Vitor Belfort immediately showed Saturday night exactly why a retired, 58-year-old former heavyweight champion had no business whatsoever entering the ring for another official fight.
Belfort floored a dangerously faded Evander Holyfield in the first round of their eight-round heavyweight bout and stopped the iconic ex-champion soon thereafter at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Referee Samuel Burgos understandably erred on the side of caution and stopped the bout at 1:49 of the opening round because Belfort was unloading answered shots on Holyfield, who will turn 59 on October 19.
“The guy’s strong, but I wasn’t hurt,” Holyfield told Triller Fight Club’s blow-by-blow announcer Todd Grisham. “The thing is, it wasn’t no shot that really hurt me real bad. He was strong and he hit me with a shot, and I was off balance. And then he bumped me with his shoulder.”
Holyfield described his experience in this heavily criticized pay-per-per-view main event as “kinda sad, but it is what it is.”
The legendary Holyfield feels Burgos should’ve given him more time to fight back.
“I think it was a bad call,” Holyfield said. “I think the referee should chill out. He shouldn’t stop the fight that quick.”
Holyfield took a misstep as Belfort attempted a left hand with just over a minute to go in the first round. Less than 20 seconds later, Holyfield fell through the ropes after missing wildly with a left hook.
He told Burgos he was OK after he got up. Holyfield was far from OK, though, when Belfort’s flush left uppercut knocked him down with 37 seconds to go in the opening round.
Belfort, a former UFC star, attacked Holyfield as soon as the action continued. Burgos watched closely and jumped in to stop the action because Holyfield simply covered up and didn’t throw any punches back at Belfort.
Holyfield, a four-time heavyweight champion, hadn’t boxed in 10 years before Saturday night. He replaced an ill Oscar De La Hoya as Belfort’s foe on barely one week’s notice because De La Hoya contracted COVID-19.
De La Hoya hasn’t boxed in the 12½ years since Manny Pacquiao dominated him for eight rounds in December 2008. “The Golden Boy” declined to answer the bell for the eighth round of that welterweight bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The 44-year-old Belfort improved to 2-0 in professional boxing and recorded his second knockout. Atlanta’s Holyfield fell to 44-11-2, including 29 knockouts and one no-contest.
Belfort thanked Holyfield for “stepping up” and taking the fight. He also called out Jake Paul after annihilating an aged shell of one of the best boxers in the sport’s history.
“Like I said, I came to knock people out,” Belfort said. “You know, you bring it, I bring it back. I bring it harder. We’ve got a list of opponents. Get ready, boxers! You’ve gotta come to my world. Here at Triller, we’re gonna make this even. We’re gonna make this even. Champions, don’t be afraid of weight divisions, put in fine if I lose the weight, pound. Come fight me! Meet me at a weight! Let’s do it!”
Holyfield hadn’t fought since he stopped Danish veteran Brian Nielsen in the 10th round of their May 2011 bout in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Because Holyfield replaced De La Hoya, this Triller Fight Club Pay-Per-View main event was changed to a heavyweight bout that was scheduled for eight two-minute rounds. De La Hoya and Belfort were supposed to fight at a contracted catch weight of 180 pounds.
The venue was also switched from Staples Center in Los Angeles to Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, reportedly because the California State Athletic Commission refused to license the long-retired Holyfield for a professional boxing match. There also was confusion up until the day of this fight as to whether it would be an exhibition or an official fight, but it does count on the records of Belfort and Holyfield.
Belfort-De La Hoya also would’ve been an official fight, despite that they were scheduled for only two-minute rounds.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.