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Evander Holyfield has eyes on Klitschkos, no matter what anyone thinks

Following the example of George Foreman, Holyfield vows to not let age stand in his way

Image

Steve Marcus

Evander Holyfield (L) connects on Francois Botha during a heavyweight bout Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Holyfield TKOs Botha

Evander Holyfield becomes the new WBF Heavyweight Champion with an eighth-round TKO of Frans Botha, Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Holyfield vs. Botha

Evander Holyfield stands over Francois Botha after knocking down Botha in the eighth round of Saturday's heavyweight bout at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

In April of 1991, Evander Holyfield, 28 years old and in the midst of his prime, reluctantly agreed to fight 42-year-old George Foreman.

To be frank, it wasn’t a matchup that excited Holyfield all that much. Foreman was 14 years his elder and hadn’t fought in a world title fight since losing to Muhammed Ali in 1974.

“I was one of the guys that laughed at George Foreman when I had to fight him,” Holyfield said.

Foreman didn’t end up getting the job done against Holyfield that night, losing by a unanimous decision after 12 rounds of action.

He didn’t stop, though.

Three years later, at the age of 45, Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer in the tenth round of their championship fight at the MGM Grand to claim the WBA world title.

Now 47, and fighting well past the age some believe he should, Holyfield is trying to follow Foreman’s example.

“One of the most important things I learned from George Foreman was that he said it’s not about age,” Holyfield said. “He said, ‘I will give it my all and I will be the heavyweight champion of the world again.’ He came back and beat Michael Moorer.

“Because he didn’t quit, he still became the heavyweight champion of the world again.”

Holyfield did his best to silence his critics Saturday, stopping Frans Botha in the eighth round of their World Boxing Federation title fight at the Thomas & Mack Center.

He now sets his sights on what has been the goal his entire career — becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

That path will ultimately lead to one of the Klitschko brothers — Vitali and Vladimir — neither of whom has lost since 2004.

After falling to Holyfield early in the eighth round Saturday, Botha threw his support behind the former champion — promising that he would be a handful to any fighter in the division.

“He’s a true warrior and I would never feel ashamed of losing to a great champion like this,” Botha said. “He’s got the skill, the power and the determination. Now he just needs the opportunity. I know that the Klitschkos are who he’s going after now.”

While the general public would likely not back either Klitschko going up against Holyfield, they haven’t exactly embraced any of their latest challenges either.

Although both Vitali and Vladimir have each defended their title recently, the heavyweight division is considered by many to be at its lowest level of competition in some time.

Holyfield’s head trainer Tommy Brooks, who has also worked with both Klitschko brothers, believes that the lack of quality opponents they’ve faced has left an opportunity open for his fighter.

“They haven’t been fighting anybody,” Brooks said. “The guys they’re fighting are just there for a payday.

“As we all know, styles make fights. The Klitschkos are both big guys but you know. . .they can easily be beat. They’re like anyone else.”

According to Brooks, Holyfield is eyeing Austria as the venue for his next fight and hopes to be in the ring again in either July or August.

Whether that ends up being for a heavyweight world title or not, don’t expect Holyfield to give up on his goal anytime soon.

If Foreman could do it at 45, Holyfield sees no reason he can’t do it at 47.

“You hear people talking, saying that you’re old and senile,” Holyfield said. “The most important thing is my faith in God, which has allowed me to close my ear to that. My whole life I’ve set goals for myself because my mother, who I love, told me, ‘You’ll never get to your destination if you quit.’

“I fight because I won’t let anybody else determine my destination. I would never be who I am if I listened to people.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or brett.okamoto@lasvegassun.com. Also follow him on twitter: LVSunFighting.

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