Boxing legend Evander Holyfield visits OTHS to talk to students

Evander Holyfield recognizes OTHS student Elijah Harris, whose aunt is a friend of Holyfield's. (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

Evander Holyfield recognizes OTHS student Elijah Harris, whose aunt is a friend of Holyfield’s. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – Students at O’Fallon Township High School were given the opportunity to listen to The Real Deal on Monday when former world champion boxer Evander Holyfield gave a presentation about life.

Holyfield came to OTHS at the invitation of junior Elijah Harris, whose family is friends with the boxer.

“My aunt and Evander travel across the world. They’ve been to China and Spain,” Harris said. “My dad asked if I wanted him to come here and speak and I said yes. So we set this up with the school and he was able to come out.”

Holyfield, who boxed professionally from 1984 until 2011 and is the only four-time world heavyweight champion, told stories of his time growing up and how his mom was a strong influence on him. He described how his time at the Boys Club was important, keeping him out of trouble and learning to compete with other kids his age. He shared a story of how he initially got into boxing.

“I started boxing when I was eight years old. I really didn’t want to box. I wanted to hit the bag. But I was told you had to be on the boxing team to hit the speed bag, so I looked at the man and asked to be on the boxing team. He told me no because he knew I just wanted to hit the bag. Finally, after asking for a week, he said yes. I wanted to then hit the bag, but he told me no and said for me to hit the heavy bag. I hit that bag and hurt my hand, but I kept hitting the bag. He said with that kind of drive, I could be the next Muhammed Ali. That was a big deal to me because he was world champion. I told him I didn’t believe him because I was only eight. He told me, ‘You won’t be eight forever.’ And I believed him because the next week I was going to turn nine!” Holyfield told the crowd.

Holyfield said he learned early on that no one gets where they are on their own. He said there were three things he was told to do to gain confidence.

“I was told to listen, follow directions, and not quit. As easy as it sounds, that’s as easy as it is to make it,” Holyfield said. “Everybody goes through something. My momma told me the best thing in life is a good attitude.”

When asked what his take away was from Holyfield’s speech, Harris said he learned not to be afraid to ask for help.

“What I got from him is that you always need that extra person to boost you. You should never be alone when you’re in the dark times or when its hard. You should always be willing to ask for help,” Harris said.