Boxing champ Evander Holyfield visits East St. Louis to inspire kids to resilience

Boxing champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield visited East St. Louis on Monday to speak on the importance of family and being resilient.

“I see myself in the kids’ eyes,” Holyfield said. “I can see that they want to be good.”

Holyfield visited with young fighters at Flash Boxing & Activity Center, which is owned by Arthur “Flash” Johnson, a teammate on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team. Illinois State Senator Christopher Belt also was on hand with the two boxing champions.

“People almost don’t believe me when I tell them I’m a champion,” Johnson said, “and seeing Evander they’re like, ‘oh, well I guess you really did do something.’”

The two share a common history, having fought their way out of impoverished inner-city neighborhoods before finding success in the ring. Holyfield was raised in the Bowen Homes Housing Projects in Atlanta by a single mother and eight older siblings.

Johnson, who grew up in East St. Louis, said he invited his friend to show the kids a positive example of success.

“If you see it, then you can be it,” Johnson says.

Local activist J.D. Dixon has boxed for the foundation for 15 years and says he does so for mental health.

“For a legend like Evander Holyfield to visit East St. Louis is huge,” said Dixon. “His words about never giving up is important and means a lot for the people of this community.”