Evander Holyfield is: The Real Deal

Evander Holyfield didn’t become the four-time world heavyweight boxing champion without some help along the way. 

Evander Holyfield lets out a huge, booming laugh, the kind that starts deep in your gut. Or for the “Real Deal,” deep in the chiseled abdomen built to endure punches from the world’s greatest boxers.

“I never thought in a million years that would’ve happened,” Holyfield says, the belly laugh trailing off into a chuckle.

The four-time heavyweight champion of the world is recalling the infamous moment that has become synonymous with his name–the night Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of his ear–but his response could be applied to almost any element of his career. A career that never would have been without the Boys & Girls Club, which is why Holyfield has made it one of his missions in life to give back to the club that helped him climb from the Atlanta projects to become one of boxing’s all-time greats.

Through his fledgling Real Deal Sports Entertainment group, Holyfield plans to put on a fight card Dec. 8 at the Savannah Civic Center with a portion of the proceeds going to local Boys & Girls Clubs, and he is working with local politicians and law enforcement to lend a hand in combating violent crime in the Hostess City.

The goal, Holyfield says, is to get young people to “put the guns down, and put their knuckles up.”

Boxing kept Holyfield out of harm’s way in more ways than one, and kept a gun out of his hand. When he was 19, he had two options ahead of him–making the Olympic team or enlisting in the armed forces.

“I didn’t want to go into the service,” Holyfield recalls. “I thanked God that he let my job be my hobby. The only thing I ever did well was box. I was tough, and I could handle anything. Can’t nobody make me quit.”

That was a quality instilled in him by his mother, who wouldn’t listen to young Evander’s whining when he couldn’t beat his eight older siblings, instead urging him to work harder. Those lessons served him well when he finally competed against kids his own age, and his mental and physical toughness was unparalleled in the ring.

Holyfield became an amateur champion and won silver at the 1983 Pan-American games and bronze at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles before embarking on a professional career. He won his first 28 professional fights, becoming the unified cruiserweight champion in 1988 and the undisputed heavyweight champ–the first of four times–with a knockout of Buster Douglas in 1990.

 

“I thanked God that he let my job be my hobby. The only thing I ever did well was box.”

Holyfield last fought in 2011–at age 48–and officially announced his retirement in 2014 with a record of 44-10-2, including 29 wins by knockout. It wasn’t pretty at the end, as Holyfield held on too long to the dream of once again unifying the titles. He continued chasing that pipe dream for seven years after an embarrassing loss to Larry Donald prompted the New York State Athletic Commission to suspend his license.

During his heyday, though, Holyfield went toe to toe with many of the all-time greats during a golden era for heavyweight fighters, including great rivalries with Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis and, of course, Mike Tyson. He says no one hit him harder than George Foreman, whom he defeated by unanimous decision in 1991 in Atlantic City, NJ, but no one was more menacing than Tyson.

“I was never intimidated by anyone, but you have to give it to Mike Tyson,” Holyfield says. “He didn’t have to say anything, because everybody told you what he was going to do to you.”

Like bite off your ear?

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