MIAMI (AFP) - Former heavyweight world champion Evander Holyfield looked all of his 58 years in a first-round technical knockout loss to mixed martial arts star Vitor Belfort on Saturday (Sept 11).
With former US President Donald Trump providing ringside commentary for the spectacle at Seminole Hard Rock casino in Hollywood, Florida, Brazil's Belfort unleashed an early flurry that ended with Holyfield slipping through the ropes.
The American ring great regained his feet only to be sent to the canvas by a combination from Belfort. He beat the count, but after he absorbed another flurry of blows without throwing any the referee stopped the fight despite Holyfield's objections.
"I wasn't hurt," insisted Holyfield, who called the decision to stop the fight "kind of sad". "It is what it is," he said. "I think it's a bad call."
Holyfield was fighting for the first time since he defeated Brian Nielsen in 2011 to cap a glorious ring career.
He won 1984 Olympic gold as a light heavyweight and went on to dominate the professional cruiserweight division before entering prize fighting lore as a heavyweight.
He is best known for a championship heavyweight run that included two wins over Mike Tyson, one of them the infamous "Bite Fight", a win over George Foreman, and one win over Riddick Bowe in their punishing trilogy.
Holyfield (44-10 with two drawn and 29 knockouts) accepted the Belfort fight on eight days' notice after Oscar De La Hoya tested positive for Covid-19.
Holyfield said he was ready, having been preparing for a proposed comeback bout against Kevin McBride that did not come off.
Asked after the fight if he was still interested in making a rematch with his old nemesis Tyson, Holyfield said, "Of course."
But even Trump, who tirelessly boosted Holyfield throughout his undercard commentary, seemed taken aback by the ex-champ's performance.
"No, he's not the same," Trump said. "Right from the beginning he was not the same fighter. He lost a lot. It was not Evander Holyfield."
Trump received a rapturous welcome from fans at the Florida venue, where he arrived after visiting New York on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
He got in a dig at President Joe Biden and a plug for his friend Dana White, promoter of mixed martial arts brand Ultimate Fighting Championship, in low key commentary alongside his son Donald Trump Jr.
The former president is no stranger to boxing, his hosting of major fights at his hotels and casinos having earned him a place in New Jersey's boxing Hall of Fame.
Trump's commentary for the card put together by Triller, the music video app that is trying to break into boxing with its Triller Fight Club streaming platform, included remembrances of fights and fighters past along with random observations on the sport.
"It's like elections, it could be rigged, too," Trump noted of some questionable fight results he has seen in the past.
On the undercard, Britain's former cruiserweight and heavyweight world champion David Haye carried his buddy Joe Fourier, a business magnate turned mid-life boxer, over eight easy-going two-minute rounds on the way to a unanimous decision victory.
Haye, 40, had not fought in three years, when he retired from the ring with a record of 28-4 with 26 knockouts.
He said before the bout that he had no intention of making a "traditional comeback" to the ring, but could not resist calling out fellow Brit Tyson Fury, the reigning World Boxing Council heavyweight world champion, after his victory.
"There's one man I'll come back to professional boxing to fight... Tyson Fury," said Haye, who twice pulled out of fights against Fury. "I know his kryptonite. The old man's coming for the big dosser."
Mixed martial arts legends Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz - both 46 - took their talents to the boxing ring with Silva scoring a brutal first-round knockout.
Ortiz paid the price for an aggressive start when a counter from Silva sent him to the canvas for the count.
"This fight I thought was amazing, even though it was very short," Trump opined. "We didn't have to wait around all night long."