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Boxing: Holyfield still chasing vain dream at age of 47

Veteran former world champion fights for 55th time in twilight title bout

Evander Holyfield may have ended up in hospital after several savage brawls, once suffering a heart attack in the ring and losing a large chunk of an ear in another infamous fight, but he refuses to quit.

At the Thomas and Mack Centre on the outskirts of Las Vegas tonight, Holyfield will fight for the 55th time in a career that started in 1984, when he meets Frans Botha for the World Boxing Federation heavyweight title. It is the same glorious belt that Joe Bugner won by default at 50 after James "Bonecrusher" Smith, who was 45, damaged his back throwing a jab.

Holyfield is 47 now and looks and moves like an ancient and retired veteran of some of modern boxing's most memorable, brutal and shocking fights. The problem is that after making in excess of $200m, he is still alarmingly chasing the dream; a dream that he lived for about a decade when he was a true great of the ring.

"I have my ambitions and winning this title and getting a fight with David Haye is still something that I know I can do," said Holyfield a few days ago when he met with Botha – who, by the way, is 41 – at a lunch where they looked like two fit, but old and kindly granddads.

Sadly, and predictably, there are still men and women in the boxing business who are prepared to whisper in Holyfield's ear and turn his head with promises of yet more riches and glory.

"Why is it me that always has to end up in hospital?" Holyfield asked a few nights before he fought Michael Moorer for the first time. It was 1994 and he would lose to Moorer, suffer a heart attack during the fight, end up in hospital but, sensationally, win the heavyweight title back a couple of years later when he stopped Mike Tyson for the first time. In the Tyson rematch, he made $30m but lost part of his ear in the process; a bloody segment that remained on the canvas long after the mêlée erupted in the ring.

After the second Tyson fight he knocked out Moorer, fought back-to-back fights with Lennox Lewis, including the controversial draw in New York, and won the world title for the third time in 2000 by beating John Ruiz. In late 2008 he came close to winning the title for a fourth time when he narrowly lost to Nikolai Valuev. Hopefully, Holyfield will look bad enough tonight for him finally to call it a day after the Botha fight.

Meanwhile, Audley Harrison salvaged his career with just one remarkable punch in the 12th and last round to knock out Michael Sprott and win the European heavyweight title at Alexandra Palace last night. Harrison had threatened to quit if he lost and was trailing heavily on points before the southpaw left dropped Sprott for the full count.