Thursday, Feb. 25, 1999 | 11:03 a.m.
He spoke softly and with humility, yet Evander Holyfield was more brazen than usual during a conference call with the boxing media Wednesday. In fact, the WBA and IBF heavyweight champion took a couple of risks that seemed uncharacteristic of him.
For starters, he predicted not only that he would defeat WBC champion Lennox Lewis when they meet March 13 in New York, but that he would do it with a third-round knockout.
Beyond that, Holyfield quietly argued that after he regains the undisputed championship, he will have earned the right to move past Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis and be regarded as the finest heavyweight of all time.
It didn't seem as if Holyfield was talking simply to intimidate Lewis, but his comments may take the Englishman aback.
"I'm a winner," Holyfield said from his training camp in Houston. "Winning is what I do. It just so happens that Lennox Lewis is a bump in the road I've got to get over.
"Lennox is a defeated foe and he knows that."
Lewis, 33, is 34-1.
Holyfield, 36, is 36-3.
"No one is dangerous to me," Holyfield said. "Not that he's a bad fighter, but Lennox's chance of winning is slim. He just happens to be fighting a guy in his prime who is anointed to win."
That anointment apparently came from God himself.
"I have confidence in the word of God," Holyfield said. "I'm not predicting, I'm telling you: I will knock him out in the third round. Whatever way I do it, whether we're fighting inside or outside, I will dominate each and every round and win by third-round knockout."
Holyfield added a comic touch when a follow-up question asked him about Lewis' supposed lack of stamina. "We won't get a chance to find out," Holyfield said, chuckling a bit as he once again intimated the fight would be over in the third round.
As for moving past Ali and Louis and to the pinnacle of the all-time ratings, Holyfield said "I've accomplished (what they have) and more."
Despite his advancing age, Holyfield believes he isn't anywhere near retirement and that he plans on something of a world tour following his win over Lewis.
"I've talked about going around the world and fighting," he said. "That's one of the things I want to do. I'll be available to fight outside of the United States."
Bouts in South Africa and England could materialize if Holyfield sticks to his plans. One or more of those fights could be mandatory defenses, as Holyfield, as the undisputed champion, would have to face the top-ranked WBA, WBC and IBF challenger each year.
"I realize I'd have to fight three times a year," he said. "I'm willing to do what's necessary."
The current WBA and WBC mandatory challengers are Henry Akinwande and John Ruiz, respectfully, while the IBF's No. 1 spot belongs to David Tua. Holyfield did not offer a comment about the likelihood of facing Mike Tyson for a third time.
Nor did he choose to extend the conversation on the subject of his having nine children with six women. Earlier this week, Lewis had called Holyfield "hypocritical" for presenting himself as a religious man in spite of these faults.
"I still think he's a good guy," Holyfield said. "All will be forgotten. What he said don't make me any smaller than I am today. I'm not ashamed of the mistakes I've made."
* PHILLIPS FAULTED: Las Vegan Vince Phillips lost his IBF junior welterweight title and, perhaps, a potential lucrative bout later this year with Felix Trinidad when Terron Millett knocked him out in the fifth round last Saturday in New York. The upset dropped the 35-year-old Phillips to 39-4 and came as a result of his carrying too much weight in the days and weeks leading up to the fight, his manager said.
"Vince lost before he got there," said Bill Miller. "We knew we were in trouble before we even left Las Vegas. I mean, he made 140 pounds at the weigh-in but he had to lose 45 pounds to get there and Vince is so hardheaded he went right to the wire with it.
"He's done this before and gotten away with it, but this time it caught up to him. He knows he screwed everything up."
Despite Phillips' weight troubles, Miller said promoter Don King wants to keep the Florida native at 140 and has told him he'll get a rematch with Millett later this year. Millett is 21-1-1 following his unexpected victory, which was the result of knocking Phillips down twice and having the referee stop the fight in the fifth.
"I look to Vince to redeem himself," Miller said. "All great fighters lose and he got his butt whipped in this one. The problem was that he let himself blow up fully, and he didn't have time to get to 140 and still be strong.
"I don't think he'll do that again."
* QUICK HITS: Another Las Vegan suffered an equally devastating loss last weekend, as junior lightweight Justin Juuko was a TKO-11 loser to journeyman Antonio Hernandez in Fort Worth. Juuko, 33-2-1, was supposed to win the fight and advance to a match with WBA champion Takonon Hatakeyama this summer, but now those plans have been scrapped. Juuko was leading on two judges' cards by three points and trailed by two points on the third judge's card when Hernandez, an unimpressive 49-20, put Juuko down twice with strong right hands. ... Thanks to wins by Mike Kostewka and Dave Lamarca, the UNLV club boxing team split four matches with Nevada-Reno over the weekend. ... Due to the expenses of the Mike Tyson hearings conducted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Monday the NSAC had to ask the Nevada legislature for an $18,500 supplement to its yearly budget. "We had to do it before the session was over," said executive director Marc Ratner, adding that the commission usually "gives a little money back to the st
ate" at the end of the fiscal year. The NSAC's annual budget is $290,000. For those wondering about the $3 million fine assessed to Tyson or the $1.4 million the NSAC has taken in this year, that money goes directly to the state's general fund. ... With Tyson's legal troubles still unresolved, he will not fight April 24 at the MGM and the promoter has withdrawn his request for that date from the NSAC.
Although promoter Bob Arum initially announced the Erik Morales vs. Wayne McCullough fight for Mandalay Bay on May 8, Caesars Palace may get that bout as well as one featuring Floyd Mayweather that is tentatively set for April 17. ... America Presents has announced Luis Lizarraga as the opponent for John John Molina in the junior lightweight main event March 20 at the New Frontier. Lizarraga is 29-13-3 and Molina is 45-6. ... America Presents will also have heavyweights Monte Barrett (19-0) and Phil Jackson (42-6) headlining April 3 at the New Frontier. They were scheduled for earlier this month until Barrett came down sick. ... Hugo Pineda, scheduled to headline Friday's card at The Orleans, had to withdraw due to a rib injury and instead the welterweight will headline at the same site March 19. Topping Friday's card are lightweights James Crayton (28-9-2 ) and Ivan Ledon (12-2-1) in a 12-round match. Crayton has been limited to one win in his last four fights, while Ledon has lost two of his last three. In
the semi-main event it's Steve Forbes putting his 10-0 record on the line against Gustavo Tapia in a lightweight pairing set for 10. Tapia is 7-8-3 and has won only one of his last four fights.