Poor Holyfield is winner who can't punch away lightweight image


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Poor Evander Holyfield, he can't win for winning. True, the favored image of a heavyweight champion is that he be able to fell a large tree with one swing of a fist. But, believe it or not, there have been champs who prevailed through the simple expedience of out-fighting the other guy.

Gene Tunney wasn't a fearsome slugger. "Cinderella Man" Jim Braddock posted just 27 knockouts in 86 bouts. Ezzard Charles was more a ring tactician than devastating puncher. Most of Muhammad Ali's KO wins were the result of an accumulation of punches, not one or two solid whacks.

Regardless and even after Holyfield totally drubbed supposedly hard-hitting Alex Stewart Saturday night in Atlantic City, cries of blown-up light-heavyweight and Evander being no factor in today's title picture rang out.

For openers, here's a guy who goes out of his way not to fight stiffs. His fights are action-packed, give-and-take affairs and that one loss (to Riddick Bowe for the title) was a fairly close decision. Stewart was in there strictly to survive the 12 rounds. Fortunately, Holyfield understands the blood lust of fans, but it won't dictate a change in his ring style. Consequently, he is not seen as a strong gate attraction even though his successors, Bowe and Lennox Lewis, haven't done much at the gate yet.

* One of the more baffling mysteries in tennis, particularly at Wimbledon, is the system of fines. While the good old boys at the All England Club have handed out penalties of as much as 1000 pounds ($1,500) for the salty language being dispensed by players, Goran Ivanisevic, one of the main offenders, went completely into the tank in the fifth set of a match, losing it at love, and nothing was said or done.

* Pro golfers always say putting becomes more and more of an ordeal as the years roll by. But watching the U.S. Open, then the Senior Players Championship the past two weekends, did you get the impression that the old guys are much better on the greens than the regular tourists?

* Traditionally, the NBA draft finds a few thousand pro hoop nuts showing up at the Capital Centre to watch the proceedings on the Telscreen . . . and boo their heads off when the Washington Bullets finally get around to selecting.

In the past several years, the only pick that met with the favor of the fans almost completely was that of John Williams. No need to point out how that whole sordid affair turned out for the team.

Recall some of the first-round selections: Kenny Green, Mel Turpin, Anthony Jones, Randy Wittman, 5-foot-3 Tyrone Bogues, Tom Hammonds and LaBradford Smith. Until Tom Gugliotta showed up as a No. 6 pick last year, some consider 1990 as the Bullets best year in the draft: they had no first-round choice.

Come Wednesday (TNT, 7:30 p.m.), there's a pretty good chance most fans will fall in the restless to hostile range again even if the club latches onto a potential good one (Calbert Cheaney or Rodney Rogers) because of the Kevin Duckworth-for-Harvey Grant swap. Maybe Grant and his salary had to go, but for a overweight vet whose effort this past season was highly suspect?

* The NCAA, in its never-ending battle to complicate the selection of the top 64 teams for its basketball tournament, better known as March Madness, is thinking about factoring in a few more elements to further confuse members of the tourney selection committee. Games against teams in the top 100 away from home is one specious category and strength of nonconference schedules is another. And a few more statistics to muddy the waters have been added to assure CBS a huge audience for the "Selection Sunday" show.

* Women play for less money than the men do at Wimbledon. The difference isn't much; say a couple of cab rides back to a downtown hotel from the tourney site in the southwest suburbs of London. Equal pay for equal play has always been the women's rallying cry, but what exactly is meant by equal play?

Steffi Graf, during the first week of play, lost just three games in three matches. Her matches totaled six sets and lasted less than two hours.

Meanwhile, over on the men's side, even the good guys often get stuck in five-set matches that rage for more than four hours.

When it was once proposed that the women also play "the championship" best-of-five, Martina Navratilova answered, "Forget it!"

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