The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 11, 2013

Four-time champ Holyfield preferred to fight bullies

Boxing great was special guest at Showtime event

By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer

MIAMI, Okla. — Evander Holyfield’s success in the ring is undeniable.

The “Real Deal” is the only four-time world heavyweight champion and beat the likes of Mike Tyson, George Foreman and Larry Holmes in a career that spanned almost 30 years.

However, Holyfield’s record may have been even better if he had steered clear of certain fighters.

“Styles make fights,” Holyfield said. “If I fought everybody who I knew I could beat, there were a lot of fighters who I wouldn’t have fought. I wouldn’t have fought Riddick Bowe. I wouldn’t have fought Lennox Lewis. I wouldn’t have fought people who were passive. I had a hard time fighting people who were passive. But if you were a bully, I could get you. Styles make all the difference.”

Holyfield, who boasts a professional boxing record of 44-10-2, was at Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Okla., on Friday night to promote a six-fight Showtime boxing card.

“I’m honored to be here today,” Holyfield said to the crowd on Friday. “Showtime is doing the things necessary to improve boxing.”

When asked in front of the crowd if he’d ever box again, the 50-year-old Holyfield said, “I always feel like I have one fight left in me.”

Minutes later outside of the ring, Holyfield seemed more content with retirement and reflected on his career.

“I really don’t miss anything,” he said. “I did all that I could when I was in the game of boxing. I did the best that I could. I trained. I worked hard.

“When I lost, I lost to people who were very qualified fighters. I fought everyone who was there. I was honored to fight the guys who were older. I fought George Foreman. I fought Larry Holmes ... I didn’t choose who I wanted to fight. I let the federation decide. If they said this guy was No. 1, I fought him.”

Few boxers have a resume as extensive as Holyfield. He earned a bronze medal as a light heavyweight in the 1984 Summer Olympics. Holyfield captured the WBA cruiserweight belt in 1985 before becoming a heavyweight in 1988. Two years later, Holyfield became the undisputed heavyweight champion by beating Buster Douglas.

Holyfield had expected to fight Tyson, who was a worldwide sensation at the time, but “Iron Mike” was upset by Douglas and soon after sentenced to six years in prison on a rape conviction.

Circumstances outside Holyfield’s control prevented him from having the opportunity of fighting Tyson during his prime. If Holyfield had faced Tyson in 1990 instead of Douglas, his legacy may be even stronger.

“What happens when a guy goes to jail and you don’t get the chance to fight, but you were the best guy at that time?” Holyfield said. “It’s really hard to really say who is actually the best fighter, but you can say who was the best at that time.”

With Tyson out of the picture, Holyfield had three successful title defenses over Foreman, Bert Cooper and Holmes before losing by decision to Riddick Bowe. Holyfield regained the belt a year later by avenging his loss to Bowe.

In 1996, he finally had the chance to face Tyson and beat him with a TKO in the 11th round. The two fought again in 1997, and Holyfield won by disqualification after Tyson infamously bit off part of his ear.

Holyfield fought as recently as 2011 when he beat Brian Nielsen by TKO.

However, Holyfield now seems satisfied with promoting the sport he loves and relishing in what was one of the greatest boxing careers of all time.

“At the age of 8 years old, I was told I could be like (Muhammad) Ali,” Holyfield said. “I was one who was able to do more than he did in the ring. I’m honored, and dreams do come true.”