DALLAS — Smiling and hardly sweating after only 5 minutes and 56 seconds in the ring, Evander Holyfield hoped all his doubters would start believing what he's been saying the last two months: It really was bad health, not old age, that had caused him to fight so poorly in recent years.
Holyfield beat Jeremy Bates in a technical knockout with 4 seconds left in the second round Friday night, overpowering his hand-picked foe for the start of his latest comeback bid after taking only a few hard shots himself.
Holyfield looked pretty good for a 43-year-old who'd lost his last three fights and hadn't fought anyone in nearly two years, although it was hard to tell much considering his foe was an insurance agent from West Virginia who was six inches shorter and lacked Holyfield's technical polish.
To Holyfield, though, it was proof he still has what it takes to go from being the only four-time heavyweight champion to the first five-timer — now that he's healthy, that is.
"I want everybody to know that for the last four or five years, I was injured but I was fighting," Holyfield said. "Them last three fights, I fought with one shoulder."
He said he didn't blame the injuries at the time because he didn't want to be accused of making excuses. He didn't bail out before or during any fights because he didn't want his kids to be told their daddy was a quitter.
"So I'm happy today to be able to go into training, not injured, and show you that age has nothing to do with it," he said. "Eventually I'll be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world — 44, 45, it don't make no difference," said Holyfield, who expects to have a title fight next year, then to own all the belts and retire in 2008.
His next fight will be against Sinan Samil Sam of Turkey, fifth in the latest WBC ratings. It'll likely be in November and almost certainly on pay-per-view.