Evander Holyfield speaks to boxers

Updated: August 6, 2011, 11:44 PM ET
Associated Press

MOBILE, Ala. -- Former world heavyweight champion and 1984 Olympic medalist Evander Holyfield had words of advice for the members of the current U.S. team.

"Don't let anybody determine your destination -- determine your own," he said.

Holyfield spoke to a large crowd at the U.S Olympic Boxing Team dinner at the Mobile Convention Center on Saturday night. The dinner was held to introduce members of the U.S. team, which was chosen after the weeklong Olympic trials.

The five-time heavyweight champion said that this year's Olympic team has more pressure on it than the team he was on in 1984.

"When we had our trials, the winners went straight to the Olympics," he said. "This year, they have to go to a trial in order to qualify for the Olympics. There are a lot of other countries that have great athletes, and over the last few years, our program has not been strong, so we're trying to pick it back up."

Holyfield feels the reason the United States has not been dominant in Olympic boxing is because of the lack of exposure.

"They're not putting bouts on regular television," he said. "As a result, the general public is not seeing the good amateur fighters, and there is not a lot of national support."

As for boxing in general, Holyfield said there have been a lot of changes since the early 1990s.

"It's changed a lot as far as credibility," he said. "When you don't promote the amateur fighters, you kill the professional programs. The United States has always had heavyweight champions, but in the last six or seven years, we've had no heavyweight champions, and that's sad."

Holyfield said Michael Hunter could very well be the best hope as far as the United States having a heavyweight Olympic and world champion.

"Mike wasn't a kid that was a heavyweight, but he's been boxing since he was a kid," Holyfield said. "This may be our best hope for Olympic gold, because for about 16 years, we haven't had a big guy who won a gold medal."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press