Boxing: Holyfield opens 'final chapter'

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The Independent Online

Evander Holyfield is 43. He has not fought in nearly two years, has not won in more than four, and has not been the heavyweight champion of the world in six.

However, his contract to box for Don King expired only two weeks ago, he was licensed to box in Texas last week and on Thursday he announced the start of his latest comeback, an 18 August fight against the journeyman Jeremy Bates.

"I actually believe I can whup anybody," Holyfield said at a news conference featuring local fighters on the undercard, but not his opponent. "I'm ready. Sure as I sit here today, I will be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world."

Now working for his own company, Real Deal Events, his return to the ring after a 21-month absence is being hyped as "Holyfield V, The Final Chapter".

"If this was one fight, it would be the final page," Holyfield said. "Whatever it takes to fulfil that chapter, that's what it is."

Holyfield said he had not stopped working out during the longest lay-off of his career. He even joked that it made him angry to pay people to train him without having a pay day in sight. "I was thinking, 'I'm doing all this work for nothing,"' he said, pretending to cry.

The lay-off was caused by several things, starting with a three-bout losing run. His last loss, a unanimous decision against Larry Donald in November 2004, prompted New York boxing officials to revoke his licence to fight because of "diminished skills and poor performance."

Holyfield received a medical suspension that blocked him from fighting anywhere in the country. It was later changed to a ban in the state of New York. Holyfield said King was not interested in anything less than a blockbuster, leaving him to "sit on the shelf".

Holyfield has had two operations on his left shoulder and one on the right, but never gave them enough time to heal, which only made it worse.

"I was stubborn," he said. "I was thinking I could handle the pain and beat these guys. I thought 60 per cent of me was better than them. But they proved me wrong."