SALT LAKE CITY — The next time Mitt Romney says he’s willing to fight for something, you’d better believe him.
You won’t want to miss the fight, either.
In a boxing match humorously billed as “The Heavyweight Fight of the Century,” Romney took on powerhouse former world champion Evander Holyfield on Friday night at The Rail Event Center in a black-tie affair.
Up for grabs in the lucrative purse?
One million dollars.
And the winner of this prize fight?
Forty thousand blind people around the world, who will be given the gift of sight from this CharityVision fundraiser.
Romney has his son, Josh, to credit (OK, blame) for this, well, unbalanced boxing matchup, which pitted him against a formidable foe who’s pounded the likes of Mike Tyson and George Foreman.
“I’ve got to thank my dad, Mitt Romney, who’s been willing to get in the ring against Evander Holyfield,” the younger Romney said at Thursday’s weigh-in. “I’ve got an amazing dad. He’ll do anything for me. For him to do this for the charity I care so much about is a really big deal for me.”
To help his son’s charity, Romney, a 179-pound, slim-framed 68-year-old, agreed to go mano-a-mano — or at least step in the ring and goof off — against a 52-year-old muscular, five-time world champion with nearly a 60-pound weight advantage.
“He stands to inherit,” Mitt Romney, who wasn’t made available to local media, jokingly told Fox News. “I better check into this.”
Truth be told, Josh Romney said it was Mitt Romney’s idea to have a fight instead of doing another charity gala event to raise money, which will also help provide medical equipment, clinics, vision screenings and doctor training in poverty-stricken areas around the world.
“Let’s do something fun,” Dad told son.
Holyfield was happy to play along.
Despite the incredible mismatch between a man with 29 knockouts under his championship belts and a slender retired politician, Friday’s fight certainly put the fun in fundraiser.
Before the fight, Josh Romney, the CharityVision volunteer president, announced that nearly $1 million had been raised for the nonprofit organization. The event then raised more than $100,000 in an auction for autographed gloves used by the two fighters Friday, extravagant trips to the Super Bowl, Dancing with the Stars and New York, along with a 2013 Harley Davidson, among other items.
All told, that is enough money to help give 40,000 needy people in 21 countries a gift of sight.
Those with restored vision might get a good chuckle if they watch a replay of this much-hyped Romney-Holyfield bout.
Romney, sporting a shiny red satin boxing robe with his boxing nickname “The Glove” in gold on the back, was paraded out to the ring by former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt with Ann Romney flamboyantly guiding him to his corner.
While being introduced, Romney took off his robe and drew a loud laugh as the enthusiastic crowd saw that he was wearing a suit, tie and boxing gloves.
As the show continued, Leavitt ripped off the altered suit and shirt, revealing Romney’s bare chest and red and white boxing trunks.
What happened next was more farce than fight.
Romney flailed a flurry of wild, feather-like punches at the bulky Holyfield in the first round without receiving much reciprocation from one of the greatest boxers in the sport’s history.
The second round will likely be mentioned in the same breath as The Thrilla in Manila between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Tommy Hearns and Ivan Drago vs. Rocky Balboa.
In the dramatic finale, the two fighters tiptoed around each other and the ring, leading one spectator to shout, “Is this Dancing with the Stars!?”
Moments later, Romney shocked Holyfield with his version of a right haymaker.
Down goes Holyfield! Down goes Holyfield!
The champ crumpled to the mat quicker than Romney’s presidential hopes on Election Night 2012 (and probably just as was rehearsed before the fight with Romney).
The crowd, wildly entertained despite the obvious theatrics, cackled and cheered as Holyfield was given an eight count.
Although presumably in the lead, Romney’s ensuing move was much more flight than fight.
As Holyfield approached him looking to avenge that hit, Romney hustled to his corner to avoid being pummeled (or, who knows, tickled) by one mountain of a man.
While Romney wisely retreated, his corner even more wisely tossed in the white towel.
Ding. Ding. Ding.
Holyfield was then declared “The Heavyweight Champion of the World!” while Romney smiled like he’d just knocked out all of his liberal opponents.
And then he took his best jabs of the night at those political foes in a post-fight speech.
The former Massachusetts governor joked about not wanting to take too many hits to the head out of fear he might become a Democrat. He teased presidential candidate Hillary Clinton about her clean computer server. He elicited loud laughter by quipping, “I’m ready to take on Harry Reid’s exercise equipment.”
Perhaps his strongest shot came while explaining that John Kerry set up this fight against Holyfield.
“I’m happy to fight against anybody,” Romney said, “as long as Candy Crowley isn’t the referee.”