Thursday, May 23, 2024

Still the REAL DEAL – A conversation with EVANDER HOLYFIELD

A four-time heavyweight champion, his own spectacular accomplishments have at times been overshadowed by an infamous 1997 incident in which his onetime professional nemesis, Mike Tyson, bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear during a highly anticipated rematch. Through it all, Holyfield has remained a fixture in the public eye, competing in 2005 on the highly rated ABC series “Dancing with the Stars,” and lending his name to a line of cooking appliances.
At 47, Holyfield will return to the ring on April 10, when he is scheduled to square off against World Boxing Federation heavyweight titleholder Francois Botha at the Thomas and Mack Center. Holyfield recently spoke to Black Image about moving on from the past and making a new beginning.

What has been your formula to winning in the boxing ring?

To set your goals initially. And also, my mother’s advice has always been a contributing factor in succeeding in the ring. She always told me: “You have to give your all and don’t quit when things get tough. You work it out and reach your destination.”

How have you dealt with making a fortune and then losing it?
The most important thing in life is (recognizing) that you may be an expert in one area and in some areas you are not. Just as hard as you work for the money, you have people dedicated to taking it from you. You have to learn from your mistakes — and of course, I have made some mistakes. There are some good people and bad people, but you can’t give up on people. I am fortunate enough to have some good people working with me today, and we work together to make the best decisions.

How do you distinguish the good people from the bad?
You have to listen and take your time to get to know a person before you sign your life away with them. Never trust more than you can afford to lose.

Do you now find yourself becoming more involved in your own business negotiations?
Yes, I am always in a process of learning, and I know if I don’t understand I will speak up and have whoever is speaking explain to me until (I grasp) what is being said. Also, I bring my attorney into all meetings to make sure that what is said is clear and in my best interest. My attorney knows that I pay him, and if a decision is made that is not good for me, then I hold him responsible. And if I don’t follow his direction, then I am responsible.

What are the things that go through a fighter’s mind when he has been knocked out, and what makes him get back up?

I am a Christian, and I believe what the word of God says. God never gives you more then you can handle. This is the reason why you get up as a fighter, and why we should get up as citizens faced with this bad economy. You are not over until you say you are over — and I am not a quitter. All Christians are overcomers; this is what keeps you living.

Did you initially set a personal goal for yourself when you entered the boxing profession or did being a champion materialize over time?

I was told when I was 8 years old that I could be the heavyweight champion of the world. I told him I was only 8. He said I wasn’t always going to be 8 years old, and I believed him, because the following week I turned 9. My mother always said that we have to set goals and pray. She indicated that I have to ask God … about my goals and how to reach them. That is how it started with me.

Where do you think the sport of boxing is going now?

The game of boxing does have its ups and downs, according to who is in the game. When Joe Louis was boxing, there was excitement in the game — and then when he stopped boxing it went down. When Muhammad Ali was boxing, the game renewed its excitement and so forth. I don’t think boxing is ever going anywhere, because boxing is one of the oldest sports ever. It has always been the heavyweight boxers who have livened up the game.

Do fighters get some of the money from pay-per-view profits?
That is the only reason some of them get paid so much. It shows how many people are interested in seeing that particular boxer fight. It is kind of sad that people think some boxers don’t deserve the money they get, because the people are paying and wanting to see the fight. That is where sometimes the envy and the jealousy comes into the game, because people see someone like Floyd Mayweather making so much money. But he has lived the boxing game, and is a very talented fighter who has taken care of himself in and outside of the ring.

How do you receive Mike Tyson now after that infamous boxing violation when he bit your ear in the ring?

I don’t bash people for doing something against me and call them a bad person. That fight that we fought was a hard fight, and Mike got frustrated. And out of frustration and embarrassment, he did something that you would think he would never do. I was able to relate to that, because my brothers and I used to get into fights when I was little, and when they didn’t let me go I would bite them just because I wanted them to let me go. I didn’t bite them because I was mean; I just wanted them to let me go. I think what happened is that he bit me not because he was so mad, but he thought if he bit me it will get me out of the ring instead of (him) having to quit. And it did, and caused him a lot of shame. It is behind me, and he and I speak when we see each other. It is water under the bridge. It was just something that happened, and I forgave him.

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