth."

The contest's build-up has been characterised by a relative absence of the noisy insults that generally identify a major heavyweight contest in the pay-per-view era. It is hard to share the belief of Emanuel Steward, Lewis's trainer, that Holyfield's chances have been damaged by his irritation at recent remarks in which Lewis pointed out the apparent discrepancy between his opponent's constant profession of his Christian beliefs and his fatherhood of several children out of wedlock. Sticks and stones might break Holyfield's bones, but it seems unlikely that the mere word "hypocrisy" will do serious harm to his prospects come Saturday night.

Lewis tried to press the charge home yesterday. "I heard Evander telling a television interviewer that to him a hypocrite was someone who was a quitter," he remarked, standing a few feet from his opponent, who was dressed in a long grey preacher's coat. "But I never said he's a hypoquit. I said he's a hypocrite." A nice try, but Don King's hold on the undisputed word-mangling title was not in peril. More typical of Lewis was his brief but none the less warm salute to his opponent's quality. "I think Evander Holyfield's a great competitor, a great warrior," he said. "He's won a lot of great fights out there. He's got a great heart, and he's shown true grit. But I don't think my heart should be questioned. I'm looking forward to it. This fight will show the world who the best heavyweight on the planet really is."

According to the ineffable Don King, this is a fight between "an irresistible force and an immovable object, and something's got to give. And it will give on Saturday night in the greatest fight in the history of boxing." It is not in recognition of his own part in the affair that the promoter has titled the fight "King's Crowning Glory". Oh no. "This is a fight between two kings with three kingdoms," he cackled yesterday. "This fight has superseded everything that has come in its wake." Indeed. King was delighted to announce a coup that, in his view, puts himself and his associates on the level of a diplomat such as Henry Kissinger. "In Bosnia," he said, "they will be having a moratorium, so to speak, on 13 March. They will not be killing each other on 13 March. They will be watching Holyfield and Lewis. Clinton and Yeltsin could take a leaf out of our book."

But in boxing terms this is indeed a contest to rank with the most significant of modern times, even if it will not ring down the centuries in the manner of the event chosen by King as an analogy, when "those 300 Spartanites held the bridge at Monopoly... er, Thermopylae." A sell-out Garden crowd of 19,000 will include 7,000 visitors from Britain, hoping to see one of their countrymen do what so many could not and take the undisputed title for the first time.

The 36-year-old Holyfield, whose record reads 33 victories and three defeats from 36 fights, with 25 knockouts, will take a minimum of $20m (pounds 12.4m) from the fight, the exact sum depending on revenues from pay-per-view television. Lewis, three years younger, with one defeat (to Oliver McCall) in 34 fights, and 27 knockouts, will be sent on his way, win or lose, with a purse of $10m.

American experts find it impossible to believe that a Brit can eclipse one of their own, but no one except Holyfield seems certain of the exact course the fight will take.

Much has been made of the return of the world's top heavyweights to what Lewis's manager, Frank Maloney, calls "the temple of boxing", but the significance of the location was at once recognised and downplayed by Lewis. "When I was young, growing up, I always said I wanted to box at Madison Square Garden," he said. "Then they stopped having fights here and took them out west to the casinos instead. I was really surprised when they brought it back and I was glad, because it was something I've always wanted to do and it's a great honour. But this weekend, when the fight does come about, I won't be thinking about where it's being held. All I'll be thinking about is Evander Holyfield and me in that 20-by-20 ring."

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice