The gold medal turned bronze. The parachutist. The faith healer. The bite (or, shall we say, bites). The bankruptcy. The recovery. I could mention more stuff from beyond the ozone involving the life and times of Evander Holyfield, but there isn't enough Internet. I'll just say the only four-time heavyweight champion of the world ranks either 1a, 1b or 1c as the most fascinating person in sports during the past three decades.
Even now, at 52, four years removed from throwing his last professional jab in a ring -- and still a chiseled 6-foot-2ish, 235 pounds -- Holyfield remains a magnet for the bizarre. He'll travel to Salt Lake City in May to climb between the ropes against Mitt Romney (yes, that Mitt Romney), but no punches will be thrown. The whole thing is for a charity to fight blindness in developing nations.
Still, this is so different, so interesting, so Holyfield. After all, the legend nicknamed "Real Deal" doesn't shy from the spotlight and always says whatever sits in the deepest part of his soul.
That includes talking candidly about the topic on most boxing fans' minds these days: Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao. With overall revenue projected to surpass $400 million, this latest Fight of the Century is scheduled for May 2 in Las Vegas. Holyfield said Pacquiao will end Mayweather's undefeated streak as a pro fighter at 47. And, yes, I know: He's not alone. Others are picking Pacquiao, since he is an underdog with considerable bark and bite. Beyond his 57-5-2 record that includes 12 more knockouts than Mayweather's 26, Pacquiao was voted by several boxing entities as the Fighter of the Decade to begin the 2000s.
But Holyfield went further than just a prediction. He weaved something along the lines of a conspiracy.
"Mayweather won't win, because from what I've seen, boxing doesn't want nobody to get out [of the sport] undefeated," Holyfield said this week during a chat in his native Atlanta. "They want to keep the money in the sport by doing things to make it happen this way: Somebody beats the man, and then somebody beats the man who beat the man, and then somebody beats the man who beat the man who beat the man who beat the man. So I'll tell you what's going to happen, because it's going to be a close fight. Yeah, it'll be close, and Pacquiao is going to get the decision. Then it's going to be a matter of whether Mayweather is going to fight again, whether he feels like he has made enough money to say, 'I ain't got to fight.'
"But it's a good chance Mayweather is not going to hang it up, so there's going to be another $100 million [fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao] and all like that. [Boxing executives] set it up that way. It's because they will not let you out of boxing undefeated, not unless you trick them."
How do you trick them?
"It's like this: You have to tell them, 'I'm going to fight 10 more times,' and then when you get to five, you quit," Holyfield said, chuckling, as he has done easily through the years despite all the ups and downs throughout his career.
Recall the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, when I first met Holyfield along the way to becoming a regular on his journey with weirdness. He had to settle for bronze back then after possibly the worst decision by a boxing referee in the history of the Summer Games. Despite pounding the mess out of his New Zealand opponent, Holyfield was disqualified for, well, nobody knows. Then, a decade later, a man with a parachute tumbled from the Las Vegas sky into the middle of Holyfield's fight with Riddick Bowe (Holyfield won by a majority decision, but the spectacle robbed him of what was to be his triumphant moment over an opponent who beat him a year before). Months after the "Fan Man Fight," Holyfield was diagnosed with a heart problem, but he claimed he was healed by Benny Hinn, a televangelist who received a nice chunk of change from Holyfield for his service. Doctors eventually determined their original diagnosis of Holyfield's heart was wrong, but I'm guessing Hinn didn't return the money.
Then there were cries of hypocrisy about Holyfield. On the one hand, he is so spiritual he wore a Bible verse on his shorts. On the other, he has multiple children by multiple women. He was sued for unpaid child support. Partly due to the latter, he filed for federal bankruptcy in 2012 despite making an estimated $250 million during his pro boxing career. He was forced to relinquish everything from his 109-room mansion (featuring a bowling alley and a softball stadium) to the gloves he used to turn Iron Mike Tyson into sheet metal (twice).
Speaking of Tyson, everybody knows about that famous 1997 bout when he bit Holyfield's right ear during the early part of their rematch, before Tyson chewed off part of the other one later in the fight and spat it away.
Just wondering: Did Tyson ever apologize privately? (The two have poked fun of the incident in the past.)
"He ain't never going to do that, but he will do this, look at me and say, 'It's all good, man?'" Holyfield said. "We'll look at each other and nod our heads at each other, because we understand each other. He was on Oprah, and he said about me, 'That's momma's boy,' and I ain't got a problem with that, because I was momma's boy."
Holyfield chuckled again. He is even more joyful than usual these days, because as he said, "I've finally found somebody I can trust with money, and he has gotten my finances back in order." Holyfield is at peace with his present and his future. Luckily, he isn't your average former boxer -- or NFL player, for that matter -- suffering from memory loss after too many blows to the head. He also doesn't do more creeping than walking. His legs are fine, along with virtually everything else inside and outside of his body.
Just recently, the American Cancer Society hired Holyfield to film a bunch of commercials about the importance of men getting checkups, but ACS officials wanted to make sure their spokesperson was really healthy. They sent Holyfield to the Mayo Clinic for a battery of tests. The results?
"They told me I didn't have any contusions at all," Holyfield said, attributing the diagnosis to his faith, his obsession with fitness and his ability to keep his weight from fluctuating to extremes. "They said it looked like I had never been hit before, and they said, 'If anybody can live to be 100 years old, it's you.'"
Holyfield is more than halfway there. Hopefully, his dance with drama will lessen the rest of the way.
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Terence Moore has been a professional sports journalist since 1978, when he started at the Cincinnati Enquirer. He spent nearly 30 years as a newspaper sports columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He also was a national sports columnist for AOL FanHouse before writing columns for MLB.com and CNN.com.