Illuminating Interview: Evander Holyfield Talks About His Loss To Riddick Bowe and The Tyson Fight

It is always interesting to find out what goes on inside a champion’s head before, during, and after their big fights. We all talk and speculate, but in the end, none of us really know the intricate details of someone else’s thoughts running through their minds.

Remember when Holyfield fought and lost to Riddick Bowe in 1995? Or when he stepped inside the ring against the ultimate fighting machine in Mike Tyson in 1996? Don’t you think that it’s interesting what feelings and thoughts Holyfield was experiencing at the time?

Well in a recent interview with EnlightenNext  Magazine, Evander reveals all that, and it become truly evident just how religious he truly is.

The following is a part of the interview where Holyfield talks about the Bowe loss:

“Then my next fight, I lost against Riddick Bowe. I was sick before the fight, but I was getting paid nine million dollars, and it was all about the money. I said, ‘Now, if I pull out of this fight, I may not get the nine million. So let me go on in there.’ And this prophet came, and this is what he said: He didn’t say, ‘You’re gonna win.’ What he said was, ‘This fight is for you to win, if you do the proper thing.’ He said, ‘You’re gonna knock this boy down in the sixth.’” And then he said, ‘If you stay on him, you’ll win the fight. Now don’t change your mind.’ Anyway, I started laughing because this is only common sense—if you knock the guy down, get on him. That’s just nature—get on him! Now I’m sick, though; I had got the hepatitis. But like I said, I had decided to fight anyway, and in the first round I looked so good. But come the second round, I didn’t have no energy, and this guy was pounding me all around. Every time he hit me in the stomach it hurt so bad, but I took it all because I was looking forward to the sixth round! And when the sixth came, God said to me, ‘This is the round.’ The bell went ding! And I come out, shoo! Shoo! Shoo!, hit him with a left hook, and bam!—knocked him down! And I thought the fight was going to be over! The guy barely got back up, but I stepped back then, and felt tired, and I didn’t get on him. And the next round, he hit me with a good shot and the referee stopped the fight. Just like that—I couldn’t do nothing! I came out of the ring, and I said, ‘Well, hot dog, that’s what the man said was going to happen, too.’ He didn’t say I was gonna win, he only told me I was gonna knock the guy down. And my friend, my partner, was crying—and he’s a grown man!—saying, ‘All you had to do was blow on him! But you wouldn’t do nothing! Why did you do nothing?!’ And all day I just sat there and said, ‘I don’t know why. I don’t know why.’ Then I remembered the man had told me, ‘Don’t change your mind.’ But in my mind I’d said, ‘No, I don’t want to run out of gas,’ because I’d knocked him down so early in the round—I knocked him down within the first fifteen seconds. And I had figured that if I didn’t get him out right away, then I was gonna run out of gas, I was gonna pass out. So I didn’t get on him, which allowed him to come back, and that’s what got me in trouble, and then the referee stopped the fight. So then I realized the truth of the facts. It was about the word of God.”

The word of God it was, and Holyfield was unable to grab what was essentially placed right in front of him for the taking. Maybe it makes it easier to think of things in that way, where everything that happens does so for good significant reasons. But on the other hand, thinking in such a way in sports, could sometimes halt the drive to push further and accept failure as something due to one’s own lack of drive or whatever it may have been.

Holyfield also touched on the Tyson fight, stating the following:

“On the point of signing the contract, I go back and start training. My legs are weak, I’m getting beat up by my sparring partner, and all of a sudden the facts start coming up, and the facts are that these sparring partners are beating the daylights out of me! They’re not nearly as good as Tyson, and everybody’s looking at me with a fake grin, because they know that I’m going to get roasted. And I’m noticing it myself because I tape my fights. So I get on my knees and I pray, “Lord, help me. I don’t see how this performance can win.” And more and more I prayed—and I prayed and I prayed—and it looked like things weren’t going to turn. But I said, “God, I know you don’t start nothing you’re not going to finish.” That’s all I had!

And then everybody started questioning me about this Tyson. “Evander, you got kids, you got a family, you just got married, why you want to put yourself in that situation? You’re a good guy.” But I said, “God is going to see me through.” And I just kept praying, and the pep started coming back about two weeks before the fight! Now I had been training for about fourteen to sixteen weeks. All of a sudden, two weeks before the fight, I had a new dance; I would listen to my gospel music, and everything started coming—my rhythm—and I started hitting my sparring partners. All of a sudden, it seemed like they started going into slow motion, and I could hit them. I asked my trainer how I was doin’. He said, “Man, your speed was fast,” and I said, “Hot dog! I thought everything looked kind of slow today.” And right away I thought, “Oh Lord, thank you! Thank you!

Then we had a press conference in Vegas before the fight, and when the people looked at me, looked at my arms and all that, the first thing they say is, “He’s cheating! He’s on steroids! Look how big he is!” And I realized they were feeding all this negative information into Tyson, because if you got people who ain’t strong-minded, they’ll come back and tell you, “Ah, this sucker is doing this and that,” and I knew it was bothering him. He could see that there wasn’t no fear. And I could see that with this boy here, Tyson, something was wrong. And so every time they asked me about why I’m taking this fight and what I’m gonna do, I’d say, “Well, you know, the Holy Spirit is leading me into it.” Because that’s what I believed—I didn’t know nothing—no more than, “Hey, Lord! I’m trusting you! This man’s supposed to be the baddest man on the planet; that’s what they say, Lord, but I know there ain’t nobody badder than You!” See, I serve the living God, and when I prayed, God told me, “This is my victory.” So realizing that the victory was already mine, I told them, “It’s just that the day ain’t yet come for me to get it. But then, you’ll see.” And after a while I said, “I don’t want to talk about it no more. You’ll see. When the fight is over, you all gonna be talking to me again, and I’ll tell you the same thing.”

So what happened after that is, I’m getting up the day before the fight and I picked up the paper and the paper said, “Can Tyson Beat God and Evander Holyfield?” Well, now I knew that regardless of what happened at all, Tyson was gonna lose. Even if something had to fall on his head from the ceiling or he had to trip on something, he had to lose that night.”

I thought all this was very illuminating to read, and in a way, I have gained a ton more respect (I already had two tons!) for Holyfield. His perseverance, ability to believe in himself and God, took him from the abyss to crossing the ropes again Mike Tyson without fear or second thought.

There is much to be said about this great champion, and I would require pages upon pages to express that in writing. We are very lucky to have such a person as a part of the sport of boxing.