Evander Holyfield tells Legendary Story on Mike Tyson & Inner Workings of Becoming a Heavyweight

February 18, 2019 7:01 AM
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Evander Holyfield speaks on his path to becoming world heavyweight champion in an exclusive interview with Fanatics View.

2017 Hall of Fame inductee Evander Holyfield remembers when he first gave thought to the idea of becoming a heavyweight champion.

“It started off at eight years old,” said Holyfield. “I was told that I can be the heavyweight champ of the world. And so, three things they say: ‘listen, follow directions, and don’t quit.'”

At the time, Holyfield weighed 65 pounds and was just starting the fight game as an amateur boxer. He went on to the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles about 12 years later, and won a bronze medal at light heavyweight. Holyfield had also sparred with heavyweights and recalls what it was to take a punch from these bigger men.

“I realized that s–t, them starting to hit hard.” said Holyfield, on the experience.

Holyfield made his professional debut that same year and remained at light heavyweight. Just making the weight was a struggle for him, however, and so he moved up to cruiserweight the following year.

“I remember one time, I cut too much (weight),” said Holyfield. “And I had cramps in my neck, and head. I caught them cramps and it tore me up. So I realized not to ever go down that route.”

After three years at cruiserweight, and capturing the undisputed cruiserweight crown; Holyfield had his eyes set on the heavyweight division. Fellow American Hall of Famer Mike Tyson was the champion of the division, an opponent that Holyfield was familiar with as an amateur.

“My whole thing is, I knew I could beat Mike (Tyson),” said Holyfield. “Because I sparred Mike in the amateurs, I knew what to expect.”

Holyfield made about $200,000 per fight as a cruiserweight, while Tyson made about $2 million per fight at heavyweight. After realizing that this was the division where the money was, Holyfield moved up to heavyweight and began to receive a growing paycheck.

“My first fight, they paid me $350,000,” said Holyfield. “That’s a lot of money. My next fight, they pay me $500,000. ‘Oh my goodness.’ The next one, they gave me $750,000. When I got 750, then I fought for $1.2 million. Then I’m like ‘oh my goodness.’ I was just shook. ‘oh shoot, oh my goodness.'”

As Holyfield made his case at heavyweight, a fight proposal was discussed with Tyson. Tyson, however, opted to fight Buster Douglas instead. Holyfield sat ringside as Douglas stopped Tyson in the tenth round. Douglas was awarded the undisputed heavyweight championship in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

Maybe Holyfield wouldn’t receive as much money against Douglas as he would against Tyson, but the only thing that mattered to him was the heavyweight championship. He then received his shot at the undisputed heavyweight crown on October 25th, 1990, and stopped Douglas in three rounds.

“Maybe I don’t get $15 million, but I get eight (million),” said Holyfield. “Eight (million) better than 1.2 (million). Then my next fight, I fight George Foreman. And they gave me $22 million.”

The legendary Holyfield hung up the gloves and called it a career in 2014. He finished with a record of 44-10-2, with 29 knockouts. He also holds two victories over Tyson to his resume.




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