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“Tears Just Fell In My Eyes”: Evander Holyfield Reveals Only Fighter He Was Afraid to Face But Beat Him to Win Junior Olympics 

Published 11/16/2023, 4:01 PM EST

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Evander Holyfield was anything but a quitter in his career. Holyfield boasted a spectacular record of 160-14 in his amateur days, with 75 scathing knockouts. As a fighter who started fighting at the age of 7 and grew up in a crime-infested neighborhood, it is only natural for us to think that Holyfield was a naturally tough guy. However, as it turns out even this legendary fighter had a nemesis once, and at the age of 11, he encountered a fighter that brought tears to his eyes. Incidentally, that was not the last time this would happen.

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When the word ‘fear’ is uttered around Evander Holyfield, it seems one name emerges in his memory – Cecil Collins. Cecil Collins was the fighter who gave him his first tough fight, which made him realize that he was not undefeatable.

Evander Holyfield talks about his childhood nightmare


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At 11, he faced his first defeat at the hands of Collins. It was the first of three amateur boxing matches. And that was a shocker to ‘The Real Deal’. Before the fight, an official asked him, “Are you afraid to fight this kid?” Holyfield responded in the negative. But what followed entrenched a deep fear in him, so much so that he even began dodging Collins at a later stage.

Describing his first fight against Collins, ‘The Real Deal’ said, “When we fought, oh man, it was a tough fight through from the start to the end. And he got the decision.” That defeat got tears in his eyes. But this was not the last time Holyfield would cry on account of Collins. A thought to quit flashed to him, but his mother’s teachings overpowered the sentiment.  Subsequently, Holyfield entered the ring yet again to defeat Collins. But again, he could not. Holyfield registered a second loss. He was 13 by then and was carefully dodging the weight classes that Collins would fight in.


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Despite his relentless effort to evade Collins, fate would level them against each other for a third time. This time it was a fight he could not escape. It was the Junior Olympics final, and his opponent? The much-feared Collins himself. When the fighter learned about his upcoming fight against Collins, he teared up in angst. He says, ” I’d seen his name, and tears just fell in my eyes.But Holyfield powered through his fears and finally defeated Collins that night. He won the gold amidst a feeling of relief and achievement. So, what was it that made Cecil Collins almost invincible?

What made Collins so different?

Holyfield distinguishes the fighter not just from a fight standpoint. But his analysis is a bit deeper. It is about what he came with. The Real Deal says, “Now this kid here, with other kids, their mama and father were with them. And they were always smiling and they had their hair combed to the right side and like that. And grinning and like but when I fought this kid, this kid mom and dad were not with him.”

Collins was a kid who did not come with the pomp that other white kids came with. He had no parental support in his corner, no robe. Holyfield says, “This kid didn’t fight in boxing shoes, just like I ain’t fighting in boxing shoes. And so the other kids used to have a nice robe on. This kid didn’t have a robe on. And his mom wasn’t with him. And that was the only different thing.”


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Evander Holyfield’s early clashes with Cecil Collins, a fighter devoid of parental support and boxing luxuries, epitomized more than victories and losses.  Tears shed, fears confronted, and victories achieved reflected the resilience ingrained in his character.

In case you are wondering about what happened to Cecil Collins, Collins never fought professionally. He worked as a security guard and a  truck driver. In 1997, Holyfield invited him to his house and thanked him for being his toughest opponent. Collins said he was proud of Holyfield and happy for his success.


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What do you think of the Holyfield-Collins Saga? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by:

Mohammed Shafiulla


One take at a time

Mohammed Shafiulla is a Boxing Writer at EssentiallySports. With a background as a freelance journalist, he has covered a wide array of subjects before finding his niche at ES. Armed with a double major in journalism and literature, he brings a unique and insightful perspective to the sport of Boxing, highlighting its rich history and enduring appeal.
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Edited by:

Debmallya Chakraborty