Evander Holyfield is one of the most recognizable faces in all of sports. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics bronze medal winner, former undisputed cruiserweight champion and the only four-time heavyweight champion in the history of the sport can now add promoter to his list of titles.
The newly inducted International Boxing Hall of Famer has been busy since officially retiring from the sport in 2007. Holyfield’s new promotional company, Real Deal Sports & Entertainment, promoted its first event on June 24 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, followed by an event on Sept. 9 at Resorts World Casino in New York. Holyfield’s next stop is on his 55th birthday, Oct. 19, at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta.
Holyfield’s decision to become a promoter isn’t surprising; he is a man on the go, and his popularity continues to grow, even with his fighting days a decade behind him. Whether it’s his involvement with the Boys and Girls Club or his attendance at conventions such as the World Boxing Council’s in Azerbaijan this past week, wherever he goes, he attracts a crowd. Fans, fighters, celebrities and reporters alike want to meet him.
According to marketing technology company Amobee, of boxers who are alive and retired, Holyfield appears to be the sixth-most famous. Between Aug. 25, 2016, and Sept. 25, 2017, he was mentioned 31% as much as Mike Tyson, the most famous, in boxing-related digital content engagement. (In the same period, Oscar De La Hoya generated 94% as much boxing-related digital content engagement as Tyson. George Foreman was at 50%, Julio César Chávez at 36% and Lennox Lewis at 33%.)
This is promising for Holyfield considering De La Hoya has a head start of more than decade as a promoter (he was still fighting when he started Golden Boy Promotions).
Holyfield’s name and presence in the sport are only getting stronger. In fact, it’s almost impossible to mention Tyson’s name without also mentioning Holyfield. Considering Holyfield defeated Tyson twice in their two matchups, 55% of all digital content engagement around Holyfield was Tyson-related. Twenty years after the “Bite Fight,” 37% of all Holyfield digital content engagement is ear-related.
A Man On A Mission
Just like when he was fighting, once Holyfield sets his mind to a goal, he is basically unstoppable. He prides himself on overachieving. He prefers to be the underdog. A lot of that can be attributed to his upbringing as the youngest of nine siblings. Holyfield’s mother, Annie, was a huge influence in his life before her death in 1996 due to injuries stemming from a car accident. It’s not uncommon when speaking with Holyfield to hear a sentence begin with the phrase “My mama told me.” She is a big part of the fabric of who he is.
Holyfield recently told Fightnews.com: “I wasn’t able to do too many things at one time. But now, to come back and be able to give people the opportunity … I realize I am who I am because my mama wanted me to be better than her. She told me I didn’t have to make the same mistakes that she make.”
“So I realized that this country we live in, it only get better if somebody is speaking and tell people where they once were. They won’t waste all that time making the same mistakes they made. This generation is supposed to get better, but if no one speaks to the young people and tell them, ‘Look, I made mistakes, too, but the only reason I was able to succeed is because I didn’t quit.”
That influence in large part made him the fighter he was. It molded his character. Those same life lessons will serve him well as he transitions to a promoter.
It’s All About The Fighters
Holyfield can’t express enough that he wants to make a difference in the sport. With more than a dozen fighters currently on the Real Deal roster, Holyfield wants to be a promoter fighters can relate to, a promoter fighters respect because they know he knows what they are going through. He’s been there. He has reached the pinnacle of the sport. Nothing is bigger than being the undisputed heavyweight champion.
He also wants to make sure they’re safe. This is why he created the Real Deal Medical team, which will consist of ARP-certified physicians from various specialties who will provide the fighters with consistent medical care and maintain a medical history to track any changes in their physical or mental health. Real Deal Sports and Entertainment is partnering with Medical Arts Radiology, which will monitor the brain health of the fighters as well as provide pre- and postfight imaging studies to try to prevent any acute or chronic traumatic brain injuries.
“The whole reason I got into the promotion game was to be the best and to do right by the fighters,” Holyfield said. “This initiative demonstrates to the boxers and the rest of the world that we not only want what’s best for them during their careers, but we want what’s best for them beyond their careers. I really want to thank our committed doctors and Medical Arts Radiology for their dedication and efforts to improve the sport and protect the fighters.”
Promoting comes down the fighters in the ring. Holyfield’s ability to sign fighters who can bring in the pay-per-view numbers and live gate numbers will eventually define his success, but for now, the way he’s going about it and the support he has behind him make him seem like a natural.