St. Petersburg Times: Super Bowl XXXV
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    To Rev. Jackson: God forgives

    By ROGER MILLS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 22, 2001


    They call him "The Real Deal" and he's in town for the Super Bowl. Here is boxing great Evander Holyfield with some straights and jabs of his own with Times staff writer Roger Mills.

    * * *

    RM: Why boxing?

    EH: For any kid, they want to do the things that they do better than anybody else. Nobody wants to go on the basketball court and play and get embarrassed. As a kid, it's like an ego thing and when you're the strongest one and when you're not afraid of people, then that's how you get into boxing. My whole thing, as a kid, I tried everything. I was on the swim team. I played football. I played linebacker and fullback.

    RM: Any regrets?

    EH: Not in boxing. It's something that has helped me become the man that I am. The reason I chose boxing over football was because (in football) you don't get better than someone unless you're on the field, and if you don't get on the field a lot, you can get gun-shy. In boxing, it's up to you and how hard you're going to fight. It's all in your hands. RM: Should religion be so prominent in sports?

    EH: I think when you're talking about religion, you're talking about the inner core and what people believe in. So it belongs everywhere. If you don't have anything to believe in, you have nothing. My belief is what is me, and it's something I would die for. You're talking about somebody giving their lives to something.

    RM: If you were running boxing, what would be different?

    EH: The rules and regulations would be different. I would have a better system. One thing I would certainly change is that you can't be No. 1 unless you beat the No. 2 guy. It's got to be a pyramid-type thing. You take all the fighters and fix them in that way where to be on top, you have to fight the two guys right beneath you. You can't get up there unless you fight somebody.

    RM: Do you see stuff that isn't right in boxing?

    EH: All the time, I see it all the time. My momma always tells me that everything in life isn't right. There's a lot of stuff that's wrong. Look, when Tyson went to jail and I was still fighting, then he came out and he was No. 1 and I was ranked No. 10. Things like that make me realize that life is what it is and you just have to handle the challenges.

    RM: Should states fly the Confederate flag?

    EH: I don't think they should, even though they do. Now, someone asked me whether they should just take the flag down, just like that. I said, "Not just like that." We do have rules and regulations, and although the flag reflects something oppressive, you have to follow the law and do it the right way. If they just take that flag down without going through the proper channels, it'll go back up just as easy. It's got to be made law.

    RM: Should women box?

    EH: My whole thing is that I wouldn't want my daughter fighting, but it's okay if they keep everything in proper perspective. They can't let them get in the ring with a man, and it's inevitable. That's the thing that bothers me. It's going to happen. There'll be some very good women fighters who can probably fight with some men, but eventually she's going to get hurt and then they'll say, "How did this happen?" You just don't put women and men together to fight, and I think it'll happen.

    RM: What's your take on the new hip-hop music generation?

    EH: Ain't nothing wrong about rap and that kind of music, but it's what they say sometimes that's not good. It's the lyrics. When they get to the point that somebody is cursing all the time and making people feel the wrong way. And then there are the videos and all those young girls gyrating their bodies, and then you have a whole high school of young people dressing the wrong way.

    RM: Words of advice for Jesse Jackson?

    EH: God forgives. People are going to say whatever they want to say. But we know we make mistakes. But, you did what you did. You can't hide from it. He did it and that's all there is to it.

    RM: He's taking a beating though.

    EH: You're talking about a reverend, and he's making it hard on himself. They came at me the same way, but I wasn't a reverend. I don't feel sorry for anybody. It's not that I don't have sympathy, but we create our own situations and we have to pay a price. I have all those kids, and I have to take care of them. That's the price I have to pay. There are a lot of people out there who are ready to look up your mess and expose your shortcomings. But you know what? All news becomes old news.

    RM: Which opponent has hit you the hardest? EH: Riddick Bowe. It was in the back of the head, and every time I look at the tape I wince.

    RM: Who have you hit the hardest?

    EH: Buster Douglas. It was just that he was getting ready to hit me and I timed it perfectly and it was like a shot out of a shotgun. He went down and that was it.

    RM: What's worse, a Mike Tyson right or a Mike Tyson bite?

    EH: It all depends. The thing about the bite was that I didn't expect it, so it hurt that way. But the right hand can knock you out cold. I would rather take the bite than that right hand.

    RM: Ever been to the Cobalt Lounge in Buckhead?

    EH: I don't hang out. That's how you get in trouble.

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