By Matt Richardson
Photos courtesy Real Deal Sports and Entertainment
Former undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield made his professional debut at Madison Square Garden in New York City in November 1984 and has fought in the “Big Apple” numerous times throughout his Hall of Fame career.
After 33 years, Holyfield returns to New York as part of a boxing event but this time he will be doing it from the other side of the ropes as a promoter. Holyfield’s recently formed Real Deal Sports and Entertainment will promote a card this Saturday at the Resorts World Casino in Queens featuring former featherweight titlist Elio Rojas against Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz.
Holyfield, known for the excellent condition and preparation he had during his 56-fight career, said he is preparing his promotion to run the same way, even if the idea of being a promoter wasn’t one he initially anticipated.
“I never thought about it when I was actually fighting ‘cause of the fact that I was one of them type of people that’s kind of one-minded: I could do one thing real well,” Holyfield said in an exclusive interview with FightNews.com®.
“I wasn’t able to do too many things at one time. But now, to come back and be able to give people the opportunity…I realize I am who I am because my momma wanted me to be better than her. She told me I didn’t have to make the same mistakes that she make. So, I realized that this country we live in, it only get better if somebody is speaking and tell people where they once were. They won’t waste all that time making the same mistakes they made. This generation is supposed to get better but if no one speaks to the young people and tell them ‘Look, I made mistakes, too but the only reason I was able to succeed is because I didn’t quit,’” Holyfield stated.
“Boxing, you know, boxing is a tough sport,” he continued. “But I just thank God ‘cause he gave everybody stuff to do. Cause if it wasn’t for boxing, it would’ve been hard for me. Because of boxing I found something that takes heart and takes a lot hard work – a lot of things that some people brought up in a different lifestyle they didn’t have to go through. But I came up in a very tough life that allowed me to be able to handle pain and punishment and sacrifices and things like that.”
It’s the wisdom and experience he garnered from decades of fighting as an amateur and professional, Holyfield explained, that will allow him to successfully promote and mentor fighters under his own umbrella.
“You know, at a young age, with me, I was always in great shape. At an early age my momma told me things like ‘If you don’t get a bad habit you don’t have to break them.’ And so, you know, when young people are young you don’t want to be left out by yourself. Somebody asks you to do something; you want to do it, too. But with me, I wanted to be an athlete at a young age. They said ‘you’re not supposed to drink, you’re not supposed to smoke, you’re not supposed to do these things like that.’ And so, before I even wanted to smoke or anything or drink or do anything like this I was told that this would stop me from being the person I really would probably be if I didn’t do it. And so, I was able to learn at a young age before anybody could tell me or try to get me to do it. I wanted to be a good athlete. I wasn’t good in books and things like that but I had a lot of energy and I was very strong. And, you know, so, I kind of felt that was the best way,” Holyfield said.
“And of course, my brothers and sisters were so much better than me in the academics stuff so my momma told me ‘You ought to be thankful to have something.’ So, with me, I think that this is the way that I will be able to give back and be able to tell the young fighters that if you take care of yourself, listen, follow directions and don’t quit, you can succeed, too.”
One of the ways Holyfield and his company are aiming to help those fighters succeed is by developing and nurturing innovative ways of both promoting and assisting their boxers. Enter Holyfield’s “Real Deal Medical,” an initiative, the promoter proclaims, which will “revolutionize the standard of care of its athletes and all combat sports.”
A company statement outlines: “The Real Deal Medical team will consist of ARP-certified physicians from various specialties to provide the fighters with consistent medical care and maintain a medical history that will be able to track any changes in their physical or mental health. Through a partnership with Medical Arts Radiology, the Real Deal Medical will monitor the neurocognitive function of the athletes, as well as pre- and post-bout imaging studies to try to prevent any acute or chronic traumatic brain injuries.”
It’s a program, the fighter said, that could wind up being quickly duplicated if successful.
“I happen to think that anything that you do good, people copy it. You’ve got to think, back in the day when I started lifting weights…I think Michael Spinks started it first but he did it a little bit. When I wanted to move up to heavyweight, they told me ‘Don’t make a project. Evander Holyfield’s the Omega Man, he’s doing this…’ Lifting weights is not bad you just got to add something to it. (Certain) types of coaching, training things like that,” Holyfield described.
“Life’s about taking it to another level and I was able to do that and now today everybody do it. Of course, in the medical field, more things can make you better. So, you know, we can keep our mind open to a point that this generation can get better by researching things like that and that reason is so important for the medical field. Besides the fact that if it wasn’t for the medical field we wouldn’t be able to overcome the injuries and everything that comes with backs and aches and any time of contact sport.”
Innovative medical care combined with experience that could only be obtained from a lifetime in the sport, Holyfield said, could prove to be a winning combination.
“I chose to be a promoter where I can just give you an opportunity,” he said. “They (promoters) put the fight on and give people the opportunity. Now, they’ve (fighters) got to do the work now. I talk to you all as a whole then your coaches go back and get the information and give it to you. Now whoever wins, I’m going to raise their hand but it’s still boxing – I like to see a competitive fight. I want to bring the joy into you doing your very best and knowing that you did your very best and you can bring your kids up into a good standing in life to being able to take advantage of these opportunities that are available.”
“I want to make sure that all fighters are prepared and ready and bring extra stuff to them to being able to protect them,” Holyfield said. “Not looking at fighters as fighters but as people.”
Three weeks after Saturday’s event, Holyfield and his team return September 28th to Louisville, Kentucky to promote a card featuring once-beaten featherweight prospect Toka Kahn Clary going head-to-head with Braulio Rodriquez for a vacant international featherweight belt.