Podcasts

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 8.22.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

This week, Sister Mary Jo Sobieck dials in from Chicago to talk about her perfect first pitch at last week’s White Sox game that made headlines across the country. We are also joined by Washington Post sports reporter Roman Stubbs, who discusses the ongoing controversies surrounding the University of Maryland’s athletic program following the sudden death of one of their football players in June.

Sister Mary Jo Sobieck on her “nun-believable” first pitch and deep love of sports

Sister  Mary Jo at Guaranteed Rate Field; (Melissa Ferrara, Iron + Honey Photography)

Sister Mary Jo at Guaranteed Rate Field; (Melissa Ferrara, Iron + Honey Photography)

Last week, Sister Mary Jo Sobieck became a trending topic on Twitter thanks to virally-shared videos of her show-stopping first pitch at a Chicago White Sox game.

For most people, a Dominican nun with such impressive pitching skills is not something you see every day – but for Sobieck, playing sports has been a lifelong passion. Her students at Marian Catholic High School in suburban Chicago, where Sobieck teaches theology, know this very well.

“In the classroom, I have some credibility with the athletes. They knew that I had the skills, so to speak,” Sobieck tells David, adding that she is very active in the school’s team sports and with their student athletes.

“They’re really not surprised,” Sobieck says about her students’ reaction to her now-famous first pitch. “To them, this is just kind of a natural occurrence.”

Indeed, Sobieck is a skilled former college athlete who played softball as shortstop and center fielder.

“I would say my God-given gift has been my athletic ability, so a lot of it does come naturally for me,” Sobieck says.

“But I haven't thrown the ball in a long time like that. So I did practice...I had to get that angle right.”

Sobieck, who turns 50 later this year, grew up in a large, active family in which she was the youngest of ten children.

“I’ve been playing ball with my brothers and sisters since since I could walk,” Sobieck says.  “That competitive spirit in me, it came from sport, but also because I'm the youngest of ten. I had to, you know, keep myself strong and agile with all those brothers and sisters coming at me.”

In addition to softball, Sobieck also played volleyball throughout high school and college. She was even an assistant varsity men’s volleyball coach for Marion Catholic during her first year at the school, but her focus has since shifted.

“As much as I love sports, as much as I enjoy being active and staying physically fit, my spiritual exercises are more important to me,” Sobieck says, explaining her reasoning for giving up coaching.

“My love for sports has transcended into a love for God and community,” she says.

“I hope people can see…beyond just the fact that I'm a girl and I’m a sister and I can throw the ball, [and also see] that I'm motivated by my love for life and my joy for the Gospel,” Sobieck adds.

WaPo’s Roman Stubbs on Maryland football

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Roman Stubbs is a Washington Post sports reporter who has covered University of Maryland athletics and national college sports since 2014. Read his article regarding Jordan McNair's death and Maryland's inability to overhaul athletes' healthcare here.

Jordan McNair was a freshman on Maryland’s football team. In late May of this year, McNair collapsed during a team practice and died two weeks later on June 13.

It has been reported that the 19-year-old was showing signs of exhaustion and additionally suffered a seizure before being taken to the hospital. McNair’s cause of death was listed as heatstroke.

An external review of the school’s athletic department concluded in early August and resulted in multiple staff members being put on administrative leave. Shortly after, an in-depth exposé by ESPN revealed a “toxic,” borderline abusive culture underpinning the school’s football program, leading to even more questions surrounding McNair’s death and how it may have been prevented.

Now, Stubbs’ reporting reveals that a health care overhaul for Maryland’s athletes was on the table a year before McNair died, but was shot down by the school’s president, Wallace D. Loh. Had the NCAA-recommended medical model gone through, would McNair still be alive today?

Stubbs says there is no way to know, but there is plenty of speculation that the proposed health care model would have at least improved the culture of the athletic department.

“If you create this independent model...the system might not be manipulated by coaches,” Stubbs says. Maryland’s current model, on the other hand, has many doctors housed inside the athletic department, which Stubbs says may lead to conflicts of interest and other problems.

“We don't know how much that contributed to the culture of Jordan McNair maybe not feeling like he could speak up when he was struggling,” Stubbs says, “and so the thought is that maybe an independent model would have helped that culture…[but] the president completely mixed it.”

Maryland’s athletic scandal doesn’t end there, as Stubbs says there remains plenty of legal liability and more potential for Maryland to come under fire for the circumstances contributing to McNair’s death. There is at least one lawsuit pending against the school and three separate probes into the program.

“They're looking at not just the program itself, but the trainers who are out there. There's some liability on the line from them,” Stubbs says.

As for those at the top – “We don't know the fate yet of the jobs of the president, athletic director [Damon Evans] and the football coach D.J. Durkin, but there's a notion...by a lot of the community that none of them will potentially survive this,” Stubbs says.

“I think it’s a chaotic time at the University of Maryland,” Stubbs says. “My sense is that they need to not only do a thorough job [with the investigations], but they need to act quickly, or it’ll only get messier and messier.”

Listen to the entire show below.

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 7.18.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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"...

what if the US had qualified for this World Cup?"

On this week’s HWTP Sports Talk podcast, Slate’s Mike Pesca joins us to discuss his new book that explores “the greatest what-ifs in sports history” – namely, how history may have been altered if certain moments in sports had played out differently. His interview with David starts at 45:57.

A.J. Perez of USA Today also joins the show to discuss recent happenings in the NHL and MLB, and Monroe News court reporter Caitlin Taylor speaks with David about the texting and driving trial of MSU basketball strength coach Todd Moyer.

Mike Pesca on the greatest sports ‘what-ifs’ (45:57)

Mike Pesca is an author and the host of “The Gist,” a popular daily podcast by Slate. His new book is called "Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History,” which consists of a collection of short essays from 31 different contributors – hand-picked by Pesca – which seek to explore how the fabric of history may have been altered, had just one moment in sports history gone the other way.

While writing the book, Pesca says he cast a wide net, reaching out to clever writers with good ideas who “understand what excites the imagination.” The result is a collection of short essays that proves enjoyable for sports fans and historians alike.

"As sports fans, we always engage in 'what-ifs' on a casual level...But is it so exciting for the person who’s not invested in it? So that’s why we had these rules [for the book],” Pesca says.

“‘Engage in a history lesson' is one of [them]. Or, 'tell me about a sporting event that actually had much larger societal implications.' Or, 'take one of these classic what-if conundrums and really prove your case.”

Pesca also hosted a limited edition Slate podcast based on his book, aptly named “Upon Further Review.” In it, Pesca brings certain chapters of the book to life by way of audio storytelling.

One notable chapter adapted for the podcast was written by former NPR host Robert Siegel, who imagines an alternate universe in which the Dodgers had never left Brooklyn in 1957. In the audio episode, Siegel narrates a (very convincing) faux NPR-esque radio story based on the scenario.

"Just to hear Robert Seagull pretend that the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn...He spends 30 years building up his credibility and ruins it with this one story,” Pesca jokes.

On the last podcast episode, Pesca says, listeners can hear a fake Boston sports talk radio show set in a different alternate universe: “These two loudmouthed guys from Massachusetts debate the ‘horrible’ Patriots...because in this scenario, Tom Brady never takes over the Patriots because Drew Bledsoe never gets hurt,” Pesca says.

There is one scenario that Pesca wishes he would have added, however.

"The best ‘what-if’ happened after the book went to publisher,” Pesca says, “which is – what if the US had qualified for this World Cup?"

“Upon Further Review” is available for purchase on Amazon. You can also delve into one of the book’s case studies on Slate, in article form: "What If Richard Nixon Had Been Good at Football?"

Caitlin Taylor on felony trial of MSU coach (14:52)

Todd Moyer

Todd Moyer

Caitlin Taylor is a staff writer at the Monroe News. Her reporting this week follows the trial of Todd Moyer, a Michigan State University basketball strength and conditioning coach, who is charged with two counts of reckless driving causing death. Both charges are felonies which carry a maximum of 15 years in prison.

The trial began Monday morning and is expected to continue until the end of the week.

NOTE: The end of this section contains a post-show update about Moyer’s trial.

Prosecutors allege that Moyer’s texting while driving was the contributing factor to a high-speed crash last summer in which a mother and her 5-year-old daughter were killed. The fatal crash occurred on US-23, a two-lane highway near Dundee, Mich.

The posted speed there was 70 mph, Taylor says, but drivers were starting to “drastically reduce their speed” as they drew closer to construction zone up ahead.

But Moyer’s pickup truck did not slow down – even after passing a number of large road signs that warned motorists of the upcoming work zone.

“He was traveling about 78 miles per hour when his pickup truck rear-ended the two victims, and he did not brake before impact,” Taylor says.

Moyer’s phone records were extracted by Monroe County sheriff’s Detective Jeff Hooper, who was brought in as an expert in cell phone investigation. Taylor says the phone records show that Moyer sent or received 23 text messages prior to the crash. Included in those texts was a website link to a strip club in Ohio.

Moyer’s defense had hoped to show that he may not have been looking at his phone the exact moment of the collision, and that Moyer was not the only driver to blame for the crash.

From what she has seen, Taylor says the jurors have “really maintained their composure throughout this trial so far, despite some of the really gut-wrenching photographs and testimony that have been presented.”

It’s unfortunate that it takes such a tragic accident to underscore the importance of paying attention to the road while driving, Taylor adds.

UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, Todd Moyer was found guilty of both charges after several hours of deliberation by the jury. His sentencing is set for August 30.

AJ Perez on recent NHL, MLB news (26:33)

AJ Perez is a reporter for USA Today. His wide-ranging discussion with David included the topics below; for the rest of their conversation, listen to the podcast episode.

NHL – tragic death of former goalie

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“The details haven’t fully come out...there’s a lot of unanswered questions so far.”

Last Sunday, news broke that former NHL goalie Ray Emery had died while swimming with friends at Hamilton Harbour in Lake Ontario. Emery was just 35 years old.

“It was kind of shocking,” Perez tells David. “...35 years is way too young.”

According to Hamilton Police in Ontario, Emery was reported missing early that morning. His body was recovered later that day close to where his friends had last seen him in the harbor. The cause of death has been ruled as drowning, although questions still remain. The coroner’s investigation is ongoing and may take months to reach a conclusion about why exactly Emery drowned.

“We're still trying to figure out what he was doing in that harbor...that waterway is one of the most polluted in Canada,” says Perez, who finds it surprising that anyone would be swimming in that area.

“The details haven’t fully come out...there’s a lot of unanswered questions so far.”

Emery played for the Ottawa Senators, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks. His last season on ice was 2014-15 with the Flyers.

Emery took up the sport that is Canada’s national pastime, played for 11 seasons in the NHL with a number of teams, and eventually got to hoist the Stanley Cup, David says – he was “a true Canadian.”

MLB – Wash. Nationals promo goes awry

At the 2018 MLB Home Run Derby on Monday night, Washington Nationals star player Bryce Harper put on an impressive performance that landed him a trophy win – although it appears that his team’s financial department may need to count this as a loss.

Before the event, the Washington Nationals tweeted out a promotion for a Home Run Derby discount. With the discount code “DERBY,” each time Harper hit a home run at the event, $1 would be knocked off the price of tickets to see the Nationals play.

Harper ended up hitting 45 of them – translating to a whopping $45 discount on Nats tickets. This means fans can now pay as little as $1 to watch them play.

But is this really such a big financial loss for the Nat’s as it appears to be? – Perez says not to worry.

“They’ll still make the money...they’ll re-coop,” Perez says, noting the long lines for concessions and expensive parking at Nat’s Park.

The normal ticket prices are “insane” anyway, Perez adds; “baseball is having the challenge of reaching the younger demographic, and I think a big barrier to that is how costly it is.”

After Monday’s event ended, the Nationals acknowledged the discount situation with a cheeky tweet, reading: “brb ... apologizing to our finance department”.

MLB – Machado and ‘the big trade’

David and Perez discuss speculation about the expected –though not yet finalized [as of Wednesday’s show] – high-profile trade of All-Star shortstop Manny Machado to the LA Dodgers.

As Machado’s contract with the Baltimore Orioles was set to expire at the end of the season, the Orioles have been in talks with several teams, including the Dodgers, about a potential trade deal.

“The Dodgers are going for it,” Perez tells David. “After last year, getting so close, getting to game seven [and] being one game away from winning it…they’re going for it.”

UPDATE: As expected, Machado was indeed acquired by the Dodgers Wednesday night. According to ESPN:

The last-place Orioles decided against negotiating an expensive, multiyear extension because they have too many holes on the roster as the team moves into rebuilding mode.

Baltimore received five prospects for their end of the deal.

On Friday, Machado made his debut on the LA team with a 6-4 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Listen to the entire show below.

Pepper Johnson: Life after coaching by HWTP Sports Talk

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I didn’t want them to jeopardize their careers...”

Johnson on concerns that players would turn to steriods.

By Michigan State University alumna and HWTP editorial manager Laina Stebbins

If you’re a longtime fan of the NFL, it’s a safe bet to assume you’re familiar with Pepper Johnson.

Thomas "Pepper" Johnson has quite the track record: 13 years playing football, 16 years coaching it, with five total Super Bowls under his belt (two as a Giants player; three as a Patriots assistant coach). He’s essentially lived and breathed football since 1986.

Golf, on the other hand? – Not so much.

“I gotta up my game,” Pepper said, who I spoke on the phone with as he made his way back from a golf outing with a friend. “I lost...He has bragging rights.”

Where he is now

Just shy of his 54th birthday, Pepper is back living in his home state of Michigan. He is a year removed from his last assistant coaching job, when a New York Jets coaching shakeup in early 2017 saw six members of the staff – including Pepper – dismissed from the team.

Since then, aside from honing his golf skills, Pepper has been working with USA Natural Patches as the company’s VP of Sports Marketing. The company sells customizable patches that stick to the skin and administer 75 mg of pure thiamine (vitamin B1) to the user’s system.

Vitamin B1 is an essential micronutrient which Pepper says is proven to provide a boost of energy and help the body with overall function. Unlike having to take the vitamins orally or taking shots, “you stick the patch on, and you go,” he said.

Pepper first got into the vitamins business in 2016 when he was still coaching for the Jets. It may seem like a random business venture at first – he said his son was “surprised” when he learned his father was in the vitamins business – but the B1 patches have been quite relevant to his career in the NFL.  (Click on the photo below to navigate through the photo slide: Former NY Giants David Diehl, Lawrence "LT" Taylor and former NBA player Jayson Williams)

While coaching for the Jets, Pepper said he would approach the players about wearing the patches in part because he was concerned that they might turn to steroids instead for enhanced performance and energy.

“I didn’t want them to jeopardize their careers,” Pepper said.

He steered them toward the vitamin patches instead, which he said give players the boost they need while keeping them healthy.

Vitamin B1 is also beneficial for brain health – a particularly important component for football players, who are more prone to concussions and long-term brain damage. Pepper said he’s talked to plenty of ex-players who fret about the potential damage they have sustained.

“We’re bringing more awareness about what B1 does for your mental health,” Pepper said.

“We are talking to the NFL and the league officers and trying to get awareness of vitamin B1 with the concussion protocol,” he said. “That’s going to be huge.”

The NFL concussion protocol was established a decade ago in response to calls for the league to better address the diagnosis and management of concussions. The protocol has undergone many adjustments since then, as football-related head injuries have been further thrust into the national spotlight and more has been discovered about their long-term effects.

In addition to raising awareness of the importance of brain health for football players, Pepper is in the process of testing the patches to gain an official “stamp of approval” from the NFL. If the B1 patches are approved, the league’s trainers and nutritionists would be able to supply them to players directly.

Pepper said after multiple practices and meetings in a single day that often run into the evening, it can be difficult for players and coaches alike to keep up their energy levels and stay focused.

“A lot of guys are humdrum in those practices,” Pepper said, but they “could come back to those night meetings and still be energetic" when they were wearing the B1 patches.

“For me, I would put the patch on and I’d go out to practice...when I came back in, we would have the meetings with the players, and then we’d have more meetings with the coaches, and that’s when I really felt the results of the patches and what they do,” Pepper said.

On his transition from player to coach

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“The transformation, it wasn’t an easy one.”

Johnson on wearing a coaching uniform standing on the sidelines.

Pepper played his first seven seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants, followed by three with the Cleveland Browns, one with the Detroit Lions, and his last two seasons with the New York Jets before officially retiring as a player.

Two years later, through the NFL internship program, Pepper found himself as an assistant linebackers coach under Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots.

This was not something that Pepper had planned for.

“I wanted to come back to my high school and coach my high school,” Pepper said, who had grown up in Detroit and attended Mackenzie High School.

But after the program was over, he was approached by his former coach. “Coach Belichick asked me if I could stay,” Pepper said.

“I had two people I had to get permission from: my mother, and my son.”

Both gave him the green light, evidently, but the transition from player to coach did not prove to be a very smooth transition.

“It was really rough,” Pepper said, explaining that this was largely since his very first season with the Patriots was a difficult year for the team. He was also hyper-aware that being a new coach meant it would take time for older players to listen to him and for younger players to trust him.

He also missed playing the game himself.

“Deep down inside, I still wanted to get out there and play a little more,” Pepper said. “It was rough being on the sidelines while other people were having fun.

“The transformation, it wasn’t an easy one.”

Despite the rocky start, Pepper found his niche in the team and gained the trust of players, even implementing a new team tradition that was a first for the league.

Prior to the 2002 Super Bowl, individual player introductions were the NFL standard for a team’s entrance onto the field. The Patriots turned this on its head when they instead made the decision to run out of the tunnel and onto the field together.

“That idea to come out together, not individually...that was my idea,” Pepper said. “I had told them, ‘we need to focus and get more together.’”

The Patriots won that Super Bowl, and the practice has since all but replaced the previous league standard.

On working with coach Bill Belichick

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“He’s no tougher than [Bill] Parcells.”

Johnson on Belichick's coaching style

In addition to coaching under Bill Belichick for the Patriots, Pepper had previously played for him during his time with the Giants, Browns and Jets.

Belichick is known as a notoriously tough coach to play for.  49ers defensive end Cassius Marsh recently described playing for him as a rather unpleasant experience, saying, in part:

“They don’t have fun there [in New England]...There’s nothing happy about it. I didn’t enjoy any of my time there...It made me for the first time in my life think about not playing football because I hated it that much.”

Pepper, having either played for or coached under Belichick for the better part of 28 years, has a different perspective.

"It’s tough to try and label Belichick as a ‘tough coach’ or anything like that, because in my day, all the coaches were tough like that,” Pepper said. “He’s no tougher than [Bill] Parcells.”

“I think in this day and era, a lot of the coaches are just more lenient."

Regardless, Belichick’s notorious coaching style has led many to believe that it may be the root cause of Tom Brady’s recent string of absences for the Patriots’ off-season program. Brady has been working with Belichick for nearly two decades, so there is plenty of speculation that he may have finally had enough of Belichick, and is yearning to leave.

A fair assumption to make?

Pepper Johnson disagrees.

“They have been doing this for a very long time together,” Pepper said. “I’m quite sure [Brady] feels comfortable in the system that he has to work with.

"I don’t know how much of a concern Bill Belichick has with him not being there. It’s just people trying to write stories and screw up something and trying to break all this winning up,” he said.

"I think all of this stuff is being blown out of proportion.”

Pepper also noted that Brady being absent on the field for the time being is likely giving newer players more of a chance to show their stripes, if anything.

“After so many years, really what do you want from that guy?” Pepper said. “What more can he do there?”

On the NFL national anthem controversy

Speaking of things that Pepper believes are being overblown by the media: "The whole national anthem thing, I don't like talking about it much because that’s another one of those things that is blown way out of proportion,” he said.

The NFL’s controversial new national anthem policy was rolled out early last week following pressure from President Trump, who had been publicly calling for fans to boycott the NFL if players continue to kneel during the national anthem.

The new policy states that players must stand during the anthem, stay in the locker room if they do not wish to, and face fines and/or penalties from the league if they choose not to comply.

"Once upon a time, you had the choice if you wanted to go out and do the national anthem or stay in the tunnel and come out after the national anthem. And so many games, we stayed in,” Pepper said, speaking to his experience as a player in the late 80s and the 90s.

Pepper takes issue with the assumption that standing for the Star-Spangled Banner makes you patriotic, whereas choosing not to stand makes you unpatriotic and disrespectful.

"The cameraman isn’t standing at attention, the hot dog man isn’t standing still,” Pepper points out. “And what is more disrespectful – someone sitting down, or someone who is getting ready to sing the national anthem and don’t know the words?"

As for those who protest during the anthem: "I’m quite sure the majority of any athletes that in the past have chosen to do whatever during the national anthem [were] not spitting in the face of our troops,” Pepper said.

Regardless, Pepper feels strongly that politics have no place in football – or any sport, for that matter.

“I don’t think sports and politics mix, period,” Pepper said. "I don’t wanna sound negative toward athletes, but I don’t think that’s a good place for politics…and I don’t just mean the national anthem.”

On his past and future

It’s been a little over a year since Pepper was a defensive line coach for the Jets, and he’s itching to get back into that world.

“When you get out of the league, it’s hard to get back into the league,” he said.

Either way, Pepper says he feels fortunate to have played a positive role in the careers of players he’s been able to engage with and help over the years as a coach.

“It’s about talking to people and understanding them and not coaching them all just the same,” he said. “I coach every one of my players individually.”

Pepper said he was always getting told to “stay in his lane” for taking his individualistic approach to coaching. “I have a real problem with that, because I have always been that person that likes to help people,” he said.

I asked Pepper where he sees himself in a few years.

“I would love to be coaching,” Pepper replied.  Johnson finally made it onto social media! You can follow him @PepJ52 on both Twitter and Instagram.

By Michigan State University alumna and HWTP editorial manager Laina Stebbins

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 4.2.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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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.