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Evander Holyfield

Amateur Heights

In 1983 the U.S. Olympic Committee staged its Sports Festival event in Colorado Springs. Evander won his division by defeating the heavily-favored Ricky Womack and became the #1 ranked amateur in the United States. He also earned a slot in the PanAm Games and was invited to train with the U.S. Olympic team in Colorado.

Evander lost to a Cuban at the PanAm’s, but came back with a vengeance at the Golden Gloves in St. Louis the following year. That was where he met Mike Tyson, and even though they were in different weight divisions, they began a friendly rivalry to see who could turn in the best performance. Tyson knocked out four of his five opponents, but Evander knocked out all five of his. This didn’t sit well with Mike, even though he was awarded the “Most Outstanding Boxer” title anyway.

At the Olympic trials for the 1984 Games Evander faced Ricky Womack again. Ricky was now the #1 amateur in the world and this time he beat Evander, which led to a box-off between the two for who would get the Olympic slot. Evander had to fight Ricky twice, on consecutive days, and win both bouts in order to get the Olympic slot. He did just that, and was now ranked #1 in the world to boot.

But the trials weren’t quite over for Evander. Mike Tyson was there for his own box-off and still hadn’t forgotten Evander’s five knockouts at the Golden Gloves vs. his four. Somebody said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to see Mike and Evander go at it!” This despite the fact that Mike was in the heavyweight division and Evander was two categories smaller. But with a lot of urging from the other guys, Mike and Evander got into the ring together. It probably didn’t help Mike’s mood any that his Olympic Trials roommate, Rickey Womack, had just lost the Olympic spot to Evander. What was supposed to be “a little friendly sparring” turned into such an all-out slugfest that an official ran over to call it off and warned the two not to “spar” with each other again.

Evander’s amateur career ended with 160 wins and 14 losses, with 75 of those wins coming by way of knockout.

Mike Tyson lost two controversial decisions to Henry Tillman and didn’t go to the Olympics.

© 2011 by Steeplechase Run, Inc. All Rights Reserved — Posted by permission of the author