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Evander Holyfield

The Early Days

Evander was born on October 19, 1962, in Atmore, Alabama. He was the last of nine children and, while he didn’t know his father, his iron-willed and devoutly religious mother Annie Laura Holyfield more than made up for the absence. Mama was fiercely determined to have her family overcome the obstacles facing poverty-stricken blacks in the deep South. She ingrained her kids with a strong sense of responsibility and perseverance, and it is she more than anyone else whom Evander credits for his success.

When Evander was four, Mama moved the family to Atlanta, where she’d been born. Evander and his older brother Bernard found themselves in unfamiliar surroundings and were anxious to explore, but Annie Laura’s mother, Grandma Pearlie Beatrice Hatton, was fearful of the “big city” and kept the boys close to home while Mama was at work. Sports-crazy and full of energy, the two boys were in danger of becoming frustrated and mischievous but were saved by an important discovery that would change Evander’s life forever.

It was called the Warren Memorial Boys Club and in that rich and nurturing environment Evander found a young boy’s heaven. There was football and baseball, shuffleboard, pinball and pool, music and woodcraft classes…and a fenced-off area at one end of the gym that only a small number of boys were allowed into. Evander and Bernard were so over the moon they didn’t know where to start, so they signed up for everything.

But the Boy’s Club wasn’t just a recreational free-for-all; it had rules. Hundreds of them, and the adults running the place were serious about all of them. Step out of line and there were a couple of ladies who were right there ready to explain things to you all over again, in ways you couldn’t help but understand.

It didn’t take Evander long to find himself getting drawn to football more and more. He was very small for his age but, despite his size, Evander would win the Club’s two MVP trophies every year he played, one for offense, the other for defense. Evander’s ambition was to play professional ball for the Atlanta Falcons.

But there was the matter of that forbidden, fenced-off area in the gym. When Evander found out what was going on in there, everything would change.

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