Evander Holyfield may not be able to beat Mike Tyson, but he is certainly learning to talk a better fight.
Holyfield, who faced his sternest test in comebacking former champion Michael Dokes Saturday night at Caesars Palace, said his most vivid memory of Tyson was seeing him get knocked out as an amateur by Al “Chico” Evans in 1983.
“I saw him get hit on the chin and fall on his face,” Holyfield said. “He was beating the guy from pillar to post and jumped in with a left hook. He got clocked. That’s my biggest fear regarding Tyson, that somebody will do that to him before I get the chance.”
Holyfield had his chance in a sparring session at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team training camp. Holyfield, then a 178-pounder, went two rounds with Tyson, then 201.
“They told him, ‘Use your left hand only,’ but I said, ‘No way, use both hands,’ ” Holyfield recalled. “He hit me with one right hand on the arm and near knocked me across the ring, but every time he stopped punching I’d get my combinations off on him. I know I threw more punches at him than anybody else who sparred with him.”
Holyfield said the session was cut short by U.S. team coach Pat Nappi, who said, “This guy’s got an ego, he’ll try to hurt you.”
Someday soon, Holyfield will get another chance, without Pat Nappi there to protect him.
Promoter Dan Duva went on a harangue aimed at Tyson and Hector Camacho at Wednesday’s Holyfield-Dokes news conference, saying he was offended that “two great fighters” shouldn’t be fighting “bums.”
“I have more respect for Mike Tyson than for any other fighter in the world,” Duva said. “But I’m disgusted that he wants to fight Jose Ribalta next. And now I hear Camacho wants to fight Harry Arroyo next. Forget about the Ribaltas and the Carl Williamses. Mike Tyson should only be talking about fighting the winner of this fight. The public deserves to see good fights between good fighters.”
There was a sense of urgency to Duva’s tirade, for good reason. The Dokes fight ends the Duva-Holyfield promotional contract, and the Titans of Totowa desperately want a piece of the potentially huge Holyfield-Tyson pie.
They also would like to get Camacho in the ring with Meldrick Taylor, who was to have fought mandatory challenger Jong-Jong Pacquing of the Philippines on the undercard. Taylor tore knee cartilage while jumping rope Wednesday, forcing postponement of the fight.
Duva was rebuffed on Saturday when he tried to talk Taylor-Camacho with Patrick Flannery even before Camacho’s poor effort against Ray Mancini. And with the expiration of the Holyfield contract, the Duvas have an agreement with Holyfield’s manager, Ken Sanders, that gives them five months to make a Tyson fight -- probably not enough time. And Sanders has several other offers to consider.
“If Tyson doesn’t fight for five more months, the clock runs out on (the Duvas), not us,” Sanders said. “But they’ve been good to us so we might still do it with them anyway.”
Then again, they might not.
Could be fireworks at this year’s Boxing Writers Association of America awards dinner. Winner of this year’s Edward J. Neil fighter of the year award, predictably enough, is Tyson. Winner of the Al Buck manager-trainer of the year award is Kevin Rooney, recently banished from Tyson’s corner. Some mischievous type is sure to seat them together on the dais. Then again, maybe it will precipitate a reconciliation.
The other winners: veteran referee Arthur Mercante, the James J. Walker Award for long and meritorious service to boxing; unbeaten light-heavyweight Michael Moorer, the Cus D’Amato prospect of the year award; and Al Bernstein, the Sam Taub Award for excellence in boxing broadcasting.