From opening bell, Holyfield had right stuff going


LAS VEGAS -- One of the things one of Buster Douglas' co-trainers, John Russell, said when asked to size up Evander Holyfield as an opponent is, "Look at those legs, they look like pop bottles."

There was a lot of pop in Holyfield all right, and most of it was in a right hand that . . . let's digress:

* ROUND 1: Cat and mouse, Holyfield moving forward, Douglas backing up. Who's the big guy here anyway? Evander shoots a good left hook and Buster jiggles.

Douglas, it is said, has to set the tempo for the fight, but how's he going to do that backing up? Holyfield, rumored to have a bad or nonexistent jab, shoots not one, not two but three in a row.

Late in the round and after the champion has thrown his arms up to his sides as if to say, "I can't get loose," the challenger lands a nice three-punch combination along the ropes. Fortunately, Buster doesn't have to go far to regain his stool. Round to Holyfield.

* ROUND 2: Holyfield continues to deliver a better jab than he's given credit for. Douglas is a notoriously slow starter and he's showing it. The jab that bothered Mike Tyson so much last February is not in evidence from the champ.

Holyfield, who usually comes out hammer and tongs, isn't really pressing. He's just moving forward, slowly, inexorably shooting short, quick punches, depending on which direction Douglas moves in.

At long last, Douglas gets in an effective punch, a right uppercut. Hey, the guy is alive. He's warned for grabbing the smaller man by the back of the head. Round to Holyfield.

* ROUND 3: Just before the bell rings for the third heat, a gent in an $800 seat (about 12 rows from the ring) bellows, "We want George Foreman. He fights."

Perhaps Buster heard the catcall because he flicks out the left and leaps forward with a straight right, the punch that finally rendered Tyson senseless.

The sellout crowd of 16,100 reacts as if World War III has broken out. But a check of the films reveals the punch isn't that effective, Holyfield slipping back and doing a pretty good job of catching the punch.

The cool deliberateness of Holyfield's attack suggests that his braintrust, co-trainers Georgie Benton and Lou Duva, have set up a fight plan that calls for Evander to lay offshore for a spell in hopes Douglas will eventually tire from his own weight, a fairly shocking 246 pounds.

About a minute into the round and after he has forced closed quarters, Holyfield lands a left. Douglas doesn't retreat. He decides to hold his ground and, remembering the success of a right uppercut earlier, tries another.

It will be his last punch for a while. The punch is short and as he throws it his head starts up and his left shoulder and arm drop.

There is a four-lane highway open to the left side of Douglas' face. Holyfield shoots the right hand. The punch travels maybe two feet. It has 208 pounds of fabulous physique behind it and the champion drops in his tracks.

Recall, Buster got off the deck against Tyson and knocked him out two rounds later. He gets up on his left elbow and tries to clear his head. He goes flat to the deck, but that doesn't help.

Referee Mills Lane counts to 10, Buster is still flush to the floor and most of the crowd makes a beeline for the gambling room as if the tables are not going to be there if they lollygag.

In retrospect, many ponder what a good job Wynton Marsalis did trumpeting the national anthem and how awesome Fireworks by Grucci were.

Showtime has rebroadcast rights and the first showing will be Saturday a week at 10 p.m. Expect some padding as less than three rounds leaves quite a bit of open space in an hour.

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