Evander Holyfield, five-time World Boxing Champion, on Saturday visited Badagry, Lagos State, Nigeria to reconnect with his African roots and seek the possibility of investing in the country’s tourism industry.
The Alabama, US-born retired pugilist believes he is of African descent.
He visited the historic town of Badagry on the invitation of Mr. Yomi Ajose, a former Senior Special Adviser to the Badagry Local Government Council.
Holyfield, who visited the traditional ruler of the town, Wheno Aholu Meno Toyi I, the Akran of Badagry, said that he was visiting to trace his African roots.
“I am happy to see His Royal Majesty, the Akran of Badagry and to also reconnect and re-unite with my ancestral land,” he said.
Welcoming him, the Akran said that he was happy to host the former world boxing champion.
“I am happy to have you in Badagry and I want to tell you that you have a lot of opportunity to invest in Badagry so as to promote tourism,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that Holyfield went on a boat cruise along Badagry waterways to see areas of possible investment.
He was in company with Alfred Dickson, an associate of Marlon Jackson, who has been trying to invest in Gberefun town where the ‘Point of No Return’ is located.
The ‘Point of No Return’ is the gate from where slaves were shipped abroad during the days of slavery.
Other personalities who were at the Akran’s palace to receive the visitors were the president and founder of the Centre for Heritage Preservation, Ijinla Afolabi, and the proprietor of 02 Bar, Marina, Olaide Osoba.
Holyfield, who was born on October 19, 1962, won bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics before going professional.
In 1990, he became Heavyweight Champion of the World when he defeated James “Buster” Douglas.
Nicknamed ‘the real deal’, Holyfield is the youngest of nine siblings. His mother moved the family to Atlanta, where he started boxing at age eight.
He won a silver medal in 1983 Pan-Am Games and in 1984, won the National Golden Gloves, scoring knockout in each win.
On December 7, 1986, he won the WBA Cruiserweight (Jr. heavy) title in his 11th professional bout, beating Dwight Muhammad and added the IBF Cruiserweight title with a third-round TKO over Rickey Parkey on May 15, 1987.
He got the Unified Cruiserweight title with 8th-round TKO of WBC titleholder Carlos DeLeon, on September 4, 1988 and moved up to heavyweight with a five-round KO of James “Quick” Tillis, on July 16, 1988.
The real deal won the WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title with 10-round TKO of former heavyweight champ Michael Dokes, November 3, the following year and defeated George Foreman on April 19, 1991 in one of the most widely viewed fights.
He successfully defended in a fight against Bert Cooper and Larry Holmes before losing the title to Riddick Bowe on November 13, 1992 in The Ring magazine’s “Fight of the Year”.
Holyfield recaptured the heavyweight title in a rematch against Bowe on June 11 the following year in a bout best remembered for 21-minute interruption by “Fan Man”, but lost the belt to Michael Moorer on April 22, 1994.
Two years later, he won the WBA title in a huge upset, stopping Mike Tyson in 11th round, and also won the return bout against Tyson on June 28, 1997 on third-round TKO after Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear.
At 46, Holyfield believed that he had one good bout left, maybe more, in his still sculptured body. He unsuccessfully tried to summon it on December 20, 2008, in Zurich in a match with Nikolai Valuev, a seven-foot Russian.
At stake was the World Boxing Association heavyweight belt. Holyfield wanted to buckle it around a waist that has barely expanded since he won his first professional title in 1990. The match may have been Holyfield’s last chance at winning a fifth heavyweight title. He had hoped to surpass Foreman, who did it against Moorer at age 45 in 1994.
Holyfield insisted that such a distinction was not driving him to squeeze the last sweat drops out of his vocation. Nor was it money, even though he is sitting on a shrinking nest egg. Nor was it about pride or re-establishing his name, no small feat for someone so far removed from fame, other than for his “Dancing With the Stars” gig, that Google Earth would be hard-pressed to find him.
He said this fight was about imparting a continuous lesson in perseverance to his 11 children, particularly the eldest. Evander Jr. was eight in 1992 when his father pondered retirement, after he lost a unanimous decision to Bowe for the undisputed heavyweight title. “My son couldn’t stop crying about it,” said Holyfield, who decided to soldier on because bowing out would have sent the wrong parental signal.
Holyfield has parried hooks and thrown uppercuts since he was eight, when a coach at an Alabama boys’ club implanted the dream that he could someday rule the heavyweight division. A career beset by physical hardships and pockmarked by bizarre incidents has left him unfazed. One bout was interrupted when Tyson’s teeth removed a chunk of his ear. Another was halted when a paraglider dropped into the ring. He had fights put off when an opponent had hepatitis and another was imprisoned for rape.
Holyfield reportedly collected $600,000 to $750,000 against Valuev, spare change for someone with career earnings of more than $200 million, including $35 million for one memorable night with Tyson. The payday for the 2008 match, though modest by boxing standards, called into question whether money needs have trapped Holyfield inside the ropes.
In October 2008, he faced a possible jail time when support payments lagged for his 11-year-old son. Holyfield, now remarried, reached an agreement amid estimates that he spends $500,000 a year in child support. During that summer, foreclosure papers were drawn up and an auction scheduled for his mansion, with its 17 bathrooms and three kitchens, on 235 acres of rolling hills south of Atlanta. He nearly lost his home and reportedly toyed with the idea of filing for personal bankruptcy.
Holyfield’s goal was to retrieve all three recognised heavyweight crowns by the close of 2009. Since 2001, he (42-9-2, 27 knockouts) was 6-4-1, mostly against little-known fighters. In his last bout, last year, he was hammered by Sultan Ibragimov. Many who embrace the sport fear that Holyfield’s quest is not just tarnishing his legacy but stripping off every last bit of paint.
To his critics, he has spouted personalised maxims about swimming against the tide of public opinion and likened himself to President Barack Obama and the Wright brothers. “This country is built on proving you can do it,” he said.


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