David is joined by legendary heavyweight boxing champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield and Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame president Ray McCline. Their wide-ranging talk comes in advance of the ACBHOF’s second annual Hall of Fame induction class weekend, June 1-3.
In addition to being among those honored in the 2018 induction class, Holyfield will be bringing his “Real Deal” boxing promotion to the weekend of events with a boxing match on Saturday, June 2.
Evander the Overcomer
Becoming “The Real Deal” was never a given for Holyfield, and he will be the first to admit it. He speaks frankly with David and McCline about years of determination through struggles and adversity, including being raised by parents who did not have education and not meeting his father until he was 21 years old.
Despite his family’s hardships, Holyfield got most of his motivation early on from his mother and siblings. “Don’t let people outwork you,” his mother would tell him. She would push him to never lose his work ethic, and his siblings would support his efforts and keep him out of trouble.
“I wasn’t no quitter,” Holyfield tells David. “I had a good support system…I was fortunate enough at a young age to have people who cared about me and gave me structure.”
Holyfield recalls his first time losing a boxing match as a defining moment for him. “I thought I was gonna be like Muhammad Ali,” he remembers telling his coach through tears.
His coach responded: “You didn’t lose. You only lose when you quit.’”
This philosophy became a key concept that would guide Holyfield’s professional career. “As long as you keep working toward the goal, you get closer to it,” Holyfield says. “…You gotta do your best. If you don’t quit, you eventually win.”
The tenacity and determination Holyfield developed would sustain his record-breaking 27-year career, making him able to push through obstacle after obstacle to eventually become the first and only four-time heavyweight champion of the world. He had broken a record previously set by boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who had been the world’s three-time heavyweight champion.
“Records are meant to be broken,” Holyfield says.
Helping a younger generation of boxers
Holyfield enjoyed a long professional career that spanned from 1984 to 2011. He officially retired from boxing in 2014.
Now a boxer promoter, he believes he can help young fighters aspire to greatness.
“I didn’t want to be a coach,” Holyfield tells David. Coaches can only help a small number of people, in his view, whereas promoters can talk to many more fighters about “what it takes to be a champion” and be able to provide them with opportunities like the ones Holyfield himself was once given.
Holyfield says he wants to “tell the fighters who don’t have great education, who grew up poor…that you can overcome things.”
In this way, Holyfield sees his promoter role as a way of giving back to the boxing community, and especially to the younger generation. Holyfield says he encourages young kids to avoid surrounding themselves with people who don’t have their best interests in mind.
“You have to be very appreciative and strong-minded because there are a lot of people who don’t want you to succeed,” he says.
McCline jumps in with an observation about how “natural” it is for Holyfield to be giving back to the young fighters who are pursuing a career in boxing, since he had so many good values seeded into him by his mother at a young age – like choosing the right team around you and knowing to “walk away from things that don’t align with your character."
“You realize what thrust him to be great,” McCline says.
Atlantic City: A boxing “Mecca”
To many, New Jersey’s Atlantic City is known as a special place for professional boxing.
“Atlantic City and boxing are synonymous,” McCline says. By holding his annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in the city, he hopes to keep it on the map in the professional boxing world for years to come.
Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Evander Holyfield, who were both included in the ACBHOF’s first class of inductees last year, are among the boxing legends who McCline says “made Atlantic City...a boxing Mecca that was known around the world.”
“It’s an honor to have that type of boxing royalty part of this,” he tells David.
Holyfield fought in Atlantic City 11 times throughout his professional career and won all but one of those fights. Most of those matches took place in Boardwalk Hall, the very place McCline will be holding his organization’s second annual Hall of Fame weekend.
Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, formerly known as the Historic Atlantic City Convention Hall, served as the venue for his fights against Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Pinklon Thomas in the 80s; against Seamus McDonagh, George Foreman, Alex Stewart, and Ray Mercer in the 90s; and against Hasim Rahman and Chris Byrd in the early 2000s.
McCline says it feels “surreal” to have Holyfield returning to this very building – which he had watched the boxer fill to the rafters many years ago – to work with McCline’s organization and participate in its 2018 Hall of Fame induction weekend.
Hall of Fame weekend 2018
McCline firmly believes in boxing’s “incredible” ability to bring people together, which he says can be no better demonstrated by the ACBHOF’s annual Hall of Fame induction weekend, June 1-3. By gathering boxing fans, trainers, and legends themselves in Atlantic City and showcasing individual stories and careers, McCline says the ACBHOF can properly celebrate the history of the sport and look toward the future while giving proper respect to the past.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, June 1 with a meet-and-greet and VIP reception in the Clarence hotel, followed by a live pro boxing show at the hotel’s Celebrity Theater.
Saturday, June 2 (day two) begins with the “Fight Fan experience” at the Conference Center with exhibits, guest fighters, memorabilia and more.
That evening, Evander Holyfield will return to Boardwalk Hall for his “Real Deal” boxing match showcase.
ACBHOF will then hold its second annual induction ceremony on Sunday, June 3. “We look forward to honoring the greats,” McCline said. “We make sure they are remembered and shown homage to in the right way.”
There will be a formal dinner and presentation, which McCline likens to “the Academy Awards of boxing.”
“We’re really excited about the induction class, but really just the itinerary for the whole weekend,” McCline said.
Visit the ACBHOF’s website for the full 2018 weekend itinerary and more details. Tickets to the weekend’s events can be purchased here. More information about Holyfield’s Real Deal boxing promotion can be found here.