Holyfield, 47, to fight for heavyweight belt

Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield will challenge

Francois Botha for the lightly regarded WBF title in Uganda on Jan.

16.

Organizers of the fight in Kampala’s Nambole Stadium said on

Thursday that both fighters had signed contracts. A turnout of

about 80,000 fans was predicted.

“I am very much looking forward to going to Uganda and I

expect a tough fight against Francois Botha,” Holyfield said. “I

am going to win and I will cherish the WBF world title.”

Holyfield (42-10-2) has not fought since losing a points

decision to Nikolai Valuev a year ago. The 47-year-old American,

also a former cruiserweight champion, believes a victory could give

him a shot at a more prestigious title that would allow him to

achieve his goal of retiring as a heavyweight champion.

Holyfield has earned more than $200 million in the ring,

including a reported $34 million for his second bout with Mike

Tyson in 1997. That was the “Bite Fight” that ended with Tyson

being disqualified for chewing off a chunk of Holyfield’s ear.

Holyfield also beat Larry Holmes, lost two of his three

contests with Riddick Bowe, drew with and then lost to Lennox Lewis

and had a win-lose-draw sequence against John Ruiz.

Three defeats in a row — to Chris Byrd, James Toney and

Larry Donald — accelerated his decline, and Holyfield was out of

the ring for 21 months before returning in August 2006 to start a

run of four straight wins.

Holyfield’s last two fights were losses to Sultan Ibragimov

and then to Valuev, a majority decision he disputed. Since then,

Ibragimov has retired and Valuev surrendered his WBA title to David

Haye.

Botha (47-4-3) has lost to Tyson, Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko

and Michael Moorer, but retained his WBF title by drawing with

Pedro Carrion of Cuba in Germany in October.

“I have always been my own harshest critic. My performance

against Carrion, without making any excuses, was arguably the worst

of my career,” the South African said.

“Expect the fittest, toughest and best ever — and extremely

serious — Francois Botha in Uganda in January. I owe my fans and

members of Team Botha the performance of my life. I intend to make

good on that.”