Evander Holyfield remembers growing up on Atlanta’s Westside and not having a lot of money. He says he relied on the generosity of people like Carter Morgan, his coach, in order to pursue boxing.
“I realized that my mama didn’t have the money, but Mr. Morgan and the Georgia program set up a way for me to get an opportunity,” said Holyfield.
After attending Fulton High School, Holyfield won multiple world heavyweight boxing championships and a medal at the 1984 Olympics.
Above all, he credits his mother’s advice for his success.
“Listen, follow directions, and don’t quit,” Holyfield remembers his mom saying. “You do these three things and you’ll get there.”
On Friday, the city of Atlanta, Fulton County and the Atlanta Hawks unveiled a statue of Holyfield outside of State Farm Arena.
“I’m honored to be here today,” said Holyfield. “I thank all the people in my life that gave me this opportunity.”
The 10-foot bronze statue has actually been finished for some time now, but Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says it took several years to figure out the perfect spot for it.
“Thousands of people will come, and I would even venture to say over years, millions of people will pass this way coming into State Farm, and they’ll have an opportunity to see and honor our hometown hero,” said Bottoms.
Bottoms says the statue is the latest piece of public art meant to celebrate prominent figures in the city’s history.
The sculptor, Brian Hanlon, also designed the statue of Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins. It stands on the other side of the arena.
Hanlon says he tried to capture Holyfield’s intimidating presence in the ring.
“In my head, Evander Holyfield’s 10 feet tall,” said Hanlon. “And it was really cool that they let me do that. Because if I built the statue to be the size that he is, I don’t think it would have the impact, especially in this spot.”
Hanlon says the delay in unveiling the statue was worth the wait.
“It’s always Christmas morning. It always will be,” said Hanlon. “Every time I dedicate a piece, I feel very grateful.”
The unveiling comes one day before State Farm Arena hosts a major boxing event featuring Gervonta Davis and Mario Barrios.