His right ear still bearing stitches from Mike Tyson’s chomp, Evander Holyfield was greeted Sunday by a cheering and singing crowd in South Africa, where he will meet with President Nelson Mandela.
“People laugh at it,” Holyfield said at an airport news conference. “Actually, I laugh at it myself. Yes, he bit my ear and it’s over and people call me the ‘Real Meal’ now.”
Holyfield, ordinarily nicknamed the “Real Deal,” received a rousing welcome from several hundred people chanting “Holy, Holy.” Some in the crowd sang the worker’s song “Shoshaloza,” an unofficial South African sports anthem.
The heavyweight champion appeared delighted and a little surprised at the reception. Wearing a black-and-white checked jacket, blue shirt and purple cap, he waved as a phalanx of security guards whisked him by.
Holyfield, whose visit is sponsored by Coca-Cola, said he came to South Africa to see the country, meet with Mandela and talk to children about what it takes to succeed in life.
He brought a present for Mandela - “It’s a surprise” - and said he wanted to talk to as many youngsters as possible to show them how someone from a tough background reached the top.
Echoing a favorite theme of Mandela’s, Holyfield said children were the future and needed to be taught how to deal with adversity and develop a good attitude.
Ever the gentleman, he refused to get drawn into a debate on what penalty Tyson should receive this week from boxing authorities for the ear-biting attack that disqualified him from the June 28 bout in Las Vegas.
“He has to pay the price, whatever is necessary,” Holyfield said. “Hopefully, this will shape the course of boxing so that no one else will ever get fouled.”
Earlier, Holyfield appeared to be talking about Tyson when he said, without naming names, that people must develop a good attitude to overcome hardship.
“You may not win all the time, but you need to have a good attitude to respond properly,” he said. “People say boxing is a vicious sport. It’s not the sport itself. It’s individuals. You just get some corrupt people.”
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