Interview with Evander Holyfield
By Chip Mitchell: Boxing fans, I recently had the opportunity to interview a legend. Folks, the ONLY boxer to win the World heavyweight title four times…. I give you Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield!
Article posted on 09.01.2011
Chip Mitchell: Evander thanks for granting us this opportunity to interview you before your next fight.
Evander Holyfield: Okay
Chip Mitchell: Evander, how has training been going for your upcoming fight?
Evander Holyfield: Oh, everything is swell. Everything is swell.
Chip Mitchell: Evander, you are 48 years old and….
Evander Holyfield: (cutting in) Yes I am!
Chip Mitchell: Okay, well you’ve heard fans and media alike suggest that you retire. Let’s set the record straight. What drives you to keep boxing?
Evander Holyfield: Well it’s my goal. My goal is to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. That’s my goal. That’s the reason I’m still fighting.
Chip Mitchell: Some feel you should already be champion again. You fought Nikolay Valuev for the WBA title and I have yet to speak to anyone who believed you lost. Your thoughts?
Evander Holyfield: Well of course, one way or another I felt that I did enough to win the fight and unfortunately, I didn’t get it. But that would’ve just been only one belt. I would’ve still been fighting. Like I said, my goal is to be undisputed and not just winning a belt. I want to win ALL the belts.
Chip Mitchell: Okay Evander, let’s get down to the business at hand. You are preparing to fight Sherman “Tank” Williams on January 22 at the Greenbrier Resort. The fight was postponed a few times, but it looks like a go this time. Williams says he’s going to punish you. How do you see the fight playing out?
Evander Holyfield: You know, I just know I should win. I don’t go by what nobody says. They say what they’re supposed to say.
Chip Mitchell: Let’s say that you beat Sherman. What’s the next step for you in your career?
Evander Holyfield: My goal is to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Chip Mitchell: Okay, the next few questions come from boxing fans who seek answers for historical reference. Michael Ferguson in Concord, VA asks who the hardest puncher you’ve faced is. In terms of consistent hard punches, not just a single shot…
Evander Holyfield: Well consistently getting hit hard, I would say Riddick Bowe. But then again, it’s because he caught me with them shots! When you are talking about how hard somebody hits, actually, you have to get hit by them. You can’t just go by what you see somebody do to somebody else. Like I say, I see Mike Tyson hit a lot of people hard. He just didn’t get me with them shots, I was able to have good defense. But it doesn’t mean he don’t hit hard. But Riddick Bowe on a consistent basis of being hit, I was hit more by him more than I guess any heavyweight. Hard shots.
Chip Mitchell: Zique in West Virginia asks if you have any regrets for not fighting Mike Tyson before he went to prison.
Evander Holyfield: No. Why would I have any regrets? We still fought. It’s not like something that I did wrong or anything like that. I think in that particular situation Mike had a chance to fight me in ’89. He chose not to fight me. Then he lost in ’90 to Buster Douglas. And so, then of course in ’91 he had a chance to fight me but he said he was doing sit-ups and he broke his rib. Then after that when it came to fight me again he went to jail. These are things that I don’t regret because the fact of the matter is I didn’t have anything to do with that. I think people tend to get it mixed up in some kind of way that I had a goal to fight Mike. I never had a goal to fight Mike, I had a goal to win the heavyweight championship. There’s not a fighter out there who I had a goal to fight them. You know, I’m a boxer. My goal has always been to be the champion. Whomever I have to go through then that’s who I go through. But I just never had a goal for individuals and say, 'oh I want to fight this guy'. I don’t feel that makes who you are. Who you are is when you have a goal and there are the people who are standing between you and that goal. You go through them and this person allows you to have your first setback and you make some adjustments to come back. You become who you are by all the things you had to go through.
Chip Mitchell: Scotty C. from Abingdon, MD believes your plan in the first Bowe fight was to use your boxing skills. You came in at 205 so you’d be faster. In round two, Bowe hit you on the break and you got mad and hit him back. You then went toe-to-toe with Bowe and it seems as if your fight-plan was scrapped. You attempted to outslug him instead of outbox him. It appeared to become an ego thing because Bowe made you mad with his tactics. Scott wants to know if his opinion is correct.
Evander Holyfield: His opinion is correct! Because the fact of the matter is that was a really shortcoming. It means that I knew the way to beat him, but once I got upset he got me to change my attitude. The important thing about what he said, to let him know what allowed it to happen, was before the fight Riddick Bowe told me “If you don’t run I’ll knock you out.” That was more of an insult to me, because I have this saying… I don’t run from nobody! But the smart thing was to fight. My corner kept telling me “box him, box him, box him”. I boxed him the first two rounds, then all of sudden he start hitting me low and hitting me on the break. So all of a sudden, I just started going toe-to-toe to let him know that I’ll fight you all day. Plus I was counting on the fact that Bowe was my sparring partner. I was counting on the fact that you know what- I used to run him out of gas all the time when we used to fight. So what I did was I stayed in there and was gonna fight him because I knew he was gonna run out of gas. That’s the first fight that man has ever had where he didn’t run out of gas (laughing). When he didn’t run out of gas and my eyes were so swollen, I had to stay there. I couldn’t see him from a distance because he had the reach, he had good hand speed from the outside, and he fought good from the inside. He was the most complete big man that I’ve ever fought.
Chip Mitchell: How did you get your nickname “Real Deal”?
Evander Holyfield: Well I think it was an accident. When the ordeal first started off, the name Real Deal came with the people who used to talk on the CBs (radios). There was this guy named Poppa Charlie. He said ‘you got to get you a handle too’. Then I said ‘Holyfield… Real Deal’. Then out of that Holyfield Real Deal. Then all of a sudden when I got to Colorado, they were like “WHAT’S THE DEAL HOLYFIELD?” (Laughing) All of a sudden, I wanted to be Real Deal. Then when I fought in the Olympics and got disqualified, all these guys were my friends and they said “Aww man you got a raw deal”. So they started calling me “Raw Deal” and I said no, no, no, no- I’m the REAL DEAL man! You don’t go off on nothing negative. I told them that’s how I became the Real Deal. Everybody kind of liked that. You know, Real Deal actually means proven. So when somebody says something is the real deal, they say the person is proven to be what he says he is.
Chip Mitchell: Wow! Good story! Good story! Okay now, Evander, how did you get your start in boxing?
Evander Holyfield: Well I started at the Boys Clubs. At the age of eight years old, I wanted to hit the speed bag and this man said “YOU HAVE TO BE ON THE BOXING TEAM!” I told him I want to be on the boxing team and he said “NO!” So every day I would ask him. Eventually I wore him out! (Chuckles) So he let me come in and I wanted to hit that speed bag. He told me no and told me to hit the heavy bag. I hit the heavy bag and I knocked the skin off my knuckles, but I kept hitting it. He said, “You’re bleeding”. I said ‘I know it’ and I just kept on and he said “No, no, no, no. Come on, come, come on, and let me get this blood off your hands”. Then he said, “You tough ain’t you?” I told him ‘YES’! Then said “Don’t you know you can be heavyweight champion of the world?” I looked at him, you know, because he’s an older white guy and my mother always told me to respect my elders. I said ‘I’m eight years old’. He said, “You won’t always be eight”. And I believed him because I knew the next week I would be nine. So he asked me what did I think and I said I was only 65 pounds. He said, “You won’t always be 65 pounds”. So I looked at him and he said, “What’s next”. I asked him what the heavyweight champion is. I didn’t know nothing about no boxing. He said, “You don’t know what the heavyweight champion is?” He asked me if I ever heard of Muhammad Ali. I said yeah. He asked how I knew him and I told him they had Black History week and they talk about him. He told me that I could be just like him. That’s the first man, outside of my mother telling me, that I could be something worth being. And that’s how it started.
Chip Mitchell: Evander, how has spirituality played a part in your boxing career?
Evander Holyfield: That’s the only way I won. It’s when you don’t choose your parents, your skin color, or your size. Which is everybody. Because we were poor, my mother told us this is the way that you make it. You have to trust in God for everything because we didn’t have enough money, didn’t have enough of anything. But what we had, we made it with it. So I was brought up in a household and was the youngest of nine. I got so many whooping that my grandmamma used to pray on me telling God that He has to save me because my momma was gonna kill me (laughing). That’s how I know somebody was gonna get hit when I was a kid. My grandma used to pray for me all the time and always told me we had to keep God first. Anything that you want to be you have to have God and believe that God will allow you to be it. You know what, I believed that and I trust in what the Word of God says. That’s the reason that at 48 years old I can still do what I do. There ain’t nobody at 48 years old that ever did what I’ve done.
Chip Mitchell: Who do you consider your favorite boxers, past or present?
Evander Holyfield: Well, I have quite a few because as a kid I had people who were in the gym that were my favorite because that’s all I see. But as a professional, I didn’t like real flashy because I had a coach that told me you don’t have to do all that. So I like a person like Marvin Hagler because he worked hard. He worked and he came in there in shape all the time and all that. I like Sugar Ray Leonard too because the fact of the matter is he is very skillful. I like the quick hands but I don’t get caught up in all the showboating, but he was very skillful. Same thing when you look at Floyd Mayweather. I like him. He outthinks people. He outthinks them. He has quick hands and all that. He fights a complete fight. Then again, another person I liked coming up is Tyson. Because you know what, regardless of what everybody ever said about Tyson, when he comes he comes to fight. He never said they were taller than me or they were bigger than me. When he first came in there, he was a small guy. He was 215. Everyone else, man them boys were 6’6, 6’5, 6’7. Nobody ever said they were too big for Tyson, but Tyson was like 5’10, 5’11. These guys were 6’4, 6’5, 6’6. I seen and read that he would hit these guys and he would jab these guys. This was before he became the superstar of the superstars. But in the 80’s, man he’d sit there and jab those guys. Jab ‘em and he did a lot of incredible things. I like Pacquiao too. He’s another guy that’s left handed and throws so many punches that eventually; if you’re not in shape you are not going to beat him. Because he takes a good shot too. These fighters that I mention, these are the people that whenever they do something I watch them. I see the things they do to stay there. They make the adjustments to make the opponent stop doing what they are doing.
Chip Mitchell: On November 15, 1984, you began your professional career. The Night of the Olympians card had You, Meldrick Taylor, Virgil Hill, Mark Breland, Tyrell Briggs, and Pernell Whitaker on it. What do you recall about your pro debut that night?
Evander Holyfield: Well it was big moment for me. I know the history of game in Madison Square Garden. Now who in the world would think you’d have an opportunity in your PROFESSIONAL debut to fight at Madison Square Garden? Not a sold out arena, but an arena that was full because they gave the tickets to all the people and they filled that place. I’m like you know what, who would’ve thought that so many people know they made it when they made it Madison Square Garden. And my first professional fight this is what happened to me. That was the good part, but the bad part was that I had to fight the toughest person. This guy Lionel Byarm. He was the Philadelphia State Champion. Now being 48 years old, to think about would I actually put my guy in a fight with the Philadelphia State Champion? Now, maybe another state that’s not known for boxing, but Philadelphia? I wouldn’t have done that. But I don’t know HOW they put me in a fight with that guy. And that guy fought me ALL night! That was a HARD six rounds. That’s hard six rounds, but that’s how my career jumped off. You know with me, I just thought I was supposed be better than anybody I fought. So it wouldn’t make no difference who the guy was. I was going to fight him because I wasn’t going to say I don’t think I could beat him because that’s not in me.
Chip Mitchell: Please finish this sentence: If I wasn’t a boxer I’d be ______________
Evander Holyfield: Well I’d like to think that I would’ve been a football player. I would’ve probably been one of those Falcons.
Chip Mitchell: In closing, is there anything you would like to tell the millions of fans reading this transcript online?
Evander Holyfield: I like to tell them that I’m going to be the next undisputed champion.
Thanks to Evander Holyfield Management, Mike Weaver, and Michael Ferguson for assistance with this interview.
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