Holyfield: TV bouts crucial to boxing’s past, present, future

Growing up in the 1970s, young Evander Holyfield fell in love with boxing – in part – by watching ABC’s telecasts of professional and Olympic bouts.

Even as Saturday’s Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view bout in Las Vegas gives boxing its biggest showcase in years, “The Real Deal” believes television remains crucial to the sport’s future.

“Go back and look at how [legendary ABC boxing announcer] Howard Cosell did this thing, putting these fights on TV and getting young people interested,” the five-time heavyweight champion told Front Row during a recent visit to ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. studios.

“That’s how I got hooked. I saw somebody on TV my age, 17 years old, boxing, doing what I do. I said to myself, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”

Holyfield appreciates not only ESPN’s links to ABC’s boxing coverage legacy but also the network’s franchise series Friday Night Fights – “it’s good for the boxing game” – and ESPN Classic. Many of Holyfield’s bouts from his 1990s heyday have been Classic staples, including his 1991 fight with George Foreman.

Watching his old fights is one way Holyfield, 52, bonds with his son Elijah, 17, who also happens to be a highly recruited high school football star. Holyfield watched the recent ESPN miniseries Snoop and Son, which chronicled the recruitment of rapper Snoop Dog’s prep football star son Cordell Broadus.

Holyfield thinks his family also would have an interesting story to tell.

“Whatever you do in life, ultimately, is about what you’re able to give your kids,” he said. “Good things, bad things. Learn from both of them. I want to steer my son to the right [college] for the right reasons.”

Holyfield appeared on several ESPN platforms during his Bristol visit, including First Take and SportsCenter – to talk about his perspective on the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout. His “prediction” for the fight that he made on First Take’s picks board was a unique one.

Holyfield appeared today on SportsNation, which is one of many ESPN programs airing from Las Vegas this week to cover the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.

Every time you saw him, he was doing something positive. He was one of those people who wanted to see you do your very best.
– Evander Holyfield on Stuart Scott

He’s long been affiliated with the ESPN/ABC brand – he won three “Best Boxer” ESPYS citations in the 1990s and “Comeback Athlete of the Year” award in 1997.

Holyfield became a household name as a star of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games telecast by ABC.

And in the 1990s, he co-starred with the late Stuart Scott and former SportsCenter anchor Charley Steiner in a classic “This Is SportsCenter” spot.

Holyfield remembers Scott, who passed away in January, as “such a good guy. He was just always nice, quick-thinking, a real nice guy. Every time you saw him, he was doing something positive.

“He was one of those people who wanted to see you do your very best.”

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