Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Is Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort as low as boxing’s crossover events can go?

Summer 2021 was set to be a massive period for boxing. Instead, most of the biggest fights on the calendar were either canceled or postponed while celebrity and MMA crossover fights were again the focus of the sport. That trend continues on Saturday night with a bizarre fight between 58-year-old boxing legend Evander Holyfield and 44-year-old former UFC champion Vitor Belfort in the main event of Triller Legends 2.

Holyfield is stepping in on relatively short notice after Oscar De La Hoya was forced out of the fight due to a positive COVID test. De La Hoya is more than 12 years removed from his last professional bout and his in-ring return at 48 already had many questioning if the parade of legends, mixed martial artists and celebrities had already jumped the shark. Replacing De La Hoya with Holyfield, who had reportedly just entered into legal proceedings with Triller over allegations of non-payment, has done nothing to lessen those concerns.

With California refusing to sanction the bout, Triller was forced to move the event to Florida in hopes of salvaging the fight’s status as a professional contest with fan confidence in exhibition bouts waning after several have played out as a series of glorified sparring sessions. Now, the promotion has added to the absurdity by offering an alternate commentary feed featuring former president Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr.

Belfort was originally scheduled as part of the undercard for Triller’s cursed Teofimo Lopez vs. George Kambosos Jr. event, where he was to face “The Real Tarzann” Mike Holston, a “former zookeeper-turned-wild animal ‘whisperer'” after a seemingly staged video of the two fighting in a gym began circulating on social media. When Triller and De La Hoya were unable to lock down a fight with UFC legend Georges St. Pierre, Belfort got the call.

Logan and Jake Paul entering into the boxing space and Triller’s first boxing event featuring the exhibition between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. opened the door to a new era for boxing, one with a bubble that would pop hard and fast when the wrong series of fights were made. Jake Paul managed to salvage some interest in his boxing career with a well-promoted and competitive fight with Tyron Woodley. But a still-powerful Belfort facing an ancient Holyfield, who should not be taking punches at nearly 60, is a dangerous, ugly and careless fight in ways that could bring the whole circus fight economy crashing down.

There are more MMA crossover fighters are on the undercard, with Anderson Silva taking on Tito Ortiz.

Silva, 46, is the greatest middleweight in MMA history and is coming off a huge win in the boxing ring after dominating perpetual disappointment Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in June. As a creative striker and someone who had dabbled in boxing in his younger days, Silva was one of the more intriguing fighters to try and take advantage of the sudden boom in crossover interest.

Unlike Silva, Ortiz was never known as much of a striker, even while UFC light heavyweight champion. Ortiz won a spot on the Huntington Beach, Calif. city council and briefly served as Mayor Pro Tem before a series of controversies, including Ortiz’s anti-mask stance, COVID conspiracy theories and filing for unemployment despite not being unemployed, led to his resignation less than six months after taking office.

Silva is a heavy favorite to defeat Ortiz and secure a bigger fight in his next outing, possibly even a shot at one of the Paul brothers.

Also looking to the future, Triller has focused a lot of attention in the lead-up to Holyfield vs. Belfort with Triller CEO Ryan Kavanaugh telling Sky Sports that he has heard Mike Tyson is “scared” to fight Holyfield for a third time because Tyson “thinks Evander would knock him out.” All this seems like a transparent effort to set up a Thanksgiving weekend bout between Holyfield and Tyson.

Even as Saturday’s card seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel on these circus events, the players involved are already working to set up the next tent.

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