Norman Mailer flew out to Moscow from his home in Provincetown, MA last month to cover the Holyfield vs. Ibragimov fight exclusively for The Exile.
There's rain in Moscow and the press horde has gathered in a giant half-empty sterile cage of a fight palace, some late-Communist figure-skating beast of a dome. And the old writer is tired. The flight from Boston dragged cruel on his body and yes the old writer is tired. The look of this place has him more tired still, dying animal tired, anxious for onion soup and a long rest in the dull sunset shadows of the Kremlin and its soft-spoken new Czar, the same castle that once haunted thermonuclear fantasies had on whiskey stained New York sheets. He had run through the bush with Ali in '75. Now this. Norman Mailer is in Moscow for 12 rounds if Holyfield is lucky. And he is tired.
Fight night. Through most of the 12 rounds, we wait for the fight to begin. Holyfield and Igrabimov circle and jab, circle and jab. Only twice does one man wobble, Holyfield both times the staggering victim. The Russian's artillery to the solar plex in the 10th the closest thing to punishment from Allah. When it is done, mercifully done, the writer agrees with the judges in their unanimous decision by points. The fight writers, too, are correct. It is time for the ex-champ to hang up the gloves on a sturdy nail, to retreat to home and hearth and church in Atlanta, where the sacred canvas circle of past battles can loop in memory before finally coming to rest in the promise of sleep.