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Report: Vitor Belfort vs. Evander Holyfield signed for exhibition bout, despite marketing

Triller had advertised the bout as a pro contest after Holyfield stepped in for Oscar De La Hoya on short notice, but it appears the contracts say otherwise.

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Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort pose for the press at a media event for their PPV boxing match.
Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort pose for the press at a media event for their PPV boxing match.
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

“The Florida Athletic Commission has approved the Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort bout as a fully regulated professional boxing match. It will be conducted under the Unified Rules of Boxing and scored by three judges on the 10-point must system,” a statement from a press release reads on the Triller Fight Club website.

Oscar De La Hoya vs. Vitor Belfort had initially been advertised as an exhibition when it was first announced back in June. But those plans quickly changed to a fully regulated pro bout. It was one of the things that had fans and pundits feeling so uncomfortable about the switch from De La Hoya to Holyfield. The ‘Real Deal’ may have been a multiple-time world champion, but he’s also 58—and seems to be a notably diminished image of his former heyday. Was he really going to fight a puncher like Vitor Belfort in a fully licensed professional contest?

Even Holyfield himself apparently has had some misgivings about the idea.

According to a report from ESPN, the boxing legend had expressed concerns about the idea of this fight being recorded as part of his professional record. To that end the commission seems to maintain that they’ll be treating the bout as a pro fight (despite the bout only having 2-minute rounds), but that they won’t officially submit the fight to BoxRec to be recorded if the fighters elect not to take that step. Triller co-founder Ryan Kavanaugh confirmed the news in a statement to ESPN.

“If Holyfield doesn’t want this to go on his BoxRec due to his age, we’ll allow him to make the decision and still follow all the other rules,” Kavanaugh admitted. “As of now the fighters are comfortable with how it stands and we’re going to revisit this over the next couple of days to decide.

“We’ve spoken to Holyfield and Vitor and the commission; no matter what, this will be scored as a pro fight, there will be a clear winner and it will be treated with pro rules.”

If that sounds terribly confused, the truth of it may be a lot more straightforward. Boxing reporter Dan Rafael gave an update on the fight agreement, as has been apparently signed off on by the fighters at the event. If his report is correct, it seems the bout will simply be an exhibition fight.

Assuming that’s the case, then it would seem Triller may be trying a more deft version of the bait & switch that fans experienced with the Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. exhibition bout (which was also booked for eight 2-minute rounds). While that fight was much more clearly advertised as an exhibition in the weeks leading up to the event, the rules in play were muddled—with multiple attempts by promoters and media personalities involved to suggest that both men might simply abandon the exhibition structure and decide to throw down. Instead, when fight night actually came, fans were treated to exactly the glorified sparring session that regulators had said they were licensing the fighters to take part in.

Maybe this time around, things will be different. Belfort and Holyfield really will go all out, no matter if the fight counts for anything or not. Or, as seems more likely, Triller has found a less obvious way to build high expectations for two men who won’t be that interested in fighting.