Ragged Night In Georgia
About an hour after his latest victory over an uninspiring opponent, Evander Holyfield, Atlanta's favorite son, sat on a stage inside the Georgia Dome and heard Don King utter these four words: "I love Evander Holyfield." They sounded sincere, heartfelt; just as King's professions of affection for Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson once had.
Even though Holyfield had looked flat, bored and beatable in last Saturday night's 12-round unanimous decision over Vaughn Bean, King—as always—ignored the negative. When someone had the gall to ask if Holyfield, 35, had ever considered retiring, King laughed the same laugh he laughed 18 years ago before an aging Ali was pummeled by Larry Holmes. When Holyfield suggested to reporters that he would like to fight Lennox Lewis to unify the heavyweight crown, then hang up his gloves, King stopped him in mid-sentence. "Now hold on," King yelled. "Don't tell them that. When you ask Rockefeller when he's gonna quit pumping oil, then you can ask us when we're gonna quit getting more money."
This was a sad moment because as much as Holyfield has come to represent what's good in boxing, his mediocre performance against Bean, a slow, overweight sandbag with lots of grit but only one effective punch—an overhand right—suggests that Holyfield should consider calling it quits. The challenger's strategy from the opening bell was to grab Holyfield with his left arm, pin the champion against his large stomach and fire down upon Holyfield's head with sharp right after sharp right. While Bean, a 25-year-old Chicago resident whose favorite food is Fruity Pebbles, did not possess the skills to pull the plan off with enough gusto to win, he frustrated Holyfield. "Vaughn Bean really doesn't have a style you can study," said Holyfield afterward, "because Vaughn Bean doesn't really have a style. He just goes in and fights, and you take what he gives."
Holyfield (36-3) did most of his giving in the 10th, when he decked Bean (31-2) for the only time in the fight The knockdown, though, was not 100% kosher. With 54 seconds remaining, Holyfield nailed Bean with a firm right to the chin, then threw him into the ropes. As Bean struggled to regain his footing, Holyfield's right hammer caught him straight on the cheek. Bean, nicknamed Shake 'n' Bake, shook all the way to the canvas. The 41,357 in attendance let out a roar, until Bean got up and finished the round. While his fighter was down, promoter Butch Lewis leaped onto the apron and screamed, "That was bulls—!" He was correct.
King says Holyfield will next fulfill a commitment to fight Henry Akinwande, who was scratched from a scheduled June fight because of hepatitis. That bout might take place by year's end. Then it will be England's Lewis, assuming the fighters' conflicting TV contracts—Lewis has a deal with HBO, Holyfield with Showtime—don't render matchmaking impossible. After that Holyfield is leaving open the chance of a third go-around with Tyson. "We're gonna destroy Lennox Lewis in 1999," said King on Saturday. "We're gonna do it the same way the 13 colonies beat King George in 1776. I promise it's gonna happen. We are coming after the money. Anywhere he wants to fight, Holyfield and I will be there. He's the most wanted man on the planet, Number 1 on the FBI list. I'm on the trail of Lennox Lewis. I will not let him out of my sight. We are gonna put him out of the heavyweight business."
Holyfield smiled. His eyes were a bit puffy. Behind him were his wife and four of his eight children. They were happy to be with Daddy, and Daddy, who'd watched two of his sons play football earlier in the day, was happy to be with them. In victory everyone's happy. But no one can fight forever.
Only in America
Feeling His Pain
Before the Holyfield-Bean fight, Don King—a man who knows what it feels like to be an embattled public figure fending off accusations, investigations and constant sniping by the media—was asked for his thoughts on Bill Clinton's travails. King, who described his political affiliation as "Republicrat," launched into a 20-minute deconstruction of Monicagate. After observing that "this nation don't need this kind of Sodom and Gomorrah kind of delay," he offered this reassuring analysis of the scandal's international ramifications: "Ain't no world leaders gonna be mad 'cause Bill Clinton got some."