Evander Holyfield said yesterday that he will fight the indefinite suspension handed down by the New York State Athletic Commission as a result of Saturday night's lopsided loss to journeyman Larry Donald at Madison Square Garden.
The suspension, which must be honored by every commission in the nation, was "based on Holyfield's poor performance" against Donald, said NYSAC chairman Ron Scott Stevens.
Holyfield's suspension can only be lifted after extensive testing by the New York commission.
"The New York State Athletic Commission suspended Evander Holyfield indefinitely as is our right," Stevens said. "He would have to ask to be re-evaluated and pending a medical re-evaluation [by NYSAC Dr. Barry Jordan,] he will remain on an indefinite medical suspension in New York and throughout the United States."
Nevada State Athletic Commission chairman Marc Ratner said he believes it to be the first time a fighter of Holyfield's prominence has been suspended for a poor performance.
Reached yesterday on his cellular phone, Holyfield, 42, said he learned of the suspension "from a reporter" on Monday.
"It's obvious [the NYSAC] wanted the reporter to know about it because they not only passed it to him, they passed it to a lot of people. They want me out of the game," said the four-time world champion, who slipped to 2-5-2 in his past nine fights, and 38-8-2 with 25 knockouts overall.
"If they're looking at my age, that's wrong. I've passed every test. I don't have a health problem, and my performance is a matter of opinion," Holyfield said. "I wasn't bad enough that the referee had to stop the fight. There was no standing eight count. The guy won, but he only outpointed me."
Holyfield's manager, Alex Krys, all but called the move a conspiracy, claiming Stevens "leaked it to the press."
"We'll have to go to their doctors, he'll be re-examined, and they'll figure out a way to back up their decision," Krys said. "We'll appeal the process, and if that's not successful, we'll sue them."
Holyfield landed an average of 6.5 punches (78 total) against Donald, winning just two rounds on one judge's card, and one on those of the other two.
Although Holyfield blamed back spasms for limiting his upper-body movement and his inability to escape Donald's punches, and a cramp in his right quad for preventing him to jab effectively, Barry Jordan said the fighter received a favorable grade during pre-fight screenings, including a magnetic resonance imaging, electrocardiogram, a neurological examination and a blood test.
But Jordan said Holyfield now "falls into the high-risk fighter category," one characterized by "poor performance, long career and extensive trauma."
As a result, he will be "more intensely tested" should he decide to return to the ring.
If the suspension is lifted, said Ratner, Holyfield would be similarly scrutinized by his five-member medical advisory board.
Boxing historian Thomas Hauser agrees with the decision.
"The law has been on the books for ages, but nobody has had the courage to enforce it. It would have been very good if they had done it to Muhammad Ali or Riddick Bowe," said Hauser, who wrote what many believe to be the definitive biography of Ali.
"Fighters get suspended all the time, but usually it's for 60 days to allow the fighter to recover. This one is different because unless it gets overturned, it's permanent," Hauser said. "I have huge respect for Evander, but the laws are there to protect the fighters. There comes a time when a fighter should no longer be in the ring. It's that time for Evander. If they allow him to fight again, they should let Meldrick Taylor fight again."
Taylor's skills and diction badly deteriorated in the late 1990s.