A favorable forecast is marred by ifs


News from the Cauliflower Patch:

To hear fight promoter Dan Duva tell it, boxing fans are in line to enter the state of Euphoria shortly. And it won't be a quick in-and-out, pick-up-some-souvenirs visit either.

"Look at it," said the man from Main Events, "Riddick Bowe fights this weekend, George Foreman fights next month, Mike Tyson's coming back and figures to fight this summer. And Evander Holyfield takes on Ray Mercer May 20.

"These are the superstars of the heavyweight division, and you've still got ex-champions Lennox Lewis and Michael Moorer out there. The division's about to get a lot more exciting."

There is a big if, however, and the promoter wanted to get to the business at hand before going into it.

The occasion was the announcement that Holyfield, idled since suffering what was originally thought to be a heart attack while losing his title to Moorer, is now classified as completely fit and he's raring to get back in the ring. Ray Mercer, a fellow Olympian, will be his opponent on that May date and the site will be Atlantic City.

Mercer, a gold medalist in 1988, has been on a roller coaster since starting out his pro career impressively. His knockout of Tommy Morrison was an up, but the dismissed charge that he tried to bribe opponent Jesse Ferguson to take a dive during a fight and his often relaxed attitude toward training are things that have made many sour on him.

"Ray knows this is his last chance to get a shot at a championship fight, so he'll be ready," assured Duva. He added that Mercer showed up "looking ready to fight right now," but Dan hadn't been sworn in before starting his testimony.

Holyfield regarded his absence from the game while he got the heart problem straightened out not as retirement but as a "sabbatical. I didn't feel as if I went anywhere; I just took some time off to recuperate."

A recent poll conducted by USA Network showed that fans, when asked who they would like to see Tyson fight when he is released from prison March 25, placed Holyfield fourth behind Foreman, Buster Douglas and Bowe. The fact that Douglas' name shows in second place doesn't do much for the poll's credibility.

"I believe more people would like to see me fight Tyson than any of those other guys fight him, but I don't know why the vote doesn't show that," said Holyfield.

Duva helped out by reminding that the poll was conducted a week ago, which was before fans knew for certain that Holyfield was returning to the ring.

Holyfield said his return to the ring had nothing to do with Tyson's gaining his freedom shortly. "I'm resuming my career because boxing is something I love to do," he said.

The fact that an eventual fight with Tyson could net him a huge payday doesn't hurt, because while money plays no part in his decisions, this upcoming fight against Mercer could have ended up being staged in China "if the money had been right."

To review, after a decision-loss of his share of the heavyweight title last April to Moorer, Holyfield's heart disorder was discovered during treatment in a hospital.

Subsequently, tests at the famed Mayo Clinic disclosed that it might have been the treatment that caused the fighter's problem, not the fight. He was told he had an enlarged heart and a problem in one of the ventricles in that it was not pumping enough blood. He quit.

Looking into it further, Holyfield noticed no recurrence during workouts, kept getting examined by doctors and even went the faith-healer route. Finally, the Mayo tests gave him a clean bill of health. He said tests showed he was over-medicated and that caused the problem.

There is an "if" factor in Duva's claim that there is "great excitement about to be generated among the heavyweights." Bowe fights Herbie Hide on Saturday (HBO), Foreman has Axel Schultz next month, and then there's Holyfield taking on Mercer and Tyson coming out. It could be an exciting two years ahead, but everyone has to be willing to fight one another.

"As we all know, Evander will fight anyone," Duva said. "The NTC other guys have to step forward and do the same. What made the Hearns-Hagler-Leonard-Duran era so great is they were willing to get in the ring with each other. All these heavyweights are multimillionaires already, so they should be willing."

Oh, another if. "It can work as long as the [cable and pay-per-view] networks don't interfere by tying up the fighters [contractually]," Duva said.

Unfortunately, those are gigantic ifs.

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