The new heavyweight champion of the world surveyed his realm Friday and proclaimed George Foreman his most worthy challenger. The morning after flattening Buster Douglas with one punch to win the undisputed heavyweight crown, Evander Holyfield made it clear that former champion Mike Tyson would have to wait his turn for a shot at the title.
"We felt it would be better to fight George Foreman first, then Mike Tyson," Holyfield said. "As far as business goes, it's better that way."
Holyfield's handlers said contracts for his first title defense against Foreman have been signed, and a site and date for the fight are expected to be announced in about two weeks.
"It will be in April in either Las Vegas or Atlantic City," said Shelly Finkel, who helps promote Holyfield.
Almost as quickly as Holyfield knocked out Douglas, boxing's sanctioning organizations began backing off earlier threats to force Holyfield to make his first defense against Tyson, and the way seems clear for a fight matching the new
champion with a man who held the title during the early 1970s.
"George Foreman happens to be ranked now and Evander Holyfield has the option of fighting anyone in the top 12," World Boxing Association attorney Jimmy Binns said. "Mike Tyson will have his mandatory shot when he's entitled to it."
Holyfield was relaxed and smiling at a morning news conference at The Mirage hotel-casino, where he stopped Douglas with a right hand Thursday night in the third round of their scheduled 12-round fight for the heavyweight title.
Holyfield, who waited for 18 months as the No. 1 contender before getting his shot at the title, seemed to savor the realization he finally was the champion.
"The waiting wasn't in vain," he said. "To be the heavyweight champion is the ultimate thing you could be."
Douglas didn't attend the press conference, leaving his trainer, J.D. McCauley, to face questions about the former champion's bloated weight and apparent lack of heart.
"I felt from the bottom of my heart he was ready for the fight last night," McCauley said. "We talked earlier in the day about the fight and he said he was fine. He said, "I got him.' But when the fight started, he was flat."
McCauley grew angry at suggestions that perhaps Douglas could have gotten up from the overhand right that sent him to the canvas in the third round.
"How do you know what was in that kid's heart?" he asked. "No one here took that shot. Buster Douglas took it. He's the only one who knows."
Holyfield said his strategy was not to go after Douglas, who outweighed him by 38 pounds, but to try and outjab him and win a decision.
"I was smart enough not to fight a reckless fight and go in there after him," said Holyfield, 28. "I was patient and took my time."
It was a change in strategy for the former Olympian, who in previous fights had stood toe-to-toe with opponents and engaged in some fearsome exchanges.
It's also a strategy Holyfield can put to good use against the 42-year-old Foreman, who, at about 250 pounds, is relatively immobile but packs a huge punch.
"George is very powerful and I would have to use my speed and let my conditioning work," he said. "A big guy like that I won't go right at. I'll be moving."
The fame that comes with being the heavyweight champion didn't waste any time coming to the soft-spoken Holyfield.
Only hours after winning the title, he was offered a spot hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend, which Holyfield rejected because he plans to watch his brother, a defensive back at Alabama A&M, play a game.
DOUGLAS CLEANED UP
Based on a prefight projected purse of $24-million, former heavyweight champion Buster Douglas earned a lot of money in a short appearance _ a whopping $55,813.95 per second.
Evander Holyfield, the new heavyweight champion, had projected earnings of $8-million. He made about $18,604.65 per second.
Buster takes a beating
from newspaper writers
One day after losing his title, Buster Douglas was blasted by Ohio writers for being overweight and out of shape for the scheduled 12-round bout:
"Buster ate his way out of history books," read a headline for a column by Dick Fenlon in the Columbus Dispatch, Douglas' hometown newspaper.
A story in the Dayton Daily News began, "As one Porky now should say to the other: "That's all folks!'
Bill Livingston, columnist for the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, wrote that Douglas "had dined too often on the feast of success."
Like father, like son:
Holyfield's dad is tough
Evander Holyfield's father, Isom Coley of Atmore, Ala., had said the biggest mistake Buster Douglas could make would be to hit his son. "The more you hit Evander, the madder he gets," Coley said. "He took that from his daddy. When people beat on me at school when I was little, I was the same way."
Coley used to lift 500 pounds over his head, a time when he was considered the strongest man in Atmore, about 60 miles northeast of Mobile.
The barrel-chested Coley, 6 feet 1, 250 pounds, has arms like the lumberjack he once was, and very thick fingers.
"I used to wrestle bears," Coley said in an interview with the Mobile Register. "When I was 21, I could lift 500 pounds over my head. I used to pick up the front ends of cars. I'm 55, and I probably couldn't do that anymore."