Evander Holyfield was born on this day, Oct. 19 1962, in Atmore, Alabama and spent most of his childhood living in a crime-ridden housing project in Atlanta. Known for his indomitable will and toughness, Holyfield moved up to heavyweight after five successful defenses of the cruiserweight title he won with a hard fought 15-round decision over Dwight Muhammad Qawi and became the first four-time heavyweight champion in one the greatest eras for the weight class. He would finish his career 44-10-2 with 29 knockouts. Known under a myriad of nicknames throughout his career, including “Commander Evander” back in his Olympic days, Holyfield is best remember by the moniker “The Real Deal.”
Holyfield was thought to be too small for a heavyweight but he overcame his size with amazing physical fitness and mental fortitude. His nickname “The Real Deal,” fit him like a glove. No boxer engaged in as many memorable fights. His 1989 match with Michael Dokes for the WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title was a slam bang brawl, a classic slugfest that showcased Holyfield in his prime years. Holyfield won the fight with an elite left hook that led to a TKO in the tenth round.
One doesn’t have to look far to get pure entertainment out of Holyfield fights. In his very first pro fight against Lionel Byarm he was dragged into the trenches in a war that isn’t seen too often in Olympic medalist debuts. His 1991 fight against George Foreman is an underrated classic. It featured a great seventh round that saw Holyfield burst out with a long power punching sequence, with Foreman, the tough old legend, managing to withstand the onslaught.
Evander isn’t in the International Boxing Hall of Fame because he hasn’t been retired for the requisite five years. Barring another comeback, he will be the cornerstone of a strong 2017 class of inductees.
Happy 54th birthday to Evander Holyfield, a man that transcended boxing. – KID HERSH contributed to this report.
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