|Born||Oct. 19, 1962 (age 51)
Atmore, Alabama, USA
Evander Holyfield was born in 1962 in the small town of Atmore, Alabama. He was the youngest of nine children and raised by Annie Laura, a single mother who worked for hours cooking meals at a local restaurant. At the age of 12, Holyfield and his family relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where he grew up.
Holyfield’s Amateur Career
In the early 1980s, Holyfield participated in the Golden Gloves competitions as an amateur and won. After winning the competition, he qualified to compete in the Junior Olympics in Los Angeles. During the match, Holyfield experienced a huge setback in the ring. The match officials disqualified him during a semi-final match against his opponent – New Zealand-born Kevin Barry – for hitting him after the break. Despite this disappointment, he managed to take home a bronze medal.
Boxing as a Professional
Soon after the 1984 Junior Olympics, Evander Holyfield became a professional boxer. He made his first appearance as a professional fighter when he fought against Lionel Byram in the televised match in November of 1984. From 1986, he went on to beat big names in boxing such as Jessy Shelby, Chisanda Mutti, Mike Brothers, Terry Mims to name a few.
He won the world champion title from the WBA Cruiserweight Champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi. In 1988, Holyfield expressed his desire to compete at the heavyweight level so as to take the title from legendary boxer Mike Tyson. He trained hard to become strong enough to compete as a heavyweight boxer.
Fighting as a Heavyweight
As a heavyweight fighter, he fought against and defeated boxing champions like Michael Dokes, James Tillis, Adilson Rodrigues, Alex Stewart and Pinklon Thomas. Ultimately, Holyfield successfully won the heavyweight title, but not from Tyson.
Mike Tyson lost the title to James Douglas in Tokyo, leaving Holyfield with no choice but to fight against Douglas, whom he beat after seven minutes. Prior to the defeat, James Douglas was the WBA, IBF, and WBC champion. During Holyfield’s attempt to defend the crown, he faced legends such as Bert Cooper, Foreman George, Riddick Bowe and Larry Holmes.
Holyfield began a rivalry with Riddick Bowe that started in the early 1990s. He was defeated by Riddick Bowe in 1992, which resulted in Holyfield losing his title. It was his very first loss in 29 fights. In 1993, he was back in action and ready to reclaim his championship title. Holyfield did exactly that when he got his rematch with Riddick Bowe, winning the match by decision.
However, he did not hold on to the title for long. In 1994, he was defeated by challenger Michael Moorer. After going to the hospital following the match to have his shoulder examined, it was discovered that he had a heart condition that required him to retire from boxing.
Making a Comeback
At first, Holyfield planned to hang up his gloves and retire, but televangelist Benny Hinn convinced him otherwise. After passing a health test, Holyfield was back in action. His first match was against Olympic gold medalist Ray Mercer, whom Holyfield knocked out. In 1996, Holyfield ultimately got the chance to face a legendary and controversial fighter – Mike Tyson – and their first encounter ended in favor of Evander Holyfield.
Holyfield granted Tyson a rematch and the second bout became the most talked about boxing match in history. Tyson was disqualified after biting off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear. It was an image which was seen across the world and it essentially ruined Tyson’s reputation. The incident led to a public outcry around the world.
Holyfield’s Greatest Achievement
Evander Holyfield is renowned for his heavyweight fights. Despite the challenges in his career, he has been able to solidify himself as one of the world’s best boxers of the last three decades. Holyfield’s record stands at 38 wins, including 25 knockouts, eight losses, and two draws.
Away from the boxing world, Evander Holyfield is a pastor whose heroes are Martin Luther King, Jr. and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. Aside from contributing financially to evangelical causes, he began a college fund for students who come from poor families. In 1996, he published his autobiography entitled Holyfield: The Humble Warrior. In 2003, he married for the third time.