He’s a boxing champion known for both his victories and his mistakes.
Now, he’s using his platform to be more vocal about his Christian faith.
And when Evander Holyfield speaks, people listen!
Holyfield, a professional heavyweight boxer, competed across America from 1984 to 2011. He became an undisputed four-time world champion throughout his successful career.
Holyfield was born in Atmore, Alabama, and he and his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia when the aspiring boxer was young. His formative years were full of struggles and “setbacks.”
But his family consistently demonstrated the importance of trusting in God through adversity. Holyfield’s mother and grandmother in particular instilled the values of faith and perseverance.
“They kept reminding me, ‘you’ve got to ask Jesus to help you,’” Holyfield remembered.
Inspired by the examples of his family members, Holyfield entered the world of boxing as a way to rise to the top and use his talents for God. Though he struggled at first, he swiftly became a well-known professional, attending his first Olympics—and winning his first medal—in 1984.
Holyfield has been nicknamed “the Warrior” for the struggles he has overcome in the boxing ring and throughout his life.
But his willingness to give glory to God has earned him another nickname as well: “The Real Deal.” Holyfield is relentlessly honest about his need for Christ and the hope he finds in the Gospel.
When asked why he is so outspoken about his Christian faith, Holyfield simply responded, “Because, without Jesus, I wouldn’t be who I am.”
Holyfield firmly believes that he would not have made it anywhere in his life or his career without the hand of God. Furthermore, he asserts that all his success is meant to glorify God alone, not him.
“When all is said and done, I have a purpose to represent God and I’ve got to represent Him the best way I know how,” he continued.
Holyfield has represented Christ as an excellent boxer and a loving person, inside the ring and out of it. Even though he’s faced systemic racism and a host of other setbacks, he holds true to the idea that God has been at his side through it all.
“I could have had an attitude,” he said, reflecting on his difficulties. “But I learned that God had a hand in it…He knew.”
“I wouldn’t be who I am if I hadn’t been through what I’ve been through,” Holyfield added.
God has ordained everything in Holyfield’s life, from his upbringing to his success to his witness to the public.
Holyfield is perhaps best known for his 1997 fight with Mike Tyson, who was disqualified from the match after biting Holyfield’s ear. The fight, and Tyson’s actions, sparked a controversy within the boxing world.
Holyfield still fields questions about the match, but says these conversations always provide great opportunities to witness to others and discuss the Gospel.
Although it would have been easy to hold a grudge against Tyson, Holyfield uses the incident to demonstrate a crucial element of the Gospel: forgiveness.
“You won’t be forgiven unless you forgive,” he admitted. “I realized that I needed to be forgiven.”
He’s now friends with Tyson, Holyfield said, and the incident reminded him that “God wants you to forgive.”
Holyfield admits his many shortcomings of character and confesses that he still has growing to do in his spiritual life. He often asks the Holy Spirit for help in times of trouble and struggle.
“I learned to talk to the Holy Spirit…ask ‘what do I do about this?’” he said. “I found that useful…going back to the Father and asking Him where I’ve gone wrong.”
Holyfield’s example of humility would benefit all Christians! Now retired, the boxer works hard to encourage other Christian men to be bold in sharing their faith.
Holyfield works with Promise Keepers, an evangelical organization dedicated to encouraging and equipping Christian men to stand strong in their faith. The ex-boxer argues that men should work together to overcome their fears and struggles.
He added, “Men should come together being able to open up and being able to be truthful…because you have to be truthful to overcome things.”
By the grace of God, Holyfield is truly an overcomer. Pray for his continued witness in the world of boxing!