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SALT LAKE CITY — In 10 days, the city will see something it’s never seen before, and may never see again: a prize fighter and a politician facing off to help others a world away.
In the red corner, of course, is former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney; in the blue corner, former five-time world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. On May 15, the two will spar at the Rail Event Center, near the Union Pacific Depot, for a lighthearted fight to raise money for charity.
“Evander spoke with Mitt and said, ‘Mitt, you can hit me in the face as hard as you want,’” Romney’s wife, Ann, said. “(Evander) said, ‘You won’t land a single punch!’”
To prepare, Mitt Romney has been participating in private workouts inside Utah’s legendary Fullmer Boxing Gym in South Jordan.
“He did OK, for a man without any gloves on,” Romney’s sparring partner, Nick Butterfield, said. “He came and told us this is completely foreign to him.”
Holyfield has also stepped up his game, training at a Police Assistance League gym in Atlanta.
“You can never underestimate a person when you think he don’t know nothing. Being the smart man that he is, he knows something,” Holyfield said.
The highly publicized match will benefit the Utah-based organization CharityVision, which helps doctors in developing countries perform surgeries to restore vision in people with curable blindness. Mitt and Ann Romney’s son Josh currently serves as the organization’s volunteer president.
Evander spoke with Mitt and said, 'Mitt, you can hit me in the face as hard as you want.' (Evander) said, 'You won't land a single punch!'
“We do about 40,000 surgeries a year, all around the world,” Josh Romney said. “We go to developing countries. We partner with local doctors to provide eye surgeries for those who are blind.”
Eye doctors affiliated with CharityVision receive free equipment, so long as half of their surgeries are done for the poor to restore vision and change lives.
“You have to have vision just to have faith. You have to believe something,” Holyfield said. “Without vision, you don’t have no faith — that’s why a lot of people don’t go nowhere.”
And how does Ann Romney feel about her husband’s budding boxing career?
“I started the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases. That was all in preparation for Evander’s fight with Mitt,” she joked.
Her advice for her husband was simple: "Um, keep your arms up; maybe duck.”
Corporate sponsorships for the event range from $25,000 to $250,000. For more information, visit www.cvfightnight.org.
Contributing: Jordan Ormond and The Associated Press