The fallout from Evander Holyfield’s farcical fight against Vitor Belfort earlier this month has continued to hit the headlines, with Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn the latest to condemn and condone this type of dangerous matchmaking.
Holyfield’s fight was sanctioned by the Florida State Boxing Commission so it will be a sad epitaph to a fine career. The former Cruiserweight and heavyweight Champion was stopped in a single round and it is yet another example of a diminished fighter being wheeled out without any consideration for their long-term health.
Despite promoting the fight between YouTubers in the past, Hearn believes that wheeling out badly damaged fighters is not a good look for the sport, and he made his feelings clear when talking to The DAZN Boxing Show.
“YouTube boxing is one thing, I don’t mind what Jake Paul’s doing,” he said. “Holyfield is not a young YouTuber in a training camp, going out and fighting an MMA guy. This is a guy that is not medically fit to have a fight.
“For the commission, who we worked with in Florida before, to allow that to happen? I’ll tell you right now, there is absolutely no way the British Boxing Board of Control would even consider allowing that fight to happen. They could have done six rounds. What we saw, it actually disgusted me.”
In other news, Matchroom have confirmed that the undercard of Dillian Whyte’s WBC interim title fight against Otto Wallin at London’s O2 on October 30 has been boosted by the inclusion of Alen Babic (8-0, 8 KOs) against Lucas Browne (29-3, 25 KOs).
The 42-year-old Australian is coming off a first-round defeat against Paul Gallen and was knocked out in three by David Allen at the O2 in 2019, but he managed to score a second-round win over John Hopoate between both of those stoppage defeats to earn a fight against the 30-year-old undefeated, big-hitting Babic.
Keeping with the heavyweights, Hearn has announced that WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua(24-1, 22 KOs) has signed a long-term deal with Matchroom and DAZN that will see him close out his career with them. The exclusive deal will kick in after Saturday’s defence against Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 early), which takes place at Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium and will be Joshua’s final fight on Sky Sports.
However, Michael Hunter has told Sky Sports that Joshua should not overlook Usyk as the Ukrainian has the style to trouble anyone at the weight. “He is fleet-footed and defensive-minded,” warned Hunter.
“It will be very difficult to actually get a win over Usyk in a certain fashion. Joshua will have to have a concrete game-plan and follow it. It will be a very hard task. If he pulls it off? Give the man credit. Because this style of fighting, for him, is the most difficult.”
Thirty-years have passed since Michael Watson suffered life-changing brain injuries after being stopped in the 12th and final round by Chris Eubank. The two fighters were contesting the vacant WBO world Super middleweight title and Watson had forged an early lead in an exciting rematch of their WBO middleweight encounter.
Eubank, though, came firing back as the rounds progressed only to be floored in the 11th. After beating the count, he landed a stunning right uppercut on Watson that led to a knockdown. Despite being badly hurt and concussed, Watson came out for the final round only to be stopped early in the session. This is when Watson’s real fight began.
It was chaos at ringside that night. The BBBoC let Watson down as at the time essential medical treatment was not mandatory and he didn’t get to an hospital for nearly half an hour. Watson later successfully sued them for their negligence. First, though, he had to fight his way out of a 40-day coma then cope with severe brain injuries that left him unable to hear, speak or walk.
You know the rest of the story, through sheer force of will the former fighter defied medical expectations by learning to overcome, adapt to and live with his injuries. The 56-year-old still trains, he is often seen at charity and other boxing events, and he is able to enjoy time with his grandchildren.
Watson’s unbelievable story is one that both underlines the inherent danger of boxing and draws into sharp focus the need to protect some fighters from themselves. Granted, Watson was a young man, and tragedy can strike anywhere, but in light of recent fights and the fact that even Riddick Bowe is coming back for an exhibition bout it highlights the need to ensure that the sport is as safe as it can possibly be.
If you grant an old, past it fighter a licence then the chances are that they will fight, especially given the fact that they often don’t put money aside for their future, so it does boil down to personal responsibility. On the other hand, by dangling that carrot in front of them you become partially responsible for any further damage that is accrued.
The idea that boxing is a safe sport is a fallacy, it is not and never will be safe, but our main argument when this is pointed out to us is that we try to make it as safe as it can possibly be. If we lose sight of this, then we won’t have a leg to stand on if tragedy strikes on the so-called senior’s circuit. Or anywhere else, for that matter.