CANASTOTA, NY, Dec 7, (AP): As the youngest of nine children, Evander Holyfield never had a chance when he was a kid.
“I got beat by everybody in my family. They beat me in everything,” Holyfield said. “I learned how to win. It’s in my DNA. I changed that into an inspiration. I was able to whip other people because of this.”
Whip them he did in an impressive boxing career that spanned more than three decades — 160 wins as an amateur, 44 more as a pro — and included undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight titles, not to mention oh-so-memorable fights against Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe.
Boxing’s only four-time world heavyweight champion, dubbed “The Real Deal,” now has a new moniker — Hall of Famer. Holyfield was selected Tuesday along with eight others for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
“I’m excited,” Holyfield said. “It shows my work didn’t go unnoticed, things that I accomplished. It’s good to know that everybody else was watching. That’s a great thing.”
Others inducted on June 11 in Canastota, New York: three-division champion Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico; super flyweight champion Johnny Tapia; Australian trainer Johnny Lewis; judge Jerry Roth; journalist-broadcaster Steve Farhood; broadcaster Barry Tompkins; and posthumous honorees Eddie Booker and ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Sr.
Holyfield, 54, was born in Atmore in southernmost Alabama. He credits his mother with steering him in the right direction, most importantly making sure he became immersed in a culture that taught him discipline and respect at a young age after the family moved to a hardscrabble neighborhood in Atlanta.
“She was there and she’s the one that kept me from quitting,” Holyfield said. “At one time I did want to quit, but because of my mom I didn’t. My mom had a tough life. She could have given up but made sure my life was going to be better than hers.
“When I look at it, my mom really was the real deal.”
After winning Olympic bronze in 1984, Holyfield turned pro and in only his 12th fight defeated Dwight Qawi for the WBA cruiserweight title. He became unified champion with knockout wins over IBF champion Rickey Parkey and WBC champion Carlos DeLeon.
Holyfield then moved up to the heavyweight division and captured the WBC-WBA-IBF titles in 1990 with a third-round knockout of Buster Douglas and made successful defenses against George Foreman, Bert Cooper and Larry Holmes.
Bowe won the undisputed heavyweight championship on points from Holyfield in 1992 in a fight that stamped Holyfield as a warrior like few others. Holyfield was stunned repeatedly by several combinations thrown by the bigger Bowe early in the 10th round and then rallied to dominate the second half of the round.
Bowe came back to dominate the 11th and withstood Holyfield’s final rally in the 12th to win a unanimous decision.
Holyfield beat Bowe the next year on points to capture the IBF and WBA titles. He regards that first fight against Bowe as one of his greatest.
“That kind of made people realize — he’s not just a boxer, he’s a fighter as well, gave me a lot of respect,” Holyfield said. “I proved I was tough. People realized that although I didn’t say much, they knew that I meant business.”
Holyfield upset Tyson for the WBA title in 1996 and won the rematch the next year in what will always be remembered as the “Bite Fight.” It ended with Tyson disqualified for biting off a piece of Holyfield’s right ear, then biting his left ear.
“I like winning. Winning was enough for me,” Holyfield said. “I was the undefeated, undisputed cruiserweight champion, and I was four-time heavyweight champion of the world. What more can you say? You did what you were supposed to do.”
Barrera won his first 43 bouts and captured the NABF super flyweight title before winning world championships in three weight divisions in the 1990s.
“This is the best news for me,” Barrera said. “I’m very happy. I am excited to go to Canastota.”
Lennon’s son, who has followed in his late father’s footsteps, will be among the excited participants on induction day.
“That is amazing news,” said Jimmy Lennon Jr., also a ring announcer. “I think it is so extremely meaningful for my family. My mom was brought to tears when she heard that he was nominated. She is 94 years old now and I guarantee you she is going to be at the ceremony with so much pride. Our whole family will. We are thrilled and honored.”