- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

Evander Holyfield fighting John Ruiz has become boxing's version of "Groundhog Day" living the same day over and over. In this case, it's been three times, the same fight, over and over again.
Technically, they have all had different outcomes Holyfield won the first time, Ruiz the second, and they fought to a draw Saturday night at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut but all the fights have been the same.
It's not often that fighters can say they fought each other three times. Most of the time, when that happens, it's because the previous fights have been so good that the demand created the matches. Ali-Frazier. Ali-Norton. Holyfield himself has been a participant in the best heavyweight trifecta in the past 25 years, when he and Riddick Bowe battled each other three times in the 1990s.
Now Holyfield can say he has also been a participant in perhaps the worst heavyweight trifecta of all time. The only demand for three John Ruiz-Evander Holyfield fights has come from Ruiz, Holyfield and the man who promotes both of them, Don King.
The Chinese, who have never played host to a heavyweight championship fight, didn't even want this one. Holyfield-Ruiz III was supposed to take place in August in Beijing. King even brought the fighters there for a pre-fight publicity tour. But when it came time to pay the fighters, there was no money, and Ruiz developed a quick injury at the last minute to postpone the fight. Everyone left Beijing except King, who was held there by Chinese government officials until they could count all the bricks in the Great Wall to make sure none were missing.
Where will Holyfield-Ruiz IV take place? Yes, they were talking after Saturday night's fight about yet another fight. By the time this series is all over, there may be a Holyfield-Ruiz fight for each one of Evander's illegitimate children, though by the time they got to the final fight, the 39-year-old Holyfield would be fighting for the American Association of Retired Persons title.
As it was, they fought for the World Boxing Association championship, as if that means anything. With the draw, Ruiz managed to retain his WBA belt, which may get him free drinks in his hometown of Chelsea, Mass., but little else. Lennox Lewis is the heavyweight champion. He once held all three recognized titles the WBA, the World Boxing Council and the International Boxing Federation but the WBA stripped him of their version in April 2000 for failing to fight their No. 1 mandatory challenger, who was Ruiz. That was a Don King maneuver, which is the only explanation for John Ruiz who was knocked out by David Tua in 19 seconds ever being declared the heavyweight champion of the world by anyone.
There probably won't be a Holyfield-Ruiz IV. They couldn't even get public access television to broadcast that fight. But the alternatives are not much better. Kirk Johnson is the WBA's No. 1 ranked challenger, and probably next in line to fight Ruiz. You've probably never heard of Kirk Johnson, either, but you almost did. He had a chance to fight Lennox Lewis last year, but didn't feel he was ready and passed. You know who took his place? Hasim Rahman. So much for Kirk Johnson.
Speaking of Rahman, King was trumpeting the former heavyweight champion from Baltimore as a possible opponent for Ruiz. That may be the only way Rahman gets the rest of the money he is due from King for the second Lewis fight last month.
And what of Holyfield? Writers nearly begged him to retire in the interviews before the Ruiz fight, but he said after the fight that he has no intention of quitting. "I don't quit and I will not quit," he said.
Of course he won't. The very thing that made Evander Holyfield a great fighter will wind up making him a punch-drunk fighter. He has been driven throughout his career by doing what people said he couldn't do. He was too small to be a heavyweight, and he wound up being champion. He would get killed against Mike Tyson, and wound up exposing 911 Mike for the fraud he was. The more Holyfield is told to quit, the more determined he seems to fight. He insists his goal is to become undisputed heavyweight champion again the last time he held that distinction (all three major titles) was November 1992, before losing them to Bowe. There would seem to be little chance of that happening, but then this is boxing, where people parachute into the ring and rip human flesh apart with their teeth. Anything's possible.
What is probable is that Evander Holyfield will someday be barely able to carry on a conversation, at least one that can be understood. He has already taken way too many punches. He has fought 60 rounds past the age of 36. He absorbed 12 rounds of punches from George Foreman in 1991, and he took what Mike Tyson was still able to throw in 1995. Then there were the 32 rounds from Bowe over a three-year period. People believe it was the Andrew Golota fight that turned Bowe into a basket case, but it was the three wars with Holyfield that probably finished Bowe, even though he won two of them. In 1986, Holyfield, as a cruiserweight, fought 15 brutal rounds with Dwight Qawi in one of the all-time battles. Too much punishment.
Someday, for Evander Holyfield, every day will seem like "Groundhog Day" a dementia that never ends.

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