Holyfield versus Nielsen, the forgotten other fight

Brian Nielsen versus Evander Holyfield the forgotten fight

Brian Nielsen is scheduled to fight Evander Holyfield tomorrow night in a non-title bout in Copenhagen, Denmark. This afternoon, Nielsen showed more than his muscles at the official weigh-in. Before getting on the scale, the Danish fighter pulled down his briefs and exposed his buttocks to onlookers à la Forrest Gump. He claimed a member of the crowd shouted he wanted to ‘see his white backside.’ Nielsen, the consummate entertainer obliged, “I gave it to them. It needn’t be boring.”

The official weigh-in had Holyfield at 225 pounds, while Nielsen with his shorts on weighed 238 pounds. In his 11 years of professional boxing, Nielsen has never been this light. You have to go back to his amateur career to find a weigh-in of 238. Talk about your dissimilarities, Holyfield has never been this heavy.


After Nielsen (64-2-0, 43 KOs) worked himself into shape, he most likely wanted everyone to take notice of his new trim figure. “I’ve been working my butt off in practice where Karsten Rower tortured me twice a day.” His reference was to the German training camp where he had spent months rehabbing from knee surgery and getting reacquainted with the rigors of boxing.

“Super” Brian in his day was a superstar of the likes seldom or never seen in Denmark and Scandinavia, and Holyfield is of course a legend in his own right.“I will make sure Evander gets a nice souvenir from his trip to Copenhagen. He’ll be good friends with the doctor he’s been seeing.”

Holyfield has been working out in the LA area. Two weeks ago, the makers of his new Real Deal Barbecue Sauce had him at an Albertsons Grocery Store in San Diego to introduce the product. Earlier that morning he was in Los Angeles at a car dealership selling cars.

The question this fight will answer: How serious is Holyfield, now 48, and Nielsen, now 45 years-old about continuing their careers?

Back on October 13, 2001, Brian Nielsen's midsection should have had a bullseye painted on it. Despite being 20 lbs. overweight himself, Mike Tyson knew to take full advantage of that belly roll.

Nielsen seems very enthusiastic especially after losing 33 pounds and spending all that time in training. Dismissing the fact that it’s now over nine years since he last fought, he’s always been serious about his legacy. After his loss to Mike Tyson, he went out a winner by defeating both Ken Murphy and former IBF cruiserweight champ Uriah Grant before calling it quits As a top heavyweight he won and defended his IBO and IBC heavyweight title belts 26 times.

According to Holyfield’s manager, Ken Sanders, Holyfield is expected to earn around $500,000 for the Nielsen bout. “That’s the only reason we’re going (to Denmark),” Sanders told ESPN. “He’s in great condition and he’s ready to fight. He’s been training for so darn long because we thought we’d fight in November and then in December. So he’s chomping at the bit to fight.”

Most Holyfield fans would rather see him settle into retirement and not sit by and watch their hero suffer one humiliating loss after another.

That Tyson versus Nielsen bout brings back memories. The only moment of levity that night for Nielsen and his followers occurred during the ring entrances. Nielsen entered the arena first to his trademark tune “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” as tens of thousands of fans cheered and waved Denmark’s flag. Moments later, the menacing Iron Mike Tyson entered wearing a stocking cap with the word “Punishment” sewn on it. He strode into the arena to the beat of a loud, thumping rap song.

The commotion was comically similar to an episode of The Simpsons, in which Homer signed to fight boxer Drederick Tatum, a character modeled after Tyson. On fight night, Tatum entered the ring to an angry rap beat, while a nervous, overmatched Homer follows to the tune of “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

Two years later, back in the States, Thomas Williams, who had lost to Nielsen in March 2000, along with promoter Thomas Mitchell, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit sports bribery. They were accused of participating in a series of fixed fights from 1995 to 2000. During their trial, a coconspirator testified he accepted $1,000 from Mogens Palle, the Danish boxing promoter, to arrange a “fix” and had him pay Thomas Williams money to throw his fight versus Nielsen. No charges were ever brought against Nielsen. In February of 2002, Nielsen’s manager and promoter were acquitted of the charges.

Greg Peterson, who was training Williams at the time, recalled the match this way. “Man, how I wish we never had that fight,” Peterson is quoted as saying. After Williams hurt and staggered Nielsen, Williams refused to move in for the knockout and instead remained in the middle of the ring waiving at the Dane to come to him. At that point, Johnny Gant, a former fighter who worked in Williams’ corner that night, leaned over and reportedly said to Peterson: “Why didn’t you tell me the fix was in before we came all the way over here?”

So which is it going to be? Holyfield, who should have retired once he got involved in so many business ventures. His mind must be going in a 1,000 different directions. Or, will Nielsen win, the guy who should have considered himself lucky and stayed retired.


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