As of writing, Evander Holyfield’s name is etched in the history books as the only man to be four-time heavyweight champion as well as being undisputed at both cruiserweight and heavyweight.
Careers don’t come more storied, and ‘The Real Deal’ faced some of the best in the world to make that so.
One man was Mike Tyson, whom Holyfield battled twice in 1996-97 winning first by stoppage and second by an infamous disqualification.
That wasn’t the first time the pair shared a ring, though. In an interview with VLAD TV, Holyfield said he sparred ‘Iron’ Mike as an amateur and watched him ‘knock everybody out.’
“We didn’t spar until 84. Mike used to knock everybody out. When he had his own sparring partner, he’d knock him out everyday. He’d have people come in and he’d knock them out.”
Holyfield then suggested that he himself got on okay with Tyson, a foreshadowing of their professional rivalry. One key factor was being fearless – not something many opponents of ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’ can claim.
“This is when I realised everything he could do so well. He was an expert at rope, hitting the bag, everything he did he did great. I would watch and think ‘wow man he’s good.’ But in the game of boxing it’s about what you can do to a person to get them to move and capitalise on which way they move.
Mike was one of the fighters that charge at you all the time. What I had that a lot of people didn’t have was good rythym and good movement. I can pump back and make you run into my shots. I had fast hands. What I had too, I had this thing where I wasn’t afraid of nobody. My momma said the only way you’re gonna lose is when you don’t take no chance to win.”
Holyfield would turn pro in November of that year, and Tyson joined him in March of 85.