If Evander Holyfield has his way, Thursday's heavyweight title fight with champion James "Buster" Douglas will be as much a test of minds as bodies.
And in his mind, Holyfield feels he has a clear advantage."When it comes down to the clutch, it comes down to determination and smarts," Holyfield said. "That's where I feel I can control the fight."
Holyfield, undefeated in 24 fights, goes into his first heavyweight title fight giving away size, reach and weight to the undisputed champion.
But his determination and focus have never been questioned, unlike Douglas, who many thought quit when he was stopped in the 10th round of a 1987 title fight against Tony Tucker.
"I think the deciding factor will be mental strength, and I think Evander has just got so much more mental strength," co-trainer Lou Duva said. "That's what we're gambling on."
Oddsmakers apparently agree, making Holyfield an 7-5 favorite to beat Douglas in the champion's first defense of the title he won when he shocked the boxing world by stopping Mike Tyson in Tokyo last February.
Holyfield, a former cruiserweight champion, will be fighting as a heavyweight for only the seventh time against the 30-year-old Douglas, who stands 30-4-1 after a nine-year pro career.
The 27-year-old challenger is at a decided physical disadvantage, giving away about 20 pounds and nearly six inches in reach to Douglas. But Holyfield's conditioning is impeccable and his will to win is unquestioned.
Holyfield had two trainers, strength and conditioning coaches and even a ballet teacher to help him prepare.
"I'm willing to pay every price I have to pay to be the heavyweight champion," Holyfield said. "Both of us fight pretty well and we both have the skills. It becomes a mind thing, which man is stronger mentally and can adjust more to win the fight."
Both fighters and their respective entourages appeared Tuesday at a final pre-fight news conference to hype the fight in the 16,350-seat outdoor arena at The Mirage hotel-casino.
The fight is expected to nearly fill the arena, and hotel operator Steve Wynn, spending some $40 million to host the bout, predicted pay-per-view and closed circuit sales would make it the biggest grossing fight in history.
"Interest in this fight is peaking at just the right time," Wynn said. "We believe one million people will buy the fight, which will undoubtedly break all records for pay-per-view."
Douglas, who battled weight problems since winning the title from Tyson, cancelled his last scheduled workout on Tuesday to concentrate instead on resting up for the scheduled 12-round fight.
Douglas said he would come into the ring somewhere around 231 pounds, the same he weighed when he knocked out Tyson in the 10th round. Holyfield is expected to weigh around 210 pounds at this afternoon's formal weigh-in.
"Everybody else is worried about him and his weight, but we're not worried a bit," said Douglas trainer J.D. McCauley. "I'm always a critic, but there's nothing to criticize. Buster did his job this time."
Douglas, like Holyfield, appeared calm and relaxed as the fight neared, and comfortable about his mental frame entering the bout.
"I think I'll be in better shape now because I'll be more mentally focused than in the last fight," Douglas said.