STATELINE, Nev. — When Evander Holyfield and James (Quick) Tillis square off tonight, their eyes will be on each other, but their sights will be on Mike Tyson.
For Holyfield, the undisputed cruiserweight champion at 18-0, his debut as a heavyweight will be a test to see if he can handle a boxer who gave Tyson a hard time.
For Tillis (38-13-1), it may be the final opportunity for a rematch Tyson, who defeated him by a one-point decision before becoming champion.
"Holyfield's given me a shot to make some money and get another shot at Tyson," Tillis said. "He picked the wrong somebody."
Holyfield's trainer, Lou Duva, said a victory tonight will prove that his fighter is ready for two or three more heavyweight bouts before meeting Tyson. His target date for that showdown is a year from now.
But Holyfield reminded his trainer, "If I don't beat Tillis, there ain't gonna be no Tyson fight."
Holyfield, the bronze medalist in the 1984 Olympics after a controversial disqualification, has 14 knockouts in his 18 professional victories at 190 pounds. He expects to weigh in for tonight's fight at about 202 pounds.
Tillis, down from 228 to 210, has knocked out 29 of the 38 people he has beaten. But since his narrow loss in 10 rounds to Tyson, he has won seven and lost four with one draw. Five of those wins were knockouts. So were three of the losses.
"Tillis is a good fighter. Sometimes he looks good, sometimes he looks bad," Duva said. "He's capable of one hell of a fight. We're hoping he doesn't have that kind of a night."
The 10-round fight in an outdoor arena at Caesars Tahoe is scheduled to begin about 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on national pay-cable television by Showtime.