God give you the opportunity. You cant choose your beginning, but you can choose the end on how you want to end. —— Evander Holyfield
In the previous two episode of this interview, Holyfield talked with me about his seemingly endless inspiration, how he was influenced by the world-renowned Chinese Kung Fu master Bruce Lee, his perspective on China, and his bond with this oriental nation.
Putting the last stroke on Holyfields China Journey in this episode, the ring legend revealed how he benefited from the legendary Chinese Shaolin training program, his take on the connection between Kung Fu and boxing, and some secrets of his training regimen.
Zhenyu Li: So you came down here for the purpose of scouting some fighters. Whatve you gotten so far?
Holyfield: I got the opportunity to meet the head monk (of Shaolin Temple). He taught me about what he teaches young people. You know, he got 60 million followers. And Id like to say, wow, what people have in common. I think the same way! I learned that, for the winner, winning a competition is more than just ego. Its about how youve been taught. You learned it. You didnt forget it and you passed it on. You keep passing it on and this is how this country (China, with a 5000-year history) keeps getting better and better and better. Then, I complimented his program.
And you know, being taught is different from being trained. At this school (Shaolin Temple), they train people. What they do in training is that you speak and you make sure that they do it. So this is training. I am a fighter, so I know what it means to be trained. They tell you what to do and make sure you do it. And they know you can do it.
When you teach a person, you dont know whether he can apply (it or not). You just give him the knowledge and he goes home and says I know it, then youll wonder why is it that person doesnt prosper in life, cause that person didnt apply what he knew. He can take it in, but he is lazy, he is not accustomed to applying it. You know, people got different attitudes and all that.
When you do get disappointment, what are you going to do? In this same program, they teach these kids to be able to concentrate, in a time of difficulty. What they were teaching these kids was to be able to concentrate when things were hard, and be willing to stand up and counter. I was VERY impressed.
So I kinda felt that this program will change a LOT of lives. All my life as a kid, we were taught that Kung Fu is the best thing you can do. All the kids, they started young and they all wanted to do Kung Fu. The reason is that Kung Fu is structured; its technically-sound; you have to be good to go through a lot of different tests.
To be a street fighter, you just go out and do what you do. But for Kung Fu guys, you have to get the techniques, and you have to be judged in your forms.
Zhenyu Li: Youve been such a great achiever in boxing and in the addition learned something from the Chinese Shaolin training program. From a professionals prospective, what do you see in the traditional art of Chinese Kung Fu, and the connection between the Mixed Martial Art and boxing?
Holyfield: Boxing is not self-defense. You have to be aggressive. You have to attack all the time. So in that sense, it allows you to have a different attitude than in Kung Fu.
So unless you want both of them to be successful, if you always defend yourself all the time and not to attack, finally youll find yourself get knocked out. If you’re just being passive, your opponent will push you back and youll end up losing your ground.
You got this big old country, if you are too passive, then somebody will move to your country, and then push you out of the country. So, you know, you cannot be too passive. You gotta have both and to stand strong.
Zhenyu Li: MMA is becoming huge in America and some top-tier pro boxers have expressed their interest in MMA. Whats your opinion about it?
Holyfield: Ive never fought with a Kung Fu guy. My whole experience is in boxing. For Kung Fu, you have to be a lot more dedicated, flexible and all that. (It requires) a LOT of discipline and patience. It takes time to do it. As a young kid, I just wanted to do something; I didnt want to take pains and time to grasp a complicated technique, you know, because at the time I didnt understand what that was for. All I wanted to do is to be better than somebody else. So when you get into martial art, you have to be able to concentrate and do all of those great things, but when I was a kid, I didnt understand all these. I just wanted to make it work on somebody; I wanted to do it on somebody; I wanted to do the things that really work.
I learned that Kung Fu is not meant to take advantage of somebody, but to protect oneself.
Zhenyu Li: One of the advantages that some Chinese boxers have is that they were once Kung Fu practitioners, which is good for their balance, dexterity and so forth. Shiming Zou is a good example. He is a two-time world champion and a hot favorite for an Olympic gold. Have you ever heard of him?
Holyfield: Hes a lightweight.
Zhenyu Li: Yeah, light flyweight.
Holyfield: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and I was once trying to sign him. But you know, there are about four or five people out of America trying to get him. Hehehe, oh, my. who wouldnt want to have him?
Realistically, you know, Id LOVE to have him. Because people (here in China with a number of over 1.3 billion) would love me.
People would think, if I am great, whom I am with is supposed to be great too. With him, he has already done this by himself. So there will be a bigger promotion and all this, which would be good for him. It wont depend on who his manager is and how they want to do it.
I have a game plan to take advantage of… you know, people like me. Then I could help promote somebodys product here. You know, this country will be the number one power in the future. You know, America is going down like this. Its gonna be China that will be the high power.
Zhenyu Li: Ive been curious about the fact that you look fabulous for your age, both inside and outside the ring. Are there any hidden secrets in your training regimen? Whats your typical day like, when you are in training?
Holyfield: You know, that depends. When I am at home, I train like five days a week. You are not supposed to get out of shape. But its not the shape you build up that leads you to winning a fight. When I prepare for a fight, I train six days a week; twice a day.
When I was younger, I used to train a lot harder. I always wanted to do more than my opponent. I could remind myself that, you know what, I do some that he doesnt do. That should be the driving force. But when I got older, I found that, you know what, your body couldnt do that, cause your body easily got tired. Now instead of running everyday, I run every other day.
When your body gets too tired, you have to pull back, because when you are older, your body takes a little more time to recover, so you cant do the things that will burn yourself out. Itll wear your body out, like this. So when I was young, I was able to recover my body in ten minutes, like, I am ready to go again. But when you get older, when your body gets tired, it takes time to recuperate, and you dont have much time to recuperate when you are in a fight.
You know, I learned a LOT of things when I reached the age of 30. When you want to do something physically, your body will say OK do it, but youll pay afterwards. So I had to learn to make adjustments.
So thats what I found that I was doing. At the last phase of my career, I was just… you know, my body is trying to make me lazy.
Zhenyu Li: I heard that you were planning to claim the world heavyweight title for the fifth time, right?
Holyfield: One more time, one more time. I need to finish it.
Life is about how you finish. Regardless of how much money you earned in your life time, if you die broke, you are a broke man. Its how you end that defines you, not how you came up. God gave you the opportunity. You cant choose your beginning, but you can choose how you want to end.
Zhenyu Li: Perfect. I truly wish you success. Thank you very much for your time, Evander.
Holyfield: Thank you. Any time.