5 Time World Boxing Champion Evander Holyfield grew up as the youngest of 9 children in Atmore, Alabama and spent every waking non-school hour playing football, racking up both offensive and defensive MVP trophies despite his small size. He had discovered boxing at the age of eight, and didn’t lose a match until he was eleven. By the time he graduated high school, he was one of the highest-ranked amateurs in the country and earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team. The Los Angeles Games of 1984 provided the first opportunity for Evander to demonstrate his special brand of grace and poise on an international stage. After thoroughly decimating every opponent on his way to the semi-finals and establishing himself as his country’s surest bet for a gold medal, he was disqualified for a late punch. The stunned crowd was on the edge of riot over the patently unfair call, and it was only Evander’s calm demeanor and refusal to give open vent to his emotions that averted total chaos. Despite his disqualification, Evander still walked away with the Bronze medal and in a very emotional moment, was pulled up on to the Gold medal podium by the Yugoslavian Anton Josipović showing the utmost of respect for Holyfield and his knockdown of Kevin Barry in the semi-final match, when the disqualification occurred.
After the Olympics, Evander turned Pro, winning his first two fights as a light heavyweight by decision. He knocked out his next two opponents in a grand total of three rounds and moved up to cruiserweight. His performance in that division, one weight class below heavyweight, would become the stuff of legend. It took him less than a year to win seven fights, six of them by early-round knockout, and earn the right to fight for a World Title. He successfully defended the title against Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Tillman, added the IBF belt a few months later, and then took the WBC Crown from Carlos DeLeon, to become the undisputed champion of the world. Evander’s domination of the cruiserweight division was so overwhelming —to this day he is still the only undefeated, undisputed cruiserweight champion—that his image now permanently adorns one of the championship belts.
Evander then rocked the boxing world by winning his first six fights by knockout as a heavyweight, becoming the #1 contender for a world championship. In October of 1990, it took Evander only three rounds to knock out the man who knocked out Tyson, making him the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Desiring the Tyson matchup, Evander fought on, winning against the likes of former world champions George Foreman and Larry Holmes. Evander had the honor of carrying an Olympic torch into the stadium for the opening ceremonies for the Atlanta Olympics. Not only did he do that at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, but when he handed the torch to the great swimmer Janet Evans, she in turn handed it to another fighter, Muhammad Ali, who then lit the torch.
Evander would go on to regain world titles twice more and become history’s only five-time World Champion.
The latest came on April 10, 2010, when he beat Francois Botha to take the WBF crown, twenty-six years after his first professional bout.
There’s way more to Evander than just being the 5 time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. He made over $230 million in the ring and always worked on doing good with it, giving millions to the church and to various causes he supported, including the Evander Holyfield Foundation. To this day, Evander is a humanitarian, proud father and always takes time to encourage younger fighters with tips not only on how to fight, but how to conduct themselves as representatives of a sport, not always well-understood by the general public. Much has been made of his many children, but less well known, is that they grew up in his own home, where he could provide a stable, disciplined and loving family environment.