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Critics unhappy at Holyfield's fight with Valuev

BERNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Nikolai Valuev fights Evander Holyfield for the WBA title in Zurich this weekend but few believe the match-up between the giant Russian and the 46-year-old American will produce great boxing.

Russia's WBA heavy weight boxing world champion Nikolai Valuyev and former world boxing champion Evander Holyfield (R) of the U.S. pose after a news conference in Zurich December 17, 2008. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Promoter Frank Maloney, who managed former world champion Lennox Lewis in his two 1999 fights against Holyfield, described Saturday’s fight as a freak show in an interview this week with Britain’s Daily Telegraph.

Bernd Boente, manager for the Klitschko brothers who between them hold the WBO, IBO, IBF and WBC titles, told German agency SID that the fight would be a “disaster” for the sport.

“Valuev’s opponents are getting weaker and weaker and the fight against Holyfield can only end in farce,” Boente added.

While Boente has clear reasons to dismiss anything other than a Valuev-Klitschko line-up, it is obvious to see why this weekend’s fight has attracted such negative comments.

Holyfield (42-9-2) is bidding to become the oldest heavyweight champion ever at a time when his many critics argue he should have long hung up his gloves.

Valuev (49-1-0) is known far more for his daunting 2.13-meter, 145-kg stature than his athletic ability and his decision to take on the aging Holyfield has only strengthened the argument of those who accuse him of avoiding more dangerous fighters.

Of course Holyfield, Valuev and the promoters of Saturday’s fight see things differently.

At a media conference on Wednesday, Valuev’s trainer Alexander Zimin said the Russian was constantly improving his skills in the ring while Holyfield boasted he would soon prove that “age ain’t nothing but a number.”

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The fight’s German promoter Wilfried Sauerland acknowledged that Valuev had been promoted “as a circus act” during his first professional fights in his native Russia.

“But he is a much more impressive fighter now and we all know about Holyfield’s reputation as a warrior so I have no doubt we will see a very good fight on Saturday,” Sauerland told Reuters

Since beating John Ruiz in a unanimous decision to regain the WBA title in August 2000, Holyfield has slumped to a 0-3-1 tally in subsequent title fights.

He has however gone the distance in all but two of his nine career losses, raising the hope that Saturday’s fight may at least prove gritty, if not particularly pretty.

In a weight division already struggling to claw back the respect and awe it once commanded though, the Zurich showdown is never going to represent a sea change.

Valuev’s camp have already said that the Russian’s next priority will be a mandatory title defense against his only previous conqueror Ruslan Chagaev, though they said the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, were high on their list after that.

The picture is less clear with Holyfield who has yet to decide if he will fight on should he manage to upset the Russian on Saturday.

The temptation for at least one more fight with the added financial incentive of being the defending champion will likely prove too strong.

For that reason even Holyfield’s long-time supporters may find themselves rooting for a dignified defeat against Valuev in Zurich, allowing the former champion to finally call it a day.

Editing by Clare Fallon