One of Atmore’s own has reached the pinnacle of success in his chosen profession.
Evander Holyfield, who was born in Atmore and moved to Atlanta as a child, was inducted Sunday into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.
Holyfield, who earned the nickname “Real Deal” for his boxing prowess, headlined a 2017 class that also featured Marco Antonio Barrera, the late Johnny Tapia and current Showtime boxing analysts Steve Farhood and Barry Tompkins.
“It’s amazing to find you are the best,” he said during an interview on Fox & Friends. “I remember a time I wanted to be the best but I didn’t know what the best was.”
The 54-year-old hall-of-fame boxer, the only man to ever win four world heavyweight titles, was born October 19, 1962. After winning a national Golden Gloves Championship in 1984, Holyfield made the U.S. Olympic team. He was disqualified during a semifinals match against Kevin Barry of New Zealand for hitting his opponent after a break, but still won a bronze medal.
His graceful handling of the disqualification, along with his comeback from a serious heart condition to recapture the heavyweight championship, earned Holyfield consideration as one of the great cruiserweights and heavyweights of his era.
After the Olympics, Holyfield turned professional and first fought in the junior heavyweight and cruiserweight classes. He won the World Boxing Association’s World Cruiserweight title in 1986. In 1990, he became the world heavyweight champion, defeating James “Buster” Douglas, holder of the WBA, International Boxing Federation, and World Boxing Council championship titles, in just seven minutes.
As an amateur boxer, Holyfield posted a record of 160-14 with 75 knockouts. His impressive pro career, which spanned three decades and during which he was 44-10-2 with 29 knockouts, also included undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight titles, two memorable fights against Mike Tyson and another against Riddick Bowe.
The second bout against Tyson is one of the most infamous in boxing history. It was during that fight that Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear.
The memory of his mother, Annie, who taught him to never quit, surfaced during his acceptance speech on Sunday. He said his mother, who died in the 1990s, was the strongest influence in his life and the only person he ever feared. She demanded good conduct in school, high character in life, kindness and forgiveness, he remembered.
“This Hall of Fame thing is all about the help I got from someone else,” Holyfield said. “My mother would have been so happy. She’d say, ‘I told you. You do something good and that will be waiting on you.’ She told me that a good attitude is better than talent.”