By Ted Sares
Evander Holyfield's fight with Jeremy Bates did not tell me how sharp Holyfield is as much as it told me how bad Bates was. Jeremy, in obvious awe of Evander, was unable to capitalize on the right that he momentarily stunned "The Real Deal" with in the second round and which caused Evander to flounder, albeit tellingly, for just a second. As predicted, Bates quickly fell apart. So much for whatever dreams he may have had. Now Holyfield is hyping "Holyfield V, The Final Chapter," which he fully expects to end with him becoming the heavyweight champion for the fifth time. He is already the only person to do it four times. "Eventually I'll be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world — 44, 45, it don't make no difference," Holyfield said.
It appears his next fight may be with Sinan Samil Sam, 26 (15 ko's) - 3, a Turkish fighter who is a boxer puncher. Sam, 6' 3'' and 32 years old, lives in Hamburg, Germany and has fought all but three of his fights in that country. Talk is that the fight will take place in November.
He is nicknamed the "Bull from Bosporus" which is only appropriate since Holyfield's last opponent was nicknamed "The Beast." But make no mistake, the Bull is no Beast. Sam is a witty and intelligent chap who will prove a far tougher gauge of Holyfield's "diminishing" skills.....far tougher, indeed. He pretty much has been under the radar screen except for the more knowledgeable boxing fans. He was born in Frankfurt of Turkish parentage, but relocated to Turkey at an early age. Brought up in Ankara, he took up boxing after being introduced to the sport by a teacher. His amateur career included more than 200 bouts (including many with Russians), nine Turkish championships, a loss to Wlad Klitschko, and a win over IBF and WBA super middleweight boss Sven Ottke. Ultimately, he won the World Amateur super heavyweight gold medal in Houston in 1999 by beating Mikhtarkhan Dildabekov from Kazakstan. He concluded his amateur career with an impressive 217-18 mark.
Sam first stepped up the level of his professional opposition in 2002 when he decked Przemyslaw Saleta, 41-4, four times in route to a 7th round TKO win for the European European (EBU) Heavyweight Title. Among other wins, he tko'd shop-worn Julius Francis in 2003 and Russian Dennis Bakhtov,19-2, for the WBC International Heavyweight Title in 2004. In 2005 he beat Ugandan Peter Okhello, 17-3, and the capable Lawrence Clay Bey, 21-2, but lost to rugged Oleg Maskaev by UD. This year he already has decision wins over Saul Montana, 47-14, and George Arias, 37-9. His two other losses were to tough German, Luan Krasniqi (who almost beat Lamon Brewster last year) and to Juan Carlos Gomez by MD and UD, respectively. He has a solid chin and has never been stopped. As Danny Williams found out, the sometimes plodding and slowish Turk knows how to cut off a ring with a come-forward style and power in both hands as he floored William three times in winning a 6-round stoppage in 2003.
Which brings us back to Holyfield and his ability to take punishment from a genuine and durable opponent...which I submit Sinan Samil Sam most certainly is, though he may never rise above B-level. Sure, Evander looked chiseled but so did Weaver, Norton and Tyson at the end....but in reality they were shells who possessed show muscles which are not reliable enough to sustain prolonged executions or furious exchanges. Sure, he snapped off some nice double hooks but he was doing this with a willing and immobile opponent. Sam will not be such an opponent. Sure, Evander says his health has been bad over the last few years, but that rap is wearing thin. The Real Deal's health had better be good if and when he faces this foe who can club with either hand and who has been in with far better opponents than a 44-year old boxer whose last victory before Bates was in June 2002 when he beat Hasim Rahman by accidental head butt.
I don't see this as just another step in Evander's latest work in progress. No, this step is with a dangerous and capable opponent who will not be in awe of a "Living Legend;"one who will be in there to place himself in contention with an impressive and decisive win. There are lots of fights out there for Evander Holyfield if he decides to fight on......which, of course, is his right as long as he can pass the required medical examinations. A rematch, for example, with light hitting Larry Donald would seem a good test, particularly regarding the veracity of Evander's claims about his health when he last fought Donald. Or how about Brian "The Beast" Minto, 26-1, (who also beat Jeremy Bates by TKO) or maybe Vinny Maddalone, 27-3. But Sam is the wrong one. Sinan Samil Sam is no Jeremy Bates and If he stuns Holyfield with a sloppy and looping right, he very definitely will know how to follow up.
"His ability to throw fast punches is there, his left hand to the right side of the belly of his opponent is crisp as he brings the left hand up from there to the head, still crisp, the right hand is triggered nicelly in combination for awhile. There are white collar guys over 50 in Gleason's gym who can do that too, so can I, but we cannot take the punishment at our age anymore and either can Evander. It is that simple, no one can." Referee Ron Lipton who refereed Holyfield twice, against Ray Mercer and Bobby Czyz
Ted Sares is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected]