The heavyweight title Buster Douglas wants to prove he deserves and Evander Holyfield waited so long to fight for will be on the line Thursday night.

Douglas, 30-4-1, makes the first defense of the championship he won with a stunning 10th-round knockout of Mike Tyson Feb. 11 in Tokyo. Holyfield, 24-0, finally challenges for the title after spending 20 months as the top-rated challenger.The fight, scheduled for 12 rounds, will take place at The Mirage's 16,350-seat outdoor arena and can be seen on pay-per-view TV throughout the country and 121 nations around the world.Douglas is still looking to prove his victory over Tyson was not luck, as the former champion has claimed. Douglas enters the fight a 13-10 underdog.

"Beating Mike Tyson, and then coming back to beat Evander Holyfield is a magnificent feat," Douglas said. "It will put me in the same category as the great champions.

"It is a goal of mine to go down in history right alongside Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis and Joe Frazier and other great champions."

Holyfield, a 1984 Olympic light heavyweight medalist and former undisputed cruiserweight champion, said he has looked forward to fighting for the heavyweight championship since he started boxing when he was 10.

"This is payoff time, where everything comes to an end," Holyfield said. "Where either you pass the test or not.

"I've been trying to get here for 18 years, now I'll see if I'm ready for the test. I feel I am."

The suspicion Douglas was out of shape was confirmed at Wednesday's weigh-in when the champion stepped on the scale at 246 - 14 1/2 pounds higher than when he fought Tyson. Douglas had said all week he expected to weigh in the low 230s. Holyfield weighed 208, a little lighter than expected.

The challenger will give away 38 pounds, but is the far better conditioned boxer.

"I compare my conditioning and the way I feel overall going into the two fights, and I am comfortable with the way I am," Douglas said. "I feel stronger.

"Beating Evander will prove once and for all the fight with Mike Tyson wasn't a fluke. I'm still the underdog. Therefore, I still have something to prove."

Holyfield's conditioning is never a problem. He is one of the most impressively built boxers in the sport. But many doubt he is big enough to handle a large heavyweight like Douglas. At 6-foot-4 with an 83-inch reach, Douglas has advantages of 1 1/2 inches in height and 5 1/2 inches in reach. Douglas, of Columbus, Ohio, is 30 and Holyfield, of Atlanta, 28.

"I've been small all my life," Holyfield said of his size disadvantage, "and I've never had a problem."

Douglas has not fought since the Tyson fight, mostly because of his legal battle with promoter Don King - which was settled out of court. Holyfield's previous bout was a fourth-round knockout of Seamus McDonagh June 1. When Douglas fought Tyson, Holyfield had a signed $12 million to challenge Tyson in June.

"When you want something as bad as I did and waited all these years ... I stayed focused because I know how good it's going to be when I win it," Holyfield said.

Douglas will earn a record $24 million compared to Holyfield's $8 million purse for the Thursday night bout. Mirage owner Steve Wynn, the fight's promoter, forecasts one million pay-per-view subscriptions will be sold for the bout. He also expects a live gate in excess of $10 million.

If Douglas wins, he has signed to fight a rematch with Tyson at The Mirage. Holyfield plans to fight 42-year-old former champin George Foreman next if he wins the title.

The bout is scheduled to start around 8:30 p.m. MDT.


(Additional information)

Tale of the tape

Douglas Holyfield

Age 30 28

Weight 246 208

Height 6-4 6-2 1/2

Reach 83 77 1/2

Chest(normal) 45 43

Biceps 17 16

Forearm 14 12 1/2

Waist 35 32

Thigh 26 22

Calf 17 13

Neck 18 19 1/2

Wrist 8 7 1/2

Fist 13 1/2 12 1/2

Ankle 11 10