Evander Holyfield And The Real Deal

14.05.04 - By Matthew Hurley: Evander Holyfield was recently a guest on Tim McCarver’s talk show and talked about his career and his assistance with aspiring Olympic 400 meter hopeful Milton Campbell. The former heavyweight and cruiserweight champion looked to be in good health and humor as he reminisced about his fights with Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas and finding solace and guidance in the Atlanta Boys Club.
“All you need is opportunity,” he said. “With opportunity you can achieve if you push yourself.”

Unfortunately the episode ended with Evander’s assertion that he will fight for a title by years end. He seemed so relaxed, so content that one would have thought he was a retired fighter waxing reflective about his career. Sadly he was just another in a long line of boxers unwilling or simply unable to walk away from the most unforgiving of sports. But Evander Holyfield isn’t just another fighter. He’s a future hall of famer. Yet when it comes to boxing he remains just what he is – a fighter, and that links him with every boxer that ever laced up the gloves and stepped through the ropes. From Evander and Thomas Hearns and Muhammad Ali all the way down to Sugar Ray Robinson and far back beyond to the moment the Queensbury Rules were set in place, fighters are the walking wounded of athletes.

In body and mind and in their soul their pride bandages their hurts. Holyfield is certainly in a better monetary position than most fighters but what happens ten years from now? He says he’s not fighting for the money but because he believes he can be champion again. That fierce pride will forever burn inside his muscled chest, but his body is beaten and worn out beneath.

Holyfield has only won two of his last eight bouts. He’s not a top ten contender in any of the ranking bodies. So he did what he knew he had to do. He fired his managers and trainers and signed with Don King. The same Don King that got Andrew Golota a title shot against Chris Byrd in spite of not having fought anyone in the top twenty in the past three years. King owns the heavyweights, he always has and when some fighters such as Larry Holmes or Mike Tyson slip through his fingers he makes damn sure that their professional livelihood becomes complicated. So Evander has now signed on with King and, without a doubt, he will suddenly appear in the rankings of the sanctioning bodies and get his promised title shot. This, in spite of being humiliated by James Toney in his last fight. If Evander can make Don King money, then the frizzled haired promoter will suck every drop of blood from Holyfield until there’s nothing left. This is the same man who is putting Julio Ceasar Chavez back in the ring against Frankie Randall for the third time – two men who shouldn’t be in a ring. But the blame or the finger pointing can’t simply rest upon King. Ultimately it comes back to the fighters who continue to fight when they shouldn’t. It’s a vicious cycle, spun by blood-lust, greedy promoters and men – fighters - who don’t know how to do anything else and simply don’t want to. It’s sad and sometimes it becomes tragic.

Evander’s legacy won’t be tarnished by the dismal shadow of his final fights. His plaque will eventually be put up in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota. But what will become of him? Will his story end sadly or tragically? He has nothing left to prove and yet, to himself, he believes he does. The fighter’s heart that still beats in his chest won’t let him see the truth of what he as a fighter has become. He is a broken down boxer who used to be great. That’s the “Real Deal” and hopefully he’ll realize that before it’s too late.

Article posted on 14.05.2004

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