CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The former heavyweight champion of the world made a stop in Charleston Wednesday to encourage some young boxers to reach for their dreams. Evander Holyfield is in town for the 2014 Junior Olympic National Championships being held at the Charleston Civic Center.

Growing up in Atlanta as the youngest of 9 children, Holyfield said things weren’t easy. But when he joined the Boy’s Club when he was 8 his life changed forever.

“I was told at 8-years-old I could be the heavyweight champ of the world, if I didn’t quit. A man asked me, ‘What do you think?’ I said I had to ask my momma. He looked and smiled and said, ‘You’ve got a good momma. You go ask that momma.’ I went and asked by mother and she said, ‘You have to listen. You have to follow directions. You have to not quit,'” recounted Holyfield.

That’s the same advice he gives to young boxers today. He said it takes drive, determination and someone pushing you toward your dream to succeed. He also stresses to kids success comes only after hard work and practice.

“So I lost my first match when I was 11-years-old and I wanted to quit. And my momma said, ‘I didn’t raise a quitter! You’ve got to go back.'”

Holyfield did just that and at the age of 13 he qualified for his first Junior Olympics and in 1984 won a bronze medal at the L.A. Olympic Games.

Holyfield said a lot of the kids he talks to come from the same type of background and are facing the same kind of challenges he did 30 years ago. That’s why he enjoys mentoring young boxers.

“The thing is to come back and give back to the program, be able to talk to these same kids. (They) probably came from the same situation I came from. If they don’t quit, they can be successful as well,” stressed Holyfield.

Nearly 200 of the best young boxers in the U.S. will compete for coveted titles in their weight and age groups. Tickets to the event are $10 per session or a $30 pass for all sessions through Saturday.

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  • DP

    Evander is one of my ALL TIME favorite boxers! He was as tough as nails and had the heart of a lion. Prior to his first match with Mike Tyson, no one was giving him much of a chance. But I listened to Angelo Dundee (one of the greatest trainers of all time) predict E.H. (whom he had followed since Evander was a kid) would beat Tyson. Not only did he beat Tyson, he beat him TWO times-and each time he beat him Badly!!!

    Hopefully these kids were inspired by E.H.'s story and more importantly, they conduct themselves with as much class as E.H. always has!!!