Boxing

Holyfield & Haye make exhibition comebacks as Trump provides commentary

Evander Holyfield is knocked down by Vitor Belfort during the first round of the fight during Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort presented by Triller at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida.
Evander Holyfield’s last professional fight had been against Brian Nielsen in 2011

Two former world heavyweight boxing champions coming out of retirement, two former UFC champions facing off in the ring – and ringside commentary from former US president Donald Trump.

This was the spectacle provided for fight fans at Triller’s Fight Club at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida.

Top of the bill was 58-year-old former world champion Evander Holyfield, returning to the ring for the first time in a decade.

But it was a short-lived return for the man who beat Mike Tyson twice in his heyday – albeit one of the victories is best remembered for his opponent’s ear-biting.external-link

He suffered a first-round technical knockout at the hands of former UFC fighter Vitor Belfort after taking a flurry of punches which sent him first through the ropes, then to the canvas, before the referee stepped in.

Holyfield felt that had been a “bad call” and said it was “kind of sad” to end it that way.

“I wasn’t hurt,” insisted the 1984 Olympic champion. He had taken the fight at just eight days’ notice following the withdrawal of another former ring great, Oscar de la Hoya, who had contracted Covid.

The fight was even moved from Los Angeles to Florida because the California State Athletic Commission had refused to sanction the new headliner.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks after the fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort
Low-key ringside commentary at the event was provided by former US president Donald Trump

“Right from the beginning he was not the same fighter. He lost a lot. It was not Evander Holyfield,” was Trump’s take on the brief battle.

Earlier, Britain’s former world cruiserweight and heavyweight champion David Haye had made his own return to the professional ranks with a points victory against his friend, businessman-turned-boxer Joe Fournier, 38.

Haye, 40, last fought three years ago against Tony Bellew and has said he has no intention of a making a full comeback to the professional ranks.

David Haye raises his arm after defeating Joe Fournier during Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort presented by Triller at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida.
Fournier, right, has had nine professional fights – Haye retired with 26 knockouts on his CV

But that did not stop him calling out WBC world champion Tyson Fury in his post-fight interview.

“There’s one man I’ll come back to professional boxing to fight – Tyson Fury. I know his kryptonite,” he said.

The co-main event saw former UFC champions Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz, both now 46, don their boxing gloves.

Tito Ortiz and Anderson Silva square off during the first round of the fight during Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort presented by Triller at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida.
Anderson Silva (right) was UFC middleweight champion from 2006 to 2013 – an unbeaten reign that is still a UFC record

It was another short fight, Silva ending it with a first-round knockout.

Triller, an entertainment app that its owners hope to move into the fight streaming market, was behind the Florida event.

Speaking before the fight, Haye told BBC Sport such exhibition events could be the future of boxing, allowing fighters to earn more than they could on conventional bills while giving an audience what it wanted – he cited the enormous popularity of fights involving YouTube personalities such as Logan Paul and KSI.

And one of these future events might just see Holyfield meet his old nemesis Mike Tyson for a third time. That prospect was put to Holyfield after his fight. Was it something he would like to see?

“Of course,” he answered.

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