Evander Holyfield had just shifted training camp to Las Vegas for the latest bout of his seemingly open-ended career when he stepped on his trainer’s foot in the ring and rolled an ankle.

Weekend warriors of a certain age know too well that swelling in a 47-year-old’s foot region can linger. So, nine days before a scheduled slugfest with Frans Botha, the Holyfield camp entered a vow of secrecy on the injury, lest word slip out that might jeopardize the fight.

The training regimen, which already had been scaled back for boxing’s Methuselah, was eased further. Running, previously down from daily to three days per week, was all but shelved. Sparring was reduced. Holyfield focused on stretching and the fitness activity of choice for senior citizens: walking.

Last Saturday, the ankle was fine, as were the rest of his body parts, when Holyfield knocked out Botha in the eighth round at the Thomas & Mack Center. He left with a goodie bag that included the heavyweight title belt from the obscure World Boxing Federation, a paycheck that will alleviate financial burdens and assurance of least one more bout.

“I felt I could have done better, but I’m satisfied,” Holyfield, citing ring rust after nearly 16 months between public fisticuffs, said Monday from his home in Fairburn.

The ankle caused no pain, but Holyfield took precautions between the ropes to not aggravate it.


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