Evander Holyfield - The Real Deal

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29 July 2010

“If you look at my boxing career based on the hands that were dealt to me, I think played them well. That’s why I was successful”

Bluff Europe goes head to head with the poker loving World Heavyweight Boxing champion.

We hear you caught the poker bug big-time, Evander…

Yeah, I always used to play poker as a kid when we’d go on all these different trips for boxing – it was a common game that a lot of people knew how to play.

Now I’m digging poker because it’s about thinking – just like boxing. I’m accustomed to this. Not every hand you’re dealt can be a good hand, so it’s just how you play it. In poker, you have to have a strategy; you have to have a plan. Do you need to do something to get chips right now, or do you need to be patient? What mistakes is this guy making? If I make a mistake with this guy, what are the consequences?

It’s like me fighting Mike Tyson. I knew I couldn’t make a single mistake with him because if I give him one shot it could be over. With Lennox Lewis it was different. With him, you had to be patient because he’s not going to show you his hand. Lennox had to be one of the most intelligent fighters I ever fought. He was a big guy and he was strong, too. There were so many factors you had to have to beat him because he had the stature, the strength, the skill and the intelligence. But if you look at my boxing career based on the hands that were dealt to me, I think played them well. That’s why I was successful.

Are we going to see you playing the pro poker circuit soon?

I think I would be very good at poker if I put all my time into it because I’m a thinker. Personally, if I get a little time to work on something I can be good at it. That’s why I’m the person I am. That’s why I’m the fighter I am.

How did you get involved with RealDealPoker.com?

Well, of course, I’m named “Real Deal” and their people thought about me because it’s been my fight name since 1984. The most important thing is what Real Deal means to me. I chose the name because Real Deal means that something’s been proven; it’s been tested and it endures. So when they approached me, I asked them why this was different from any other poker site, and the thing that marks it out is that it uses real cards. I said, “What do you mean real?” because to me it looked like computer cards; but they’re actually computerised cards generated from a real master deck and that means the games can be fully audited back to the master deck.
The big thing with me, and the reputation that I had in boxing, was that I did everything fair, I did everything honest and I did everything right. So that’s what RealDealPoker.com is all about – they’re fair.

You’ve just won the WBF title. How was that?

I’m honoured to win that title, but my goal is actually still the same as it always was – to be the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World. People say, “Why is that important?” It’s because everybody talks about being the “Real Deal”, about being the champion, but nobody’s fighting each other. I’m the guy who thinks that to be the Real Deal you have to be ready to fight anyone who’s willing. So I’m the WBF Champion and I’m looking forward to facing all the other title holders who want to fight me. The one thing about this game is that you can’t make people do what they don’t want to do, but I think I’ve got two more good years in me and if I can get anybody in the world who thinks they’re the best to fight me, then we’ll see who the Real Deal is!

Is age a big issue now? How do you stay sharp?

I always realised the most important thing is that it’s easy to be lazy. Even as a young lad I would never let myself get out of shape and, as I got older, that stayed the same. I have to live the lifestyle that’s necessary to be able to fight at any given time. Now, unfortunately I had some injuries that made people want me to stop, saying I was too old or whatever. Of course, if you get an injury it takes some time to recover, I and guess at times I didn’t take enough time to recover. I made some bad decisions. The guys that I was fighting at that time – I actually thought I could beat them even with an injury, and that was a foolish mistake.

Which victory was the most important to you?

That’s hard to say, because all my fights have allowed me to be who I am today. Even as a kid of eight-years-old fighting first match, my coach just told me, “Run out there and hit him in the nose!” After I won that fight he said to me, and I’ll always remember: “You took your first step to being Heavyweight Champion of the World!”

I remember my first loss too – I was 11-years-old. I started crying and wanted to quit. I told my coach I quit. And then when I went home I told my mother I quit and she said, “I didn’t raise a quitter!” and she made me go back. So I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for that fight. I went back and I fought that guy again, and he beat me again, and I tried to quit again, but my mother made me go back. Finally I beat that guy. I ran home and told my mother. I was so excited and she said, “Well, you don’t have to fight no more.”

I said, “But I won!”

And she told me these words that will be with me forever, and these are the words that allow me to continue to do what I do, which is box. She said, “Son, you passed the test. If you’d quit when things weren’t going your way, then you’ll be quitting your whole life and you’ll never achieve your goals.”

So at the age of 12 I really understood that. And I understood it so much that after that I think I lost nine other times but I never gave up, and my record as an amateur was 164/11, but if it wasn’t for those words I would have quit. So, if you look at my professional career in comparison with some of the other great heavyweights, I’ve probably had more setbacks than them – people call them “losses” but I call them “setbacks” – but I’m the only man to ever be called the world champ five times and that’s because if I ever fall short of a goal, I just reboot and try again.

What’s next for Evander? We hear you might be fighting one of the Klitschko brothers?

I think, in the first quarter of next year, one of the Klitschko brothers would like to fight, so I’ll be ready.

You can play against Evander Holyfield at RealDealPoker.com. Evander will be joining us down at Poker in the Park, September 2nd, in London’s Leicester Square. Come along and meet him!