Holyfield's style to stop Tyson

Ken Jones reports from Las Vegas on the clash of methods that could turn Caesars Palace into Iron Mike's heartbreak hotel

An important truth about boxing is that styles figure prominently in the equation. A fighter can be superior in technique and application, but find difficulty with problems set by his opponent's method.

This applied famously to three contests between Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton. In fact no heavyweight caused Ali more embarrassment. Norton won their first fight, breaking Ali's jaw, and ran him close in the others.

Ali preferred to box on the retreat and deliver rapid counters, but Norton fought out of a defensive crouch and would not come to him. This so upset Ali's rhythm that he never had Norton's measure.

Style enters assessments of tonight's rematch between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson at the MGM Grand here. Because Holyfield's best work is done in retaliation it suits him to be up against an aggressor. When they first met last November for the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship Holyfield opened at 25-1 in the betting and although the odds had shortened considerably by fight time only one boxing writer gave him a chance. In one of boxing's biggest upsets, Holyfield broke Tyson's spirit to gain an 11th-round stoppage.

Going back almost 11 years, Holyfield outpointed Dwight Muhammad Qawi over the old distance of 15 rounds for the WBA junior heavyweight title. Qawi came forward all the time and a very hard fight was settled by the quality of Holyfield's counter-punching. This week Lou Duva, who trained Holyfield at that time, said: "Evander was in only his 12th professional fight, but from then on he knew the best way to go about things. He outpunched Tyson in the first fight and I think he will end it quicker this time. Tyson is nothing like the force he was and Evander is full of confidence."

When sitting a few places from Tyson at a press conference earlier this week Holyfield had a smirk on his face. "What's making you so smug?" his trainer, Don Turner, asked. Holyfield's whispered reply was that he had been trying unsuccessfully to make eye contact with Tyson. "He won't look at me," Holyfield said. "I think he's running scared."

Tyson still has an edge on the casino betting boards, but more and more people are coming around to the notion that Holyfield has his measure. On Wednesday I was present when Ed Schuyler, of the Associated Press, spoke by telephone with Angelo Dundee who was calling from Italy. "He [Holyfield] will do the same number on Tyson - maybe a little earlier," Dundee said. "I think Tyson is made to order for him and has lost that cloak of invincibility. Tyson simply isn't the same fighter without it and I doubt whether Richie Giachetti has been able to bring about a big improvement.

"Tyson was away from boxing for three years and some of the things you lose you never get back. Richie will have told him to move his head more and make better use of the jab but when the heat is on fighters tend to fall back on what they think works best for them."

In the first contest Tyson grew demoralised after failing to take out Holyfield with single punches. He had a big fifth round, but when nothing came of it he was there to be taken. "It will be different this time,' Tyson insists. "I'll be harder to hit and more in control of myself. I'm looking forward to the fight and winning the title."

Holyfield, meanwhile, puts his trust in God and a warrior's instinct. Nothing seems to trouble him. Turner says that he has never worked with a smarter fighter than the former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, but Holyfield is high in his estimation. "He's so relaxed, so cool that I just can't see him losing," Turner said. "And if Evander senses quickly that Tyson is nervous it won't surprise me if he jumps on him."

However, as so many of Holyfield's contests have been "wars" caution is advisable. After all it is now nearly five years since he went into retirement after a loss to Riddick Bowe for the undisputed championship. "He's had enough," Duva said then. "He's got nothing to prove and more money than he'll ever need. I've told him that it would be foolish to carry on and he agrees."

When Holyfield returned to scrape past Alex Stewart people shook their heads sadly. Six months later Holyfield had taken the WBA and International Boxing Federation titles from Bowe. Just a couple of nights before that contest I came across Holyfield in a lift at Caesars Palace. It was close to midnight and he was with Janice Itson, the physician he recently married. It made me wonder, but Holyfield went on to show that he has his own way of doing things.

After losing his titles to Michael Moorer, a southpaw (styles again), Holyfield was thought to have a heart condition. It turned out to be a misdiagnosis, but leaves a doubt about him.

The end of a fighter's career often comes without warning. One fight too many and the stuff drains suddenly from them. So another question, and there are many, is whether Holyfield still has a big performance left in him.

Duva is convinced that it is there. "Tyson's got Giachetti, and that's got to help him because the guys he had in his corner before were clowns. The one thing about Giachetti is, he's a real boxing guy.

"But I don't think it's going to matter. I don't think Tyson can do anything any differently than he did the first time. He may come in behind the jab and he may try to come forward, but if he does, Evander will knock him out in three rounds. As many times as they'd fight, Evander would knock him out again and again and again. Mentally, he's too strong for Tyson."

The doyen of trainers, 86-year-old Eddie Futch, who was in Bowe's corner for three fights against Holyfield, thought Tyson would win the first contest. "I respected Holyfield, but felt that his only chance was to take him before the sixth round.

As it turned out Tyson didn't win a round after the sixth. He now promises to be the best-ever Tyson, but promises don't win fights. He simply cannot afford to make the same mistakes. I'm leaning towards Holyfield, but don't ask me which round."

No matter how engrossed Holyfield becomes in his religion, he never forgets that he is first of all a fighter. "I've been doing this for 26 years," he said, "I know what I'm doing."

At Thursday's weigh-in both men were at 15st 8lb, making Tyson 4lb lighter than he was for the first contest and Holyfield 3lb heavier. This matters little in calculation.

More significant was an attempt by Tyson's co-managers, John Horne and Rory Holloway, to get Mitch Halpern, who was in charge of the first contest, replaced by a more experienced official on the grounds that Holyfield was allowed to get away with persistent fouling. The Nevada Comission voted 4-1 to keep Halpern, but he later withdrew of his own accord, not wanting to be the focal point of any controversy, and he was replaced by Mills Lane.

It indicates nervousness linked to the possibility that Holyfield's style will leave Tyson with no other option but to try to blast through Holyfield's defences, a hazardous tactic against a counter-puncher. Though not without a tremor of apprehension, I am taking Holyfield to win inside the distance, possibly around the seventh round.

Tale of the tape

Holyfield Tyson

Record 33-3 45-2

Knock-outs 24 39

Age 34 30

Weight 218lb 218

Height 6ft 21/2 5-111/2

Reach 77.5in 71

Chest (normal) 43 43

Chest (expanded) 45 45

Biceps 16 16

Forearm 12.5 14

Waist 32 34

Thigh 22 27

Calf 13 19

Neck 19.5 20.5

Wrist 7.5 8

Fist 12.5 13

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Arts and Entertainment
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Primary teachers required for schools in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style