Evander Holyfield’s comeback against Vitor Belfort has been branded a ‘disgrace’ and ‘one of the saddest events in boxing’ after the 58-year-old was brutally stopped in the first round.
Holyfield, who turns 59 next month, had stepped in as a late replacement for Oscar De La Hoya, 48, who pulled out of facing Belfort, 44, with coronavirus.
The former heavyweight champion had not fought since 2001 and had been refused to licence by the California State Athletic Commission, meaning the fight was moved to Hollywood, Florida.
But Holyfield’s return was over before it really began. He slipped early on and nearly fell out of the ring before Belfort knocked him down with a left-hand jab.
Holyfield beat the count but the Brazilian continued to let the punches fly, forcing the referee to step in and end the fight with 10 seconds of the first round remaining.
Speaking after the fight about the decision to end the fight so early, Holyfield said: ‘I thought it was a bad call. I don’t think the referee should have stopped the fight that quick.’
Fans took to Twitter to hit out at how the fight had been allowed to take place.
One wrote: ‘Evander Holyfield is 58 years old. That was a disgrace. Truthfully.’
‘Whoever allowed Evander Holyfield to fight at 58 should be investigated and put in prison,’ another wrote. ‘An absolute disgrace.’
One supporter said: ‘Holyfield stopped in the first round. That’s one of the saddest events I have ever seen in a boxing ring!’
Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole wrote: ‘This was an absolute DISGRACE’ while bantamweight Adrian Yanez posted: ‘This hurts my soul… we shouldn’t have seen a 58 year old Holyfield in the ring.
‘Would definitely rather it have been Oscar lol.’
But Holyfield was adamant the fight was stopped too early by the referee.
‘The guy pushed me, the guy is strong,’ he said after the fight.
‘But I wasn’t hurt. There wasn’t no shot that hurt me real bad. He got me with a shot and I was off-balance. I’m not hurt. It’s kind of sad.
‘I think it was a bad call, he shouldn’t have stopped the fight that quick.’
Holyfield had been hoping a strong performance against Belfort would earn him a trilogy fight with Mike Tyson. But despite his defeat in Hollywood, the 58-year-old says he would still take on his former rival.
‘Of course I would,’ Holyfield said when asked if he was still open to the idea of facing Iron Mike.