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Can Evan Holyfield Revitalize Main Events, his Promotional Firm?

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  • Can Evan Holyfield Revitalize Main Events, his Promotional Firm?

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    By Arne K. Lang

    Evan Holyfield, the middle child of Evander Holyfield’s 11 children, made his pro debut on Nov. 2, 2019. His opponent lasted 16 seconds. Last night, Holyfield, a junior middleweight, pushed his record to 9-0 (6) with a comfortable 6-round decision over gritty but outclassed Chris Rollins at the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City.

    Standing a shade under six-foot-two, Holyfield, 24, seemingly has a very bright future. A big question is whether he will still be welded to his current promoter, Main Events, when he reaches his peak. If not, the curtain may have closed on the New Jersey-based company that was once a dominant force in the industry. At the moment, the Main Events cupboard is lean and while it includes several former amateur standouts who have yet to taste defeat at the professional level, there’s no one with the pull to command a hefty purse anytime soon.

    Evan Holyfield officially turned pro at a press conference in Houston, the city where his famous father was chiseled into a more imposing warrior by sports performance guru Tim Hallmark. In choosing to cast his lot with Main Events, young Holyfield was following the path trod by his father who fought under the Main Events banner for most of his career.

    Main Events had its genesis in a series of monthly club fights in the 1970s at a skating rink in the northern New Jersey town of Totowa. The driving force was Lou Duva, who had transitioned into promoting after working as a part-time trainer and cut man. Duva’s timing couldn’t have been better. In 1976, voters in New Jersey approved a referendum that brought casino gambling to Atlantic City. The first licensed U.S. casino east of Nevada opened in May of 1978, infusing new money into the fight game, and another spigot opened with the birth of ESPN in 1979.

    The craggy-faced Duva remained the face of the company after his son Dan, one of his five children and the oldest of his two sons, became the titular head of the company after earning a law degree from Seton Hall. A partnership between the Duvas and rock concert promoter Shelly Finkel took the firm to new heights.

    Dan Duva died in January of 1996 at age 44 from brain cancer. (His father Lou Duva lived to be 94, passing away in 2017). During Dan’s tenure, Main Events promoted more than 100 championship fights, including 12 in the heavyweight division. Evander Holyfield and Pernell Whitaker were among six 1984 U.S. Olympians that signed with Main Events coming out of the amateur ranks.

    The Duvas were an exceedingly tight-knee family until Dan passed away. A power struggle between Lou’s other son Dino Duva and Dan’s widow Kathy ensued with Kathy, who had been the firm’s publicist, assuming control of the company in June of 1999.

    During her early years at the helm of Main Events, Arturo Gatti bubbled into a big star. His nuclear confrontations with Micky Ward set revenue records for non-title fights. In more recent years, the top gun of the Main Events stable was Sergey Kovalev.

    Heading into his first encounter with Andre Ward, “Krusher” Kovalev was on virtually everyone’s list of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. His setback to Ward barely dented his stature as the verdict was controversial. However, Kovalev’s star plummeted after he was stopped by Ward in their rematch and he largely disappeared from view after being stopped by Canelo Alvarez.

    Kovalev has had two fights fall out since his bout with Canelo, the first because the pandemic made it economically unfeasible and the second because he tested positive for a banned substance. However, both bouts were designed as confidence-restorers and neither would have attracted much buzz.

    Last we checked, Kovalev is still under contract to Main Events. According to ESPN’s Mike Coppinger, he will be returning to the ring on March 12 against Meng Fanlong at a catchweight of 188 pounds on a Triller Fight Club promotion in Los Angeles. Triller is known for overpaying the fighters that appear on their shows, but it’s hard to imagine that Kovalev will command a purse anywhere near what he earned for either of his matches with Andre Ward and at age 38 his best days are behind him.

    This coming June, Kathy Duva will be formally inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, joining her late husband and late father-in-law in the Canastota shrine. It’s a well-deserved honor, but can’t mask the fact that Main Events is tottering on unsteady legs. Perhaps Evander Holyfield’s son can restore the luster.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel
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