Evander Holyfield remembers Las Vegas moments as he enters Hall of Fame

Updated June 9, 2017 - 3:39 pm

Evander Holyfield knew he had a strong case to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, but the four-time heavyweight champion was prepared for the worst.

Holyfield was told no many times during his illustrious 27-year career. Denied a gold medal opportunity in the 1984 Olympics.

Too small to become heavyweight champion of the world. Not good enough to beat Mike Tyson. Not cleared to continue fighting because of a heart condition.

The legendary boxer known as “Real Deal” is doubted no more. Holyfield headlines the 2017 class that will be enshrined Sunday during the 28th annual induction ceremonies at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.

“I was surprised,” Holyfield said about finding out the good news in December. “It’s a decision, and it comes down to opinion. People have a lot of opinions, and I understand that.

“This feels pretty fast. When I was boxing, I just wanted to prove I was the best. Never thought about the Hall of Fame. Looking back now at my career, it worked out and now I get to go into the Hall of Fame with my idol, (Muhammad) Ali.”

Holyfield will be joined by Mexican warrior Marco Antonio Barrera and the late Johnny Tapia, the thrilling fighter from New Mexico.

Las Vegas judge Jerry Roth, who scored 225 world title bouts, Australian trainer Johnny Lewis and the late ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Sr. were voted in as nonparticipants. Longtime Showtime broadcast partners Steve Farhood and Barry Tompkins were elected in the observer category.

The late Eddie Booker, a welterweight and middleweight contender in the 1940s and 1950s, made it in the old-timer category.

“When I first learned the news,” Farhood said, “I said to Evander, ‘It’s lucky that I’m going in there with you, because at least now they’ll be some people there that weekend.’ I actually never said that, but people do love Evander.

“I covered many of Evander’s big fights. I was like many journalists who thought he would never be the heavyweight champion of the world. He proved everyone wrong and did it four times.”

Holyfield fought in Las Vegas 17 times and said his biggest Sin City bout was against Tyson in 1996. Holyfield knocked out Tyson at the MGM Grand Garden and beat him again in 1997 at the MGM Grand after Tyson was disqualified for biting off a piece of Holyfield’s ear.

“Nothing bigger than the first Tyson fight,” Holyfield said. “Everyone wanted to see that, and everyone will remember the second one, too. I was shocked when Tyson bit me. I wanted to bite him back. Luckily, I stopped myself.

“I have so many memories in Las Vegas. That city stood out by itself.”

The ear incident might not have been Holyfield’s strangest moment in Las Vegas. He was fighting Riddick Bowe when the “Fan Man” came crashing down at the outdoor venue at Caesars Palace in 1993.

“I still see Riddick Bowe often in Florida,” Holyfield said. “I always tell him, ‘That man came down to save you. You were getting a whopping.’ ”

Garcia-Broner in Vegas?

Las Vegas is the favorite to land the highly anticipated bout between Mikey Garcia and Adrien Broner, according to a source close to the situation.

The 140-pound match was announced this month by Showtime for July 29.

Mayweather Promotions, which promoted Broner’s latest fight in February, reserved the MGM Grand Garden Arena for July 29.

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, also is in the running.

PBC returns to Sam’s Town

The junior welterweight matchup between Erick Bone and Eddie Ramirez headlines the June 20 Premier Boxing Champions card at Sam’s Town.

The card will air at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes. Tickets start $15 and can be purchased on the Sam’s Town website.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.

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