Role of a lifetime

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

Lou Savarese's odds of winning an Academy Award are about the same as they are of winning the heavyweight championship, which is to say, not good.

But he's going to have plenty of people who root for him to do both.

He's the rare athlete who doesn't take himself too seriously, and clearly isn't impressed by his own celebrity.

Whatever his limitations as a boxer and an actor may be, Savarese throws himself into both. He's 41 years old and hasn't beaten a serious contender in years, but not only is he talking of defeating former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield in their bout on Saturday in El Paso, Texas, but he's also talking about winning the belt himself.

He speaks of how the division is watered down and how there is no dominant heavyweight and, after a while, you start to believe him despite the feeble effort he gave in a first-round knockout loss to Mike Tyson in 2000 and despite the loss to 48-year-old George Foreman in 1997.

Crazier things have happened, haven't they? The Red Sox did win the World Series in 2004, didn't they?

"I don't do much in moderation," Savarese says. "I've heard all kinds of things that I'm doing this for a payday or that I'm taking this lightly. But you know what? I'm a boxer and when I decided to do this, I made the commitment that I would put the best of whatever I had on a given day into this.

"It kind of defies logic to say that I'm not committed to this when you consider that I had to leave my kids and give up coaching my kid's (Little League) team to go spend six weeks in a training camp."

Savarese is 46-6 with 38 knockouts, but his career has been primarily defined by the losses to Foreman and Tyson.

He was knocked out in just 38 seconds by Tyson in a 2000 bout in Scotland. The fight was frequently delayed and finally happened as his wife, Louisa, was going through a difficult pregnancy with their first child.

His bout with Foreman is notable because he is the last man Foreman defeated, by split decision on April 26, 1997. Savarese was 31 then and unbeaten and not nearly as understanding of the business as he is now.

He's learned, he says, not to stress over things he can't control. He's put his time in and is convinced he's ready to surprise those who feel he was a hand-picked opponent for Holyfield.

He hasn't, he admits, gotten everything out of his talent in the past, but he's certain the wisdom he's gained can help him do so now.

"Foreman was like a life lesson as well as boxing," Savarese said. "When you looked at the guy when he was in his best shape, he looked like an Adonis in his younger years but couldn't go six rounds. Then he comes back and looks like (pro wrestler) Abdullah the Butcher, this big fat guy, and he can go 12 rounds with no problem.

"What I'm getting at is that with your experience, you can overcome things that would have been a problem for you before. George is a good role model for me in that regard."

Foreman made a post-boxing living as a pitchman and a television commentator, but Savarese has decided to give acting a shot.

At 6 feet 5 and 250 pounds with the rugged look of a longshoreman, he's not going to get any leading man roles, much to his chagrin.

"I'm a little biased, but I think I am the leading man type," he said, chuckling, "but for some reason, I keep getting roles as 'Thug No. 1,' and 'Thug No. 2.' But you have to start somewhere. Look at (Kevin) Costner: He was the dead body in The Big Chill. So I'm not worried. I'll get there."

He's appeared on the soap opera, The Guiding Light, even though he sounds like an 8-year-old talking about castor oil when he discusses his lack of affinity for soaps.

"Definitely, definitely not a soaps kind of a guy," he says.

But it would be a real life soap opera were he to win. It's not like Holyfield, at 44, is in his prime, but he's the reason the show is happening.

Savarese understands the business, but he also knows he has a say in the outcome.

"I'm a puncher and I have a big right hand," he says. "When you're a heavyweight and you can punch, you're never more than a chance and one right hand away from the title.

"I have put the time in and I've worked hard. I have the chance and now it's up to make to take advantage of it."

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