4-TIME HEAVYWEIGHT BOXING CHAMPION
BRONZE MEDAL, 1984 OLYMPICS
NATIONAL GOLDEN GLOVES CHAMPION, 1980 Hurting people is my business. SUGAR RAY ROBINSON, welterweight and middleweight champion EVANDER HOLYFIELD 11 Ialways dreamed big. During the 1976 Olympics I was watching a feature on the Spinks brothers, Leon and Michael. The whole world loved Sugar Ray Leonard and Howard Davis, but I related to those two brothers. They were from the projects, as was I. I looked at those two and thought, It is possible. Later, I found out it would take faith and hard work, but at the time, seeing them made it all seem possible and within reach. PUT ME IN, COACH I had a hard time getting my football coach to put me in the game because I was a little guy and he didn’t know the size of my heart.
My first goal was to play for the Atlanta Falcons, but the problem was that when I got to high school I just could not get on the field. I was 110 pounds, and although the coaches thought I was good enough to make the team, they didn’t think I was good enough to actually get in the game. I prepared each week like I was going to start, and each week I watched from the bench. It was incredibly painful and frustrating. I knew I would get a chance at some point and that I had to be ready when it came.
Can you imagine having a team that could not use Evander Holyfield? Tired of waiting, I just stood up at practice one day and said, Coach, put me in at middle linebacker. He said, Evander, those guys are one hundred and ninety pounds and you’re too small. I repeated, Coach, put me in, and if the runner gets by me I’ll go back to the bench. But if I make the tackle, you keep me in. Deal? He nodded, and I went in. The opposing coach called the play and it was a screen pass to the fullback, who was lumbering right toward me, and I stopped him cold at the line. The sideline cheered. My coach said, Good hit, now take a seat. I watched from the bench for the rest of the season. I did not miss a practice. I was never late to a drill, and still I did not get another chance until the fourth quarter of the last game of the season.
I played linebacker and made about eight tackles in twelve plays. The 12 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME coach came over to me at the end of the game and said, I didn’t know you could play like that. See you next year. Too late. I proved I could play, but I was done with football. It was time to become a boxer. MOM, LET ME QUIT! I wanted to quit boxing because there was this one fighter, Caesar Colin, who beat me twice for the Junior Olympic title. I just could not beat this guy, so I decided I wanted to quit. I told my mom and she said, No, you will not quit because you’re not doing well or because you’re frustrated. If I let you quit because you didn’t beat this kid, you’ll be quitting things your whole life. She told me most people quit things when they’re not doing well. Beat this kid, win the division, then come to me and we’ll do whatever you want with boxing. So, at twelve, I got another shot at Caesar and I beat him. I went running home, told my mom, and she said, Okay, Evander, now you can quit boxing. Are you crazy? I said.
Why would I quit after beating my toughest opponent? Only then did I realize what she was trying to teach me. It was officialI had an irreplaceable life lesson. FINAL THOUGHTS I am so thankful that my mom did not intercede and tell my brothers and sisters to go easy on me because I was the youngest of nine. I am also grateful that I had that frustration early on in football, because it was the first time I hit some turmoil, and I did not quit. Life is not fair. My brothers didn’t let me win, my football coach didn’t put me in, and that’s just what life is all about. I looked at the boxing ring as a testing ground to show my will and how I handled pressure. I welcomed the chance to test myself every day. I won every fight for eight years and then I lost. Everyone was looking to see how I handled defeat. I didn’t blame anyone else and I didn’t quit. Instead, I studied how I lost. And almost every time I came back and won, and I was grateful, because after every loss I was forced to become a better fighter. Life is about making adjustments. When I talk to my kids or go to a school to talk to kids, I let them know that I might be a champion, but sometimes I lost.
Even as an amateur, I lost eleven times. But I won one hundred sixty-five times. After each loss, I went back, studied my mistakes, and came back a better fighter, as you should come back in whatever you are dealing with in life. MY WRAP Evander Holyfield’s name may be synonymous with courage, tenacity, and class, but his path to the title was anything but easy. Like too many of us, he was benched unjustly because a coach didn’t give him a chance. Remember, if that coach had picked up on Evander’s heart, he probably would have stayed with football. He might only have been just another linebacker instead of one of the finest fighters in boxing history. He certainly would not have been as rich as he is today, nor would he have become globally famous. On a personal note, his victory over Mike Tyson the first time was one of the most inspiring sporting events I have ever seen. Tyson had all his opponents cowering. Holyfield was coming off a horrible performance, and he outboxed the most feared man on the planet. It’s hard to match that drama. To me, Evander would make a great broadcast color commentator or a phenomenal trainer.
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