Property from the Life & Career of Evander Holyfield

By Robert Ecksel on November 2, 2012
Property from the Life & Career of Evander Holyfield
“I think Evander Holyfield is easily one of the greatest fighters I've ever seen—for sure.”

On Friday, November 20, 2012, Property from the Life & Career of Evander Holyfield will be auctioned off at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills…

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”—Lewis Carroll

Evander Holyfield squandered his earnings. He’s not the first champion to do so, nor will he be the last. None of which makes it any more pleasant to write about, think about, and/or observe, even at a distance.

Nothing compares to being heavyweight champion. Winning an Oscar or Nobel Prize is nothing to sneeze at. But the glory they confer, however grand, doesn’t mean you’re the baddest man on the planet. There are achievements and there are achievements, and becoming heavyweight champion of the world is an achievement like no other. But with big achievement comes big ego, and with big ego comes big misconception. One misconception is that being king of the ring entitles one to live like a king outside the ring. Another is the belief that the good times will never end.

Now that his zillion room mansion has been foreclosed and he is tens of millions of dollars in debt, Evander Holyfield, with his back against the wall, has no choice but to part with his worldly possessions. Those worldly possessions are many and are of varying worth. They include everything from bric-a-brac, significant only insofar as Holyfield may have glanced at them once or twice, to classic cars and outlandish jewelry. Of greater significance, at least as far as we’re concerned, is the memorabilia he accrued by winning so many titles over so many years and that have value above and beyond the material value to which they’re now attached.

On Friday, November 20, 2012, Property from the Life & Career of Evander Holyfield will be auctioned off at Julien’s Auctions. Julien’s, which is known as the “auction house to the stars,” is located on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, a couple of streets over from Rodeo Drive. Over the years they have handled the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand and Cher. And now Evander Holyfield joins their august ranks. Two weeks in advance of the auction, the Holyfield items in will be on display in Julien’s 10,000 square foot gallery. The public is invited free of charge to examine what is being offered. For those not near Beverly Hills with a hankering to own a piece of boxing history, there’s also an online catalogue for you to peruse.

Motivated as much by curiosity as by revulsion, and because this is no ordinary auction, I spoke Dan Nelles, Sport Specialist at Julien’s Auctions. I asked him about auctions in general and this auction specifically, as well as about boxing and Evander Holyfield.

“This is the first estate single consigner sport sale we’ve done,” Nelles told me. “When we work with one individual, we call it a single consignor sale. When we take consignments from multiple people it’s called multi-consigner sale. We’ve done multi-consigner sport sales that have included items from athletes or athlete family members, but it’s the first sale that we’ve done solely and specifically with one athlete.”

I’m here to learn and learned something as soon as Nelles spoke. Encouraged, I wanted to know if it Holyfield first approached Julien’s, or if Julien’s first approached Holyfield.

“It was sort of 50-50,” said Nelles. “We learned that he was looking for an outlet to have his own auction. We have a relationship with some associates of his. So through those people we were able to connect and discuss and contract to do the auction with him.”

Julien’s might have a relationship with some associates of Holyfield’s, but it all seemed strangely remote, if not somewhat cold-blooded. To personalize matters, I asked Nelles if he was fortunate enough to meet the former champ.

“I met him once,” he replied, “and I thought he was great. I had a chance to have dinner with him in Atlanta and after fifteen minutes of small talk, for lack of a better way to put it, we got into some conversations and we talked for about an hour and a half and I found him to be a very, very wise person. He’s obviously had a lot of life lessons and a lot of experience in order to have these life lessons, but he has a lot of wisdom to pass on. He has a good outlook on life. That was my impression of him. I enjoyed my time with him very much.”

Holyfield is likable. That Nelles liked him as he did made me like Nelles all the more. Holyfield may have made his share of mistakes, the “life lessons” of which Nelles spoke. But who among us has not? Depending on one’s frame of mind, this might be is the perfect time to kick Holyfield when he’s down. Or it could be an opportunity to look upon his failings, his weaknesses as it were, as that which humanizes a boxing superman.

I’m wary by nature, and that wariness extends in many directions and includes such things as auctions. In that niggling spirit I asked Nelles what connection, if any, aside from having had an agreeable dinner with Holyfield, he had to boxing.

“I’m originally from Canada,” he said, “and my father actually boxed in high school. So when I was growing up, whenever boxing was on TV, if it was on ABC’s Wide World of Sports or those sorts of shows, he was just enraptured. I could have walked in and asked him to buy me a Ferrari and he would have said yes. Everything stopped when boxing was on TV. My upbringing was around Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler, and then obviously later Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. I still think to this day that the first Tyson-Holyfield is one of if not the best heavyweight fights I’ve ever seen. I was about seven or eight when Muhammad Ali was finishing up in 1981, so I didn’t really learn about his legend until later in life. But as far as my generation is concerned, I think Evander Holyfield is easily one of the greatest fighters—for sure.”

Returning to the Holyfield auction, I wanted to know how it was going to be structured.

“On the actual auction day we have a live auction here in our gallery here in Beverly Hills with a full-fledged auctioneer. But we also have an online component. We have a very, very large global client base. We have bidders all over the world. What happens is on the actual auction day through our online platform, Julienslive.com, we have a real-time video and audio stream of the auctioneer, so people that are bidding online are not just going to be looking at a nondescript screen. You’re actually going to be watching the auction and bidding at the auction with people that are in the room, and all over the world for that matter. We also offer open phone bidding, so people can bid over the phone, and we’ll act as they’re broker, live in the room. And the last piece we have is absentee bidding. If you see an item and you figure out what your ceiling is that you’d like to go to, you can place an absentee bid, and what we do is feed that bid into our automatic bidding system and the computer will bid on your behalf up to a certain level. So we have four different avenues where people can bid at our auctions.”

It sounded easy, almost too easy, to place a bid. There’s nothing I’m looking for, but was curious which items Nelles thought were of most interest.

“I would say Evander’s championship belts,” he said. “They are one of a kind. They’re touchstones in sports history, as far as his accomplishments are concerned. We have the first three belts he won, his WBA cruiserweight belt, and his IBF cruiserweight and WBC cruiserweight belts, where he unified the cruiserweight title, the only boxer in history to ever do that. And then we have the WBA, IBF and WBC belts from the Buster Douglas fight. We also have the IBF and WBA belts from the second Riddick Bowe fight. So those I think are some of the most significant items. From more of a memorabilia perspective, I’d say his robe and trunks from the first Mike Tyson fight are very significant pieces. We also have lots of his fight-worn gloves, including the gloves from the ‘bite fight,’ the second Tyson fight where he took a little bit of his ear with him. I think those are the most significant items, but there really is something for everyone. We have everything from signed trunks he had but never wore through to the belts and his championship rings and trophies. It really is one of the most complete, I think, boxing offerings to come to the marketplace.”

The rules of business are the rules of business, and there’s no room for something contrary like sentimentality. But since he met Holyfield, likes Holyfield, respects both the man and his accomplishments, I asked Dan Nelles how he reconciled the mutually exclusive realms of business and sentimentality. I also confessed to not knowing whether that was a business or personal question.

“Well,” he said, “I think it’s probably both. I grew up as a sports fan. I’m a fan first and foremost, and this is someone I watched growing up. On top of that I’ve come to know him, obviously not as well as family members or other people, so it is kind of a Catch-22. There is definitely part of it that is emotional, because I have no interest in bad things happening to people. I don’t have negative thoughts. I want the best for everybody. So it is difficult. That being said, he has contracted with us for the auction, so our job now is to do the very best we can for him and to monetize the potential of the items in the sale. That’s part of the reason we put a lot of work into our catalogues, because they’re going to exist in theory forever. They’re not thrown away. They never change. It will be on record in perpetuity. My goal for this sale in putting the catalogue together was to try to have the catalogue be as much of a reflection of Evander’s accomplishments and to demonstrate the level of success and impact he’s had on the sport of boxing and on sports in general. I definitely tried to tailor it as a career retrospective, and also to make sure his legacy was intact. It’s never easy in that respect because I certainly feel for the man.

“But on the flip side, this is my job. I love my job and I’m very grateful and humble to be in this position. I’ve been in constant communication with Evander and his representatives throughout the process to make sure that they’ve approved everything and signed off on everything, so it’s definitely been a simpatico relationship. But it is difficult. I’m not going to lie. It is tough. But once the individual makes the decision to contract with us, then is our job to represent him as best as we possibly can.”

And then there were some

No sooner had I written the above that the Associated Press informed me, alas not personally, that Holyfield filed a lawsuit against Julien’s in an attempt to stop the auction.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Los Angeles and seeks to block the sale of 20 of the almost 450 items for sale, including but not limited to the gloves he wore in his first fight with Tyson, his robe from the Olympics, the title belts he won in 1993, and last but not least a Father of the Year award.

Darren Julien, President and CEO of Julien’s Auctions, is reportedly not too happy. He said Holyfield has been advanced hundreds of thousands of dollars and already selected the items he said he wanted to keep.

According to the lawsuit, if “Holyfield is forced to sell those few items of personal property that have the very most sentimental value to him as he looks back over his career, and which he wants to pass down to future generations of his family, the hardship is overwhelming and irreparable.”

I came not to bury Holyfield, but to praise him. Now, with his latest turn of events. I don’t know what to think. I’m inclined to write holy smokes or holy moly, but maybe caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is more appropriate.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Dale Moore 02:35pm, 03/31/2018

    Hello!  Trying to sell a sweatshirt with Holifield on it. Its from the Olympics in Atlanta. He is holding a belt.  He signed it. Do you think it is worth anything? Could not upload it…

  2. BIKERMIKE 07:27am, 12/11/2013

    Tyson was no saint ...but he was a great fighter….I don’t let his personal life poison my judgement about his Boxing Thresher….talk about kicking a man when he’s down !!!  shame

  3. Steven Stahler 07:33pm, 12/04/2013

    I was fortunate to have been a judge for Evander’s nephew William Holyfields entire pro career, albeit a short one. My son and I were fortunate to spend time with them before and after the fights. What a class act that family is. A warrior for sure. A gentleman and man of God absolutely.

    People will judge him; those that live in glass houses of course. Moron’s all. Cheap, judgmental comments are useful in sweaty locker rooms when the gossips own life isn’t worthy of discussion..

    He was the Humble Warrior. Whatever happened to humble? Ghetto sure isn’t attractive.

    My favorite and one of the best heavyweights in history. You will live forever in true boxing fans hearts.

  4. bikermike 11:37am, 11/05/2012

    Most folks don’t understand money….they live from paycheque to paycheque…..if there is anything left when they retire….it is a surprise. These folks feel that only rich people invest…and so they never do ....come age 65…..big surprise…no, make that big disappointment !!

  5. bikermike 11:32am, 11/05/2012

    Now….I spent most of my money earned from my youth on cars and pussy and booze….like most young lads from my time…from the sixties to the eighties….

    However…I finally woke up..and began to invest ...as per the teachings of Warren Buffet….
    Since the 1980’s…..I have been following the markets…and investing for my future.
    Had I done this when I first entered the workforce….I would be very comfortable…...more so than now.

    FIghters must be briefed on how this works…..as what they do now…..is draw down from the bank account until it is all gone…somethimes it takes twenty years…but it IS ALL GONE !!!

  6. bikermike 11:23am, 11/05/2012

    Joe Louis died broke…Joe Frazier died broke…Sugar Ray Robinson died broke…even Rocky Marciano was scratching…when he met the great REFEREE IN THE SKY…..only guys like Larry Holmes…who invested his money in his community…and still lives well took what was left of his winnings…and sank them into something he believed in…EASTON, PENNSYLVANIA…....Ray Leonard invested wisely as well….Gerry Cooney did so too….

  7. bikermike 11:17am, 11/05/2012

    Sad to see such a great fighter end up this way.

    In NFL..National Baseball…NBA etc….financial advice is demanded by the players….and given…(it is still not illegal to be stupid…so not all players follow the advice given..but it is given)...boxing does not share financial advice with fighters….and many times…fighters’ ignorance is depended upon ...when negotiating and dispersing the Purse that was won.

    With fine upstanding gentlemen like Don King and Bob Arum at the top of the food chain ...when it comes to money from boxing matches being dispersed…... no wonder they don’t allow financial planners to become involved.

  8. bikermike 11:09am, 11/05/2012

    Do yourself a favour…and check out Evander Holyfield’s career.

    A natural Cruiser laid waste to most heavyweights of his time…Tyson..Bowe..and even Lewis…

    Evander Holyfield was THE REAL FUKN DEAL

    It is so sad such a talented accomplished fighter squandered his earnings….Hearns….Frazier…and many others…....did so as well

  9. pugknows 08:04pm, 11/03/2012

    Numbers don’t lie.

  10. CHUCK WILLIAMS 06:19pm, 11/03/2012

    CHARLIE,

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENT ... JUST TURNED 50 I BELIEVE MY FRIEND EVANDER IS IN A POSITION TO DO WHAT YOU SUGGEST “I BELIEVE HE HAS THE STRENGTH TO MAKE POSITIVE CHOICES” AND I BELIEVE HE IS IN THAT SPOT AT THIS TIME IN HIS LIFE ... THANKS ... Chuck

  11. Charlie Boodgie 05:56pm, 11/03/2012

    Chuck, of course we’ve all made mistakes - hopefully we learn from them…..and this is the crossroads for Evander -he can move forward and upward or he can spend time mourning his lost ‘stuff’.and remain in the hole he has dug.  I believe he has the strength to make positive choices when he lets go of his past.

  12. CHUCK WILLIAMS 05:17pm, 11/03/2012

    FIRST, LET ME REMIND THOSE MAKING NEGATIVE COMMENTS TO REFLECT ON “LET THEE WITHOUT SIN THROW THE FIRST STONE” 

    WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES IN LIFE ... SOME MORE THAN OTHERS ... WITH ALL THE STORIES WRITTEN VERY SELDOM ARE THEY REGARDING THE GOOD DEEDS ONE DOES IN LIFE BUT RATHER THE NEGATIVE AND SENSATIONAL ...
    I’VE KNOWN EVANDER SINCE 1980 AND I TELL MY FRIENDS ... I ACCEPT YOU FOR YOUR SHINY SPOTS AND BLEMISHES AS WE ALL HAVE BOTH ...

    I WAS AT EVANERS’S 50TH BIRTHDAY PARTY AT JULIEN’S AND WAS SADDENED BY SOME OF THE ITEMS I SAW TO BE AUCTIONED ...

    A NUMBER OF EVANDER’S CHILDREN WERE THERE FROM A SIX YEAR OLD BOY TO A 27 YEAR OLD FEMALE ... I CAME AWAY VERY IMPRESSED WITH HOW RESPECTFUL AND FRIENDLY THEY ALL WERE ... THAT ONLY HAPPENS WHEN CHILDREN ARE WELL CARED FOR BY BOTH PARENTS ...

    ONE MESSAGE I GIVE MR. DARREN JULIEN IS TO TRY AND WORK SOME REASONABLE SOLUTION REGARDING THE 20 ITEMS EVANDER IS ASKING TO HAVE BACK TO PRESERVE FOR HIS FAMILY ...

    NO MATTER HOW ONE LOOKS AT IT, EVANDER IS THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS TO LIVE WITH HIS PAST ACTIONS AND TO DO WHAT HE CAN TO IMPROVE AREAS HE MAY NOT BE HAPPY ABOUT ...  ...

    I CARE FOR EVANDER AND HAVE HAD A NUMBER OF ONE ON ONE VISITS WITH HIM AND HAVE ALWAYS FOUND HIM TO BE INTELLIGENT AND FRIENDLY ... I WISH HIM THE BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME FROM THIS CHALLENGE HE IS FACING ... EVANDER IS “A WARRIOR” IN THE TRUEST SENSE SO I’M CONFIDENT HE WILL OVERCOME ...  GOD BLESS ... Chuck Williams

  13. Charlie Boodgie 05:07pm, 11/03/2012

    Really enjoyed this article.  The auctioneer was very informative and appears to be sincere, and the article/interview was written objectively.  What I don’t understand, and I have to echo FrankinDallas - what was Evander’s plan - yes, I’ve read he’s participating in their upbringing - but what about their security, their heritage - where’s the role model here.?  And now he wants to wriggle out of an agreement he made - he’s facing bankruptcy and he’s worried about losing his ‘things’?  A little late and a dollar short.  Pay attention to the future, Evander, not the past.

  14. the thresher 05:27am, 11/03/2012

    This prolific baby maker has worn out his welcome. I don’t much care for those who profess to be Christians, but walk another path. It’s called hypocrisy and this dude is a hypocrite.

  15. peter 04:11am, 11/03/2012

    In 1979, in NYC, I remember “The Paloger Collection of Muhammad Ali Memorabilia” was actioned off by Christie’s. Ali’s robes, ticket stubs, used gloves, signed posters, old shoes, worn mouthpieces, even a signed cigarette, were on the auction block. Christie’s thick, glossy catalogue is 286 pages replete with Ali memorabilia. This Holyfield auction isn’t exactly the same because Ali wasn’t directly selling off his stuff, but it’s similar enough to be a bit woeful.

  16. Jim Crue 06:54pm, 11/02/2012

    Evander has the heart of a lion and the brain of a donkey. If I live 10 more years I will get to see Mayweather in the same position.

  17. FrankinDallas 06:25pm, 11/02/2012

    I have ZERO sympathy for Evander. Dude has 11 children with various women; all his millions and he’s too cheap to buy a condom for a few bucks? And sure, he absolutely HAD to have a 50,000 sq ft house.

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