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Heavyweight Champ Visits Charleston

Reported by: Send eMail Stefano DiPietrantonio, Kennie Bass
Reported: Jun. 11, 2014 12:44 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 11, 2014 11:28 PM EDT

Holyfield in Town
Eyewitness News Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

It was a big night in the Capitol City Wednesday night. Not only did we have rock royalty in town, with Sir Elton John, but also a boxing legend as well - Evander Holyfield.

Holyfield is the only five-time heavyweight boxing champion in history, and he was here promoting the USA Boxing Junior Olympic National Championships.

The young boxers said it was a thrill having him watch and guide them in the ring. Their eyes lit up, just knowing boxing greatness was in the house.

"Yeah, it was an honor to meet him, he's one of my inspirations growing-up," Jamon Lewis of Phoenix, Ariz. said.

Plenty of other Junior Olympic hopefuls said meeting Holyfield was a rare treat, to not only meet a champ, but also to have him watch their best moves.

"Most athletes like that probably won't have the time to be here," Lewis said.

"It actually makes me feel like I can do better. It makes me more excited. I like fighting for the crowds in front of people," Victor Morales, Jr., who is a Junior Champ already at 16 years old, said.

This is his ninth year boxing and, like Holyfield, he started young. Holyfield credits the Boys Club in Atlanta, GA with giving him direction.

"I was told, at 8 years old, I could be the heavyweight champ of the world if I didn't quit," Holyfield said. "I lost my first match when I was 11 years old and I wanted to quit. My mama said, ‘I did not raise a quitter. You gotta go back. So I went back, and I lost again!’ "

He finally beat the guy when he turned 12.

You could not miss Holyfield’s towering frame in the crowds at Yeager Airport Wednesday morning. He was in town on his own dime, hoping to make a difference with young boxers.

The “Real Deal” also took time to get up-close and personal. Ipads and smartphones out, it was a selfie K.O. for hundreds of fans!

Most importantly, though, his message to the young athletes: “Keep going”.

"If they don't quit, they can be successful as well," Holyfield said.

The matches continue through Friday, then wrap-up with finals Saturday night at the Charleston Civic Center.

The only five-time heavyweight boxing champion in history is visiting the capital city.

Evander Holyfield is visiting Charleston while promoting the USA boxing Junior Olympic National Championships.

Holyfield was greeted at Yeager Airport Wednesday morning by a large contingent including Charleston Mayor Danny Jones.

He said the sport gives young people a way to stay off of the streets, learn discipline and respect.

Holyfield started boxing before he was a teenager and debuted professionally at the age of 21.

He said promoting the sport is his way of giving back some of what he has learned over the years.

A free meet and greet with the champ is scheduled 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.

The championship boxing action gets under way Wednesday evening and continues through Saturday.

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