The Rise Of A Boxer
With football proving a disappointment, despite his best efforts, Holyfield returned to boxing, which had the advantage of different weight divisions. He began training seriously with Coach Morgan, who pushed the youth to test his limits, and transcend them. At times, the coach seemed to be driving Holyfield too hard, but Morgan expressed such faith in his potential that Holyfield struggled to be worthy of that faith. Then came a major setback. When Holyfield was 16, Morgan died following a long illness. Again he contemplated quitting, feeling that without Morgan pushing him there was no reason to go on. "Then," recalled his brother Bernard, in Holyfield: The Humble Warrior, co-written with Evander, "with a jolt of clarity, Evander realized that their last few training sessions together must have been harder on the ailing coach than on himself. With the clear judgement of hindsight, Evander recognized that the old man's relentless goading had not been based on loss of patience but rather on loss of time." Suddenly it seemed that quitting would be an insult to Morgan's memory. Holyfield returned to the gym to train with Morgan's son, Ted.
Holyfield's next big inspiration occurred when the Olympic Trials came to Atlanta in 1980. Watching the competition closely, he began to see himself as a gold medal contender. It was a question of training and experience, and he knew how and where to get both. After graduating from high school, he worked two jobs, as a lifeguard and as a plane fueler. But mostly he trained, getting up at four in the morning to jog before work and training at the gym after work. He almost never missed a workout, and rested only on Sundays.
He also fought in the Golden Gloves amateur competitions. Between 1980 and 1984 he racked up an impressive record of 160 wins against 14 losses, with 75 knockout wins. He also won the national Golden Gloves amateur title in 1982 and the National Sports Festival boxing title in 1983. And in 1984, he qualified for the Olympic boxing team. Unfortunately, the 1984 Olympics proved somewhat disappointing. After knocking out three opponents, he was disqualified in the championship match after allegedly hitting an opponent a second after the referee had ordered the fighters to separate. This call remains highly controversial, and to this day, Holyfield says, people still ask him, "What
happened at the Olympics?" Holyfield did get a bronze medal, but after the controversial decision, it seemed more like a badge of shame.