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Evander Holyfield steps back into ring by starting promotion company

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Inside the boxing ring, Evander Holyfield accomplished so much: 1984 Olympic bronze medalist, the first and only undisputed cruiserweight world champion, undisputed heavyweight champion and he is the only four-time heavyweight titleholder.

The "Real Deal" has a résumé loaded with huge fights, including two upsets of Mike Tyson, a famed trilogy with Riddick Bowe and significant victories against George Foreman, Larry Holmes and others.

But Holyfield has not been closely involved in boxing since he had his final fight, a 10th-round knockout victory in Denmark over Brian Nielsen in 2011. Now, however, Holyfield, 54, is diving back into the fight game as a promoter with the recent founding of Real Deal Championship Title Boxing.

Holyfield founded the company earlier this year with partner and longtime New York promoter Sal Musumeci. They plan to put on their first event in the coming months at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, New Jersey with the company's cards to be televised on CBS Sports Net, Holyfield said.

Holyfield said he has been interested in getting into the promotional end of boxing for quite some time and he felt like the deal with Musumeci was finally the right situation.

"I always wanted to get into it but I was trying to get the right people," Holyfield told ESPN in a ringside interview on Saturday night at Legacy Arena, where he was working as an analyst for the Premier Boxing Champions telecast on Fox of the Deontay Wilder-Gerald Washington heavyweight world title fight. "The thing is that it's about the fighters. I didn't want to get with someone who would take advantage of the fighters and it will look bad on me.

"Boxing was very good to me and I wanted to give something back to this sport. I think I can do that promoting fighters and the sport of boxing. We want the thing to be competitive. We want to deal with everybody. We're looking for good fighters. We're looking for fights to put on TV and for people to see competitive fights."

Holyfield said he also hoped to change the philosophy that some hold in boxing that a loss is a career-killer.

"Ain't nothing wrong if you lose a fight," he said. "I lost [10]. But look how many times I won the championship. I want to try to get to the point where all the promoters come together and we have the best fights."

Holyfield said he will not simply be a figurehead lending his famous name to the business. No, he said he will roll up his sleeves and work his rear end off like he did throughout his 27-year fighting career in which he went 44-10-2 with 29 knockouts.

"I'm gonna put some work in. I'm gonna put my time in," Holyfield said. "I'm old enough to know that if you just give people something and let them run with it they'll mess you up."

Holyfield, who is once again working with his longtime adviser and attorney Jim Thomas, who accompanied him to Birmingham, said when he was a guest at the WBC's annual convention in Miami in December he ran into Musumeci and they got to talking.

"He was asking me why I wasn't doing anything in boxing. I said because there ain't nobody I could trust," Holyfield said. "I'm not going to give my name to anybody."

From there Holyfield said he and Musumeci decided to move forward with founding the company.

Holyfield's entrance into promoting may also be to make some money following a bankruptcy that cost him his opulent Atlanta mansion and forced him to put up for auction memorabilia from his career. So 2017 could be a big year for Holyfield. Besides the new company, he will also be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, in June. He was elected in his first year of eligibility.

"They gave me the respect. I did the work already," Holyfield said of his election. "It made me start thinking about how amazing my career was. I'm excited about it because it's my first time going to the Hall of Fame. [I said] I'm gonna go when they invite me. People would always ask me to go when somebody else was elected but I wanted it to be my first time when I was elected and I want to enjoy everything."

He said he plans to do just that and that all 11 of his children, six boys and five girls, plan to make the trip to celebrate.

"It's going to be fun with my family to be up there and see all the people who were my fans and who love boxing," Holyfield said.