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Now Comes The Hard Part for Evan Holyfield

Kelsey McCarson

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Now comes the hard part for Evan Holyfield, son of renowned Evander Holyfield, who met with the media on Wednesday at the Fighter Nation Boxing Gym in Houston to announce he was following in his father’s footsteps by becoming a professional prizefighter. 

“This is all really surreal for me,” admitted Holyfield. “It’s a blessing for sure because not everybody gets this kind of opportunity.”

The middle of the eleven Holyfield children, Holyfield, 21, certainly has some work cut out for him if he hopes to breach his father’s large shadow.  That’s because Evan’s dad (who was not in attendance) won a bronze medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1984 Olympics, became the first-ever undisputed cruiserweight champion in 1988 and, if all that wasn’t enough, captured the heavyweight championship of the world four different times starting in 1990, sharing the ring with Hall of Fame heavyweight greats like George Foreman, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis along the way.

Can you imagine trying to live up to something like that?

While Holyfield said he was grateful for the positive impact his father’s legacy had in helping him kick off his own professional campaign, he also correctly noted that at the end of his fighting career he’d only be judged by his own accomplishments. Still, it was probably nice to get this kind of sendoff, the type that only happens when people care about who your father is. 

“It’s all about making it count,” said Holyfield. “That’s what matters at the end of the day.” 

Standing just over six-feet-one-inches tall, Holyfield, a junior middleweight prospect, is described as a boxer-puncher with lightning-fast speed and hard-hitting power. Holyfield, who moved to Houston in February, was 70-15 in the amateur system where he competed while he was living in Georgia. The highlight of those endeavors was reaching the regional semi-finals during the 2018 Team USA western qualifying tournament. 

Not Evander. But not bad. 

Holyfield signed with Main Events, the same promotional company that his father signed with after turning professional in 1984. Main Events, which is based out of New Jersey, was founded in 1978 by the late Dan Duva and is now helmed by Kathy Duva, who has led the company as CEO since her husband’s passing in 1996.

Duva said signing Evan Holyfield was a complete surprise, something she described as the “closing of a circle.” She said she never really expected it to happen but that she was very excited about promoting the new Holyfield’s career. She also stressed there was much more to her company’s decision than just the fighter’s last name. 

“We’ve never signed a famous fighter’s son before,” said Duva. “Even the sons of the fighters we had before that have come along, we never saw one that I looked at and saw what I see here.”

Holyfield seemed excited to start his professional career with such raucous fanfare, and there was plenty of it to be excited about. There was a good crowd on hand, much more than any other recent boxing press events in Houston for any fighter not yet toting a world title around his waist (and even some that do). The happy throng of onlookers included local Houston celebrities, high profile mainstream sports media people, local boxing gym supporters and, of course, a vocal group of general boxing fans. 

“I’m really blessed to have this happen to me, and I’m really grateful to Ms. Duva for taking a chance on me,” said Holyfield, who genuinely seemed humbled by it all.

While Duva admitted her fighter’s first foray into the limelight would be much more about his father than it should be, she said her team fully expects their new signee to make a name for himself in his own right soon.

“Until he gets into the ring and fights, his father is going to be a big part of the story,” said Duva. “But once he starts to fight, we can talk more and more about him.”

Duva said her new Holyfield would be able to carry the burden of his father’s legacy just about as well as anyone might, but that it was more about what kind of person he was on the inside over anything on the exterior. 

“It’s not just the amazing athletic ability,” said Duva. “It’s the same kind of drive that I saw in the great fighters that I’ve worked with before, both his father and many others, including Sergey Kovalev.”

Holyfield’s team is rounded out by two other people with ties to the original Holyfield. Tabbed to be Holyfield’s manager and trainer is local Houston boxing fixture Maurice “Termite” Watkins, a former world title challenger who got his nickname because of his family’s exterminator business. 

After retiring from professional boxing in 1990, Walkins went back into the family business where he worked as a fumigator. He was later contracted by the U.S. military to do some fumigation work in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion left the country in need of repair. 

While there, Watkins was also assigned to get Iraq’s Olympic boxing team ready for the 2004 Olympics. Overall, he trained nine Iraqi fighters across various amateur tournaments in the region and ultimately guided one of the hopefuls, light flyweight Najah Ali, to the 2004 Olympics in Athens. 

Today, Watkins focuses on serving the local community. “We help keep kids out of gangs,” said Watkins. “If you know anything about gangs, it’s blood in, blood out. We’ve been successful on just a handful, but that’s a handful that survived, isn’t in prison or dead.”

Holyfield’s team also includes Tim Hallmark, one of the sporting world’s most celebrated strength and conditioning coaches over the last 35 years, a man probably best-known as the fitness guru who helped Evander Holyfield successfully navigate his amazingly chiseled physique from the cruiserweight to the heavyweight division.

Holyfield, Duva, Watkins and Hallmark were all on stage together, beaming with smiles about the task at hand. Also on stage was Holyfield’s mother, Toi Irvin, and the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation Chair Rick Figueroa.

In short, if Evan Holyfield doesn’t make it as a professional fighter, it won’t be because he didn’t have a really strong team around him. If anything, Holyfield was essentially just shot out of a cannon on Wednesday, from the general obscurity of being just one of the many Holyfield children with similar-sounding names to being the one that takes a shot at carrying on the Holyfield name in the business that made it famous.  

And with all that hoopla, with Duva promising to keep him busy and active locally, with Watkins saying he had final say in who his fighter would fight and that he only wanted real fights against good opponents, with the lean, mean Hallmark machine standing tall next to him like a silent gray-haired sentinel, but one that could probably smash a walnut with just one pinky if he really had to do it…well, Evan Holyfield appeared pretty calm in all that. 

It was as if he was standing right where he was always intended to be. That isn’t everything, but it certainly is something. 

“I’m still just processing all this, to be honest,” said Holyfield. “Nothing like this has ever really happened to me. I’ve always thought about this day happening, and it’s just a really great thing for it to finally be here.”

Now, of course, comes that hard part. 

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Pradabsri Upsets Menayothin, Ends the Longest Unbeaten Streak of Modern Times

Arne K. Lang

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During the wee hours in the Americas, a big upset was brewing in Thailand. In Nakhon Sawan, a city roughly 150 miles north of Bangkok, Panya Pradabsri (aka Petchmanee CP Freshmart) out-pointed Wanheng Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) in a domestic clash with international significance. Manayothin entered the bout with a 54-0 (18) record and was making the 13th defense of his WBC world minimumweight title.

Pradabsri had been defeated only once in 35 previous starts, but only 11 of his 34 victories had come against fighters with winning records. According to ringside reports, he kept Menayothin at bay with good fundamentals, a stiff jab, and good lateral movement. All three judges had it 115-113. The fight wasn’t without controversy as Menayothin finished stronger and many folks scoring off the live video thought that he had done just enough to retain his title.

How good was/is Menayothin? That’s a question that serious boxing fans will likely debate for decades.

In the summer of 2019, Menayothin signed a co-promotional deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. At time, GBP president Eric Gomez described him as one of the best fighters in the world. “We really want to bring him to the U.S. so people can see how talented he really is,” Gomez told England’s Sky Sports.

Menayothin was expected to make his U.S. debut in April of this year, but the pandemic ruined that plan. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement, but rescinded it after only two days.

Scottish boxing historian Matt McGrain, who has an exclusive arrangement with this web site, had lukewarm opinion of the Thai mighty-mite although he rated him the second-best 105-pound boxer of the decade, trailing only his countryman Thammanoon Niyomtrong (aka Knockout CP Freshmart).

“He is disciplined, strong, brings good pressure and is armed with a very decent range of punches,” said McGrain, “(but his record) is comprised mostly of men any competent fighter would be expected to beat.”

Although only one boxer from Thailand has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Khaosai Galaxy, class of 1999), the Southeast Asia nation has produced some outstanding boxers over the years – Chartchoi Chionoi, Sot Chitalada, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to name just a few. The difference between these fighters and Wanheng Menayothin is that they all left the comfort zone of their homeland to score one or more important wins on foreign soil.

Menayothin may yet display his wares in a U.S. ring. But at age 35, an advanced age for small fighters in particular, we won’t get to see him at his best and now that his bubble has been burst, disinviting further comparisons to Mayweather and Marciano, the curiosity factor has been tempered.

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 115: Macho, Freddie and More

David A. Avila

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Camacho me and Mia

“Macho.”

That single word is how Hector Camacho presented himself when introduced. It was the only word needed for the three-division world champion from Puerto Rico who was raised in Harlem, New York.

The first time I met Camacho was in a dark and packed Las Vegas nightclub in the MGM where he was a guest of Oscar De La Hoya back in March 2001. Though it was difficult to see, when Camacho was introduced, I could see the large gold medallion with the word “Macho” in letters six inches high.

Showtime network will be presenting a documentary called “Macho: The Hector Camacho Story” on Friday, December 4 at 9 p.m. on Showtime. It sparks memories of how a fighter in the lower weight classes grabbed the attention of the boxing world.

Camacho was more than flash or words, he was an electrifying boxer who stood out in the 1980s, an era dominated by the “Four Kings” Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Oh, and also a guy named Mike Tyson.

The fast-talking Camacho was a phenomenal fighter who swept aside opponents with his blinding speed and shocking power. It was against Los Angeles-based fighters like Refugio Rojas and Louie Loy that I first read about his exploits. Both were knocked out.

A third Southern California fighter John “Huero” Montes was thought to be the one to give Camacho a real challenge. The fight was televised to a national audience in February 1983. At the time I was watching it on a tiny black and white television and at 1:13 into the first round Camacho unleashed one of those lethal uppercuts and Montes was out-for-the-count.

Camacho arrived that day.

From that point on few could withstand the speedy southpaw’s blinding charges. Six months later he stopped Mexico’s “Bazooka” Limon to win the vacant super featherweight title.

One fighter who heard the final bell was Freddie Roach who could take a punch and knew a thing or two about fighting southpaws.

“I liked fighting southpaws,” said Roach via telephone. “My dad taught me early to keep my foot on the outside and lead with right hands.”

Roach had never lost to a southpaw. The winner that day between Camacho and Roach in Sacramento, on December 1985, was supposedly going to fight Puerto Rico’s heavy-handed Edwin Rosario.

Using his surefire method of fighting southpaws, Roach managed a knockdown of Camacho with the help of his foot. But it was not enough.

“He was very difficult. Lot of people raved about how fast his speed was. You didn’t really realize until you got into the ring with him,” said Roach. “I wasn’t the slowest, but wasn’t the fastest. I just couldn’t keep up.”

Despite using roughhouse tactics against the lefty speedster, Roach said that Camacho invited him to dinner after the fight.

That pretty much explains Camacho, a talented and big-hearted guy.

Last Stages

The last time I ran into Camacho was at the Pechanga Resort and Casino when he and Mia St. John were about to fight on the same boxing card in 2009. He was much heavier but still able to defeat middleweights.

How good was Camacho?

He defeated two of the Four Kings when he beat Roberto Duran twice and stopped Sugar Ray Leonard by knockout when they fought in 1997. Yes, Leonard was 41 and had not fought in six years, but this was Sugar Ray Leonard.

“I didn’t think he would ever beat Leonard,” said Roach.

Neither did Leonard.

“I just felt that I was a bigger man. I was smarter, stronger, all those things, but the first time he threw a punch, it was like, Pow! And I said, ‘Wow, that hurt,’” said Leonard about their encounter. “I tried the best I could to just go the distance. When he was at his best, he was a thing of beauty.”

What I remember after Camacho beat Leonard was how sincerely apologetic he was after the victory. He could talk the talk and walk the walk but inside he remained the kid from Harlem who was given extraordinary talent. And he was humbled by it.

Roach remembers their dinner together after their fight.

“That night he took me out to dinner with his friends and said you fought a good fight,” said Roach adding that Camacho was a very likeable guy. “I saw him along the way in his career.”

Roach, who would later train another astoundingly fast southpaw named Manny Pacquiao, said he never fought anyone again as talented as Camacho.

“You hear rumors of drug problems and training problems. But when he fought me, he was in for 10 and I tried every trick in the book but it didn’t work. He was in a higher class than I was,” Roach said. “He was one of the best fighters in the world.”

Don’t miss this Showtime documentary next week.

Jacobs and Rosado

Speaking of Roach, the famous trainer will be working the corner of Gabe Rosado (25-12-1, 14 KOs) when he meets Daniel Jacobs (36-3, 30 KOs) on Friday, Nov. 27, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s Philly versus Brooklyn.

Rosado has long proven to be a real professional who keeps adding elements to his fight game. Paired with Roach he has further developed under the guidance of the Southern California-based trainer. Plus, Rosado can plain fight.

Jacobs, a former world champion, has proven to be an elite middleweight and looks just as comfortable as a super middleweight.

Expect the kind of prize fight they used to show in the Golden Age of boxing in the 1950s when you had guys like Johnny Saxton fighting Denny Moyer. It should be that kind of battle of wits and skill. I’m looking forward to it.

Photo: Hector Camacho, David Avila, and Mia St. John. Photo credit: Al Applerose

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