Statue of Evander Holyfield unveiled in Atlanta

ATLANTA (AP) — Soon after Friday’s unveiling of an Evander Holyfield statue outside State Farm Arena, the boxing champion was standing near where he grew up west of Atlanta.

The “Real Deal” was asked if he’d like another fight with Mike Tyson, whom he beat twice in a hall of fame career.

Memorably, his flustered opponent bit off a piece of Holyfield’s right ear June 28, 1997.

Tyson recently fought an exhibition vs. Roy Jones Jr., and Holyfield, 58, didn’t dismiss the idea.

“We’ll see what happens, but I’m good,” he said. “I have done everything I wanted to do. I had a great career. … I’m the only guy who’s been the heavyweight champion four times, I’ve been champion in two weight divisions, I made the Olympic team.”

The statue stood in storage for approximately two years.

Sculptor Brian Hanlon — who also did the statue of Hawks star Dominque Wilkins on the arena’s south plaza — was commissioned in 2017 and in 2019 finished the 10-foot, 2,500-lb., bronze commemorative and two-ton granite base.

Yet Fulton County Commission chairman Robb Pitts had nowhere for it.

“It didn’t take the sculptor but about six months, but since that time it’s been looking for a home,” Pitts said. “In a lot of cases … there was opposition from citizens who felt that tourists would be coming at all times of day (and) the commotion would disrupt their quality of life.”

Earlier this year, State Farm Arena and Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin offered a spot.

State Farm is on the site of the former Omni, where Holyfield first became a world champion with a 15-round split-decision victory over Dwight Muhammad Qawi on July 12, 1986, for the WBA cruiserweight title.

He fought in the Omni three times, and once in the former Georgia Dome.

Holyfield won bronze in the 1984 Olympics and then his first 28 pro fights as a cruiserweight and heavyweight on the way to a record of 44-10-1.

He is memorialized with no ear damage.

“It’s the first thing I looked at when I met him, and I don’t see any difference,” Hanlon said. “I really don’t, so it became a non-issue.”

As the youngest of nine children, Holyfield had problems getting attention before he started boxing when he was eight.

“I found out when I brought that first trophy home … when everybody come in the house, they’d look at that trophy, and say, ‘Ms. (Annie) Holyfield, who is the boxer?’ She’d smile and say, ‘That little one right there.’ They’d say, ‘He little,’ but my momma say, ‘He can fight, though.’”

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