New York:Evander Holyfield and Sultan Ibragimov posed, fists up, atop a marquee in Times Square. Below them, pedestrians stopped and pointed.
A man in a delivery truck pausing at a traffic light on Broadway put his head out the window to get a better look, while across the street a fan called out: "Evander!"
Meanwhile, the heavyweight boxing champ went almost unnoticed. The United States is Holyfield's turf. When the two step into the ring on October 13, it's Ibragimov who'll have the home-country advantage as he tries to defend his title.
"This is the first time there will be a fight of this level there," Ibragimov said. "I know I can show great fight in Moscow," Ibragimov said. "You will see a great, heavy fight."
The two heavyweights and their handlers held a news conference on Thursday at the Hard Rock Cafe to promote the title bout at Moscow's Khodynka Ice Palace arena.
For Holyfield (42-8, with two draws and 27 KOs), this is a step in his quest to retire as the oldest heavyweight champion. The only four-time champion in the division turns 45 six days after the fight for the WBO title. First up is Ibragimov (21-0, with one draw and 17 KOs), a hard-hitting southpaw who, like Holyfield is smaller than most heavyweights at 1.88 meters (6-foot-2). If Holyfield can beat him, he'll only have three more heavyweight title bouts to win before he can reach his goal of retiring with all the belts.
It's fitting in a way that Holyfield's journey begins in Moscow, as the other fighters he'll need to beat are all from countries that were former Soviet republics.
The other champs are Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine (IBF), Ruslan Chagaev of Uzbekistan (WBA), and Oleg Maskaev of Kazakhstan (WBC). The 32-year-old Ibragimov is from Russia, though he lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, these days.
The 2000 Olympic silver medalist became WBO champ when he easily outpointed Shannon Briggs in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in June.
Ibragimov was originally supposed to fight Chagaev in a unification bout. But the WBA champ pulled out because of unspecified medical reasons, and Ibragimov's promoters had a problem.
Enter Holyfield, fresh off a 10-round unanimous decision over Lou Savarese.
"I'm honored to go to Russia and let the people see what they've been missing for a long time - the 'Real Deal,'" Holyfield said.
Holyfield's use of his own nickname was the closest either fighter came to the kind of braggadocio - or more - that often livens up pre-fight news conferences.
But on Thursday, promoters from each side had nothing but kind words for the other camp, praising the smooth, businesslike negotiations that produced the matchup.
There was little chance the two would attempt to start anything at the news conference, either.
"I know Holyfield is great boxing legend," Ibragimov said.