CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Evander Holyfield's bid to become the first five-time heavyweight champion gained momentum Saturday night when the 44-year-old fighter stopped Vinny Maddalone in a bloody, one-sided bout.
At the urging of Maddalone's trainer, Al Certo, referee Ruben Carrion stopped the fight at 2:48 of the third round, with Maddalone bleeding profusely from the forehead and Holyfield blasting away.
Seconds earlier, with Maddalone against the ropes, the former champ nearly floored Maddalone, much to the delight of the partisan crowd of about 6,500 at the American Bank Center. As the nontitle match neared its end, most in attendance roared, "Holyfield! Holyfield!"
Holyfield, whose comeback unfolds even as his name is associated with a nationwide steroid scandal, entered the fight at 216 pounds, about 17 pounds lighter than Maddalone. Holyfield improved his record to 41-8-2.
"I'm ready for a title shot now," Holyfield said, conceding he's still probably a couple of matches away from securing one.
Holyfield's co-promoter, Kathy Duva, said his next fight is likely to take place at the end of June, but an opponent hasn't been named.
Holyfield has fought three times in this Gulf Coast city, all wins. His last fight here 21 years ago turned out to be a tuneup for his first world championship, a 15-round decision over Dwight Qawi for the WBA cruiserweight title in July 1986.
He barely got a decent workout Saturday, taking control early and never altering a game plan of jabs and hooks in two-, three- and four-punch combinations. The nasty gash on Maddalone's forehead opened when the two butted heads midway through the opening round. Carrion stopped the fight momentarily and had a ringside doctor take a look. Maddalone (27-4) protested, worried the fight would be stopped, but that didn't happen.
From then on, Maddalone was on the defensive, swinging wildly at times, usually missing. Afterward, he refused to blame the loss on the head butt and noted appropriately that Holyfield was "still very, very strong."
Holyfield is again vying for a world title, one he hopes will be unified. But his bid comes less than three years after New York boxing officials revoked his license to fight in that state, citing diminished skills. And his name has been linked to a nationwide investigation of illicit steroid and human growth hormone sales. He insists he's never used any illegal or banned performance-enhancing drugs, a claim he reiterated this week.
Holyfield, ranked 10th among heavyweights in the latest WBC ratings, began his comeback last year with two wins, both in Texas. He says he has overcome shoulder and back injuries he blames for a three-fight losing streak that appeared to mark the end of his career in November 2004, when he lost an ugly, 12-round decision to journeyman Larry Donald. Soon after, New York officials revoked his license.
But his Texas trio of wins keeps his comeback try alive. His ultimate goal is to unify the heavyweight titles, perhaps next year, then retire.
It's been nearly 17 years since Holyfield held the undisputed title when he defeated James "Buster" Douglas -- holder of the IBF, WBC and WBA crowns -- in three rounds. In a professional career that dates to 1984, Holyfield has beaten 16 world champions, including Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Larry Holmes and George Foreman. Perhaps his most famous bout was in 1997, when Tyson bit Holyfield's ear.
Holyfield, who lives in Atlanta, said one of his inspirations is Foreman regaining the heavyweight title at 45, a feat he'd like to duplicate.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
Edited by tarpon time 34, 17 March 2007 - 09:39 PM.