Hall of Famer Evander Holyfield: My mom wouldn’t let me quit
CANASTOTA, N.Y. — “The Real Deal” delivered one more time.
Evander Holyfield, boxing’s only four-time world heavyweight champion, was greeted with a standing ovation on Sunday at his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and he punctuated the moment with a heartfelt speech that focused on the significant contributions to his long career made by his mother and his siblings.
“This Hall of Fame thing is all about the help I got from someone else,” said Holyfield, the youngest of nine children. “My mother would have been so happy.”
Holyfield’s impressive career spanned more than three decades and included a bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics, undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight titles, and two memorable fights against Mike Tyson and another against Riddick Bowe. He had an amateur record of 160-14 with 75 knockouts and finished his professional career at 44-10-2 with 29 knockouts.
On this day, the memory of his mother, Annie, who died in the 1990s, took center stage.
“When I came back with the bronze medal, my mama said, ‘See, I told you.’ My mom wouldn’t let me quit,” Holyfield recalled. “My mom said, regardless of how good you are, you do mess up, and if you do mess up and you have a good attitude, you’ll get more opportunities. I had 10 setbacks, so that lets you know that I messed up. But because of the good attitude I had, I got more chances.”
“My goal was to be the very best that I could be. I just didn’t know what it was.”
Also inducted were: three-division champion Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico; the late super flyweight champion Johnny Tapia; Australian trainer Johnny Lewis; judge Jerry Roth; journalist-broadcaster Steve Farhood; broadcaster Barry Tompkins; and Eddie Booker and ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Sr., also honored posthumously.
Tapia’s career was tainted outside the ring by drugs and alcohol — he served a stint in prison and was suspended three years for cocaine use. But in the ring he found his own sort of solace, winning 59 fights against five losses and two draws and captured three different titles starting at 115 pounds. His induction came almost five years to the day that he was found dead in his Albuquerque, New Mexico home at age 45.
“Johnny had the greatest fans, and he soared to the greatest of heights,” his widow, Teresa, said as she recalled his upset knockout win over Henry Martinez for the vacant World Boxing Organization Junior Bantamweight Championship in 1994. “Johnny fought like a demon possessed throughout his career. The fans were his strength and salvation. From this day forward, Johnny, you shall be immortalized. Your heart … will live on forever.”
Roth, a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, officiated 225 world title fights, including Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Oscar De La Hoya and Holyfield’s trilogy against Bowe. He said he was speechless when he was informed of his selection six months ago, and the emotion in his voice nearly rendered him speechless again on Sunday.
“I cannot think you enough for honoring me and making me feel so special,” the 76-year-old Roth said.
Tompkins, who began his boxing career in 1965, has called championship bouts featuring Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello and Sugar Ray Leonard during stints with HBO, ESPN, Fox Sports, and Showtime. The smile on his face Sunday simply would not go away.
“You hope that people like what you do,” Tompkins said. “What makes this so humbling is that it’s an acknowledgement by my peers that maybe … somewhere along the line I contributed a thing or two to this great sport.”
One of the biggest applauses of the afternoon was for Lennon’s 93-year-old widow, Doris, who sang the national anthem before the festivities began. Aaron Pryor, Bobby Chacon and Lou Duva, who all died since the last year’s ceremony, also were honored with a moment of silence.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.