One-on-One with Evander Holyfield Part II: China Impression

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One-on-One with Evander Holyfield Part II: China Impression
Holyfield and his Chinese friend.

"I respect China, because all the things it went through all these years, the country didn't quit. Because this country didn't quit, it hold the whole world." —— Evander Holyfield

In the first episode of this "One-on-One with Evander Holyfield" series: Holyfield and Bruce Lee, the American ring legend talked with me about his seemingly endless inspiration, his take on the pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and how he was influenced by the world-renowned Chinese Kung Fu master Bruce Lee.

In the second chapter, he continued his "China Journey" by sharing with us his unique perspective on the oriental nation, his untold stories in between and his colorful bond with this exotic ancient land.

Zhenyu Li: You've been to China, to be more specific, Beijing for several times. What's your impression about this country and the city?

Holyfield: You know, when I came here for the first time, I was SO impressed, from the country being Communist to what people have said and stuff like that.

When I got here, everybody looked so peaceful, everything looked good—the infrastructures, the highways, the hospitality of the people I met. And I was like, wow, I think this is a different kind of world.

I was thinking that, back in our country, the things that you hear when you talk about Communism are about controlling you and how you don't have rights. But when I got here, the majority of people I saw were having a good time, so I'm going to judge by what I've seen.

The fact is that everything I saw was good.

For me personally, to come to this country and see so many people, and see less confusion.

Zhenyu Li: You just said in the lift that you love China. Are there any good reasons?

Holyfield: You know, I respect this country, because all the things it went through all these years, the country didn't quit. Because this country didn't quit, it hold the whole world, and did a beautiful job.

China is the park where everything comes from. It's amazing that this country has been in working for so many years. If you look back in history, everything comes from China.

Even when I was a kid, China, China, China, everything that I got, came from China, and all of a sudden, you realized that, you know, oh, shoot, everything with good quality comes from China, people love to get thing from China, because it's cheaper and with quality.

Like this, when I came here, I'd like to ask for some CDs. It's better than America at home! I came back and I brought two cases of so much stuff. Man! I could make a living by coming to China, taking something from China and selling them at home!

That's because the quality is good. People do great quality work and stuff like that. And that's the most important thing.

In America, people kinda take me for granted for that.

I am the only four-time heavyweight champion of the world, but people in America like Muhammad Ali, they almost don't like me to break his record. They like the sport of boxing to stay in the same way.

Evander Holyfield was being interviewed by the author in Beijing. (Photo by Zhenyu Li)

But when I came here, first thing, people talked about me. I'd never lived in a world that had ever done this. You know, I was thrilled about the hospitality of the Chinese people.

In fact, I am so thrilled that I went home and told my kids about it. I said, look, we all should take Chinese classes, something all this and stuff like that. I told my kids that you gotta learn to celebrate the people who celebrate you. Then they said that what they celebrated.

And I said: "Because they know me and know about me and my future and all these. People who know me there are much more than those here in America. You know what, these people celebrated me; we need to learn their language." So my kids, they took Chinese (classes).

Zhenyu Li: Are there any stories worth mentioning in regard to you and China?

Holyfield: I am not supposed to offend you or make fun of you. But in America, there're not a lot of Chinese people. When I grew up, I only had one Chinese person around, a Chinese girl, you know.

She looked different from everybody else. But I just think she's pretty, wow, I think she's beautiful, you know, she's different.

When I came in 2000, with a friend, he is seven years older than me. When we got here, and the Chinese people were laughing at him, because of his eyes. There's a girl who kept doing like this (making a posture).

Then I said to him, be honest and be truthful to me, when you were a kid, did you mess with Chinese people? He said yeah. I said that you never thought you'd be in China, he went like, wow, man, this is all that happened!

Everybody in life got to reap what he sow. So, if you treat people bad, you'll get treated bad; what ever you do, it circles back around. We are minorities at some point wherever we go.

You go to school, you are minority; you go to work, you are minority.

You got to ask yourself, why did you be treated bad, perhaps in a given place you go, you may be trapped around with somebody that make you look different.

With me, I was always around with a lot of people. I came from a poor neighborhood, but because my mother brought me up right, I get along well with the people around me.

I became a humble man because my mother always went against showing up, and I was always quiet and I was always embarrassed. But being embarrassed allows me to, when I go around people, I make sure to treat people fair all the time and not to discriminate because I know how they feel.

You cannot take the skin color or race, and say it's better than another. You know, if you give them the flexible and proper structure, then chances are they can be very productive people.

Unlike China, America is a place where you can be born poor and get rich. If you have the capability, America won't stop you from being what you want to be. They may tell you what you cannot (do), but they won't stop you from being the very best you could be.

Zhenyu Li: It seems that you do know something about China, are attached to it, to a degree, and traveled several times to this ancient country. So what's the purpose of your trip this time?

Boxing, the Noble Art in China. (Photo by Zhenyu Li)

Holyfield: Actually, I came down here to choose some fighters. I got a promotion company. I want to start my promotion club. So I look into of all the fighters and stuff. Hope it can give me 10 to 12 fighters, someone in the top-notch who can become the champion in four years.

I haven't seen anybody yet, but I talked with a person in the Shaolin Temple, he said they didn't start boxing program, but they had Kung Fu, and they want the Holyfield boxing thing.

You know, the strongest amateur boxers the world has ever had are always in Cuba, because they were trained in a certain program. And the Chinese kids here do what the Cuban do, you know, great supervision and all that.

All these little kids have been trained in such a strict program. So, if they learn boxing, after four years, they'll be able to win four or five gold medals, because these kids are very structured.

This is what they've been doing and they do it in a different method (in comparison with the American prospect).

Cubans do it; they eat well and their family is ok. And all of a sudden, they give it up, because they do it not because they love to, but because they have to. So every time they make money, because of somebody else, they loose concentration.

But for the people here, they train and do it for a proper reason. And if people who do the things for the proper reason, they'll stay longer. I am a good example.

I do boxing for a good reason, I love boxing; I've been boxed for 37 years (it extends to 39 years at present in 2010).

Al Bello/Getty Images
Holyfield entered the squared circle because he found something he love and could do well too.

I didn't break up with anything. It's because I do the thing for the right reason, not for the ego, you know; you do it because you love it, that's it, you don't do it for other motives. I didn't get into boxing for money.

I got into boxing because I realized I found something I love and could do well too.

When I was a kid, I like to do physical things, you know, like, look how fast he run, or, hey, he's tough, stuff like that. That inspired me. But when I was in the classroom, I was always mad because I couldn't compete (with the other students).

They were a lot better than me. My mother told me that wherever you go, there's always somebody who know something you don't know, and you'll know something that they don't know either. So that's the trade off of life. You can do this really well, and I can do this really well.

For example, if you do a good story, it'll make you look good, and make me look good too. Everybody plays his part. I came over here and I saw, wow, all the people love me.

I can't speak Chinese good enough to do anything, but I can have somebody who can speak both Chinese and English do it for me. I got to find somebody who understands them better than I do. We can be partners.

Life is about communication. No one person is able to do everything.

Of course, if I get a lot of attention, there'll be a lot of people who get envy and jealous, but it can be balanced through (classification and cooperation). This is what the life is all about. It's not about the ego.

To make no one get envy and jealous, you got to let everybody play his part. If everybody is the best in his part, no one will get jealous and envy, (and there will be) enough money for everybody.


Putting the final stroke on The Real Deal's "China Journey" of the "One-on-One with Evander Holyfield" series in Part III, the ring master revealed his uncovered training regimen, what he benefited from the legendary Chinese Shaolin training program, and his take on the connection between Kung Fu and boxing.

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(This is a reprint from TheSweetScience.com, a worldwide leader in boxing.)

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