KO Celebration at Julien’s in Beverly Hills
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It was a celebration fit for a king–or in this case boxing royalty in former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield.
Friends and family gathered at the famed Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills to ring in “Real Deal” Holyfield’s 50th birthday on Friday night. This celebration was a “one-two” punch as the legendary auction house gave the guests a special preview of the auction being held on Friday, November 30 while also celebrating the ex-champion’s milestone B-day. I had the opportunity to take part in the festivities as you can see in this SPECIAL REPORT from the gala.
In attendance were many fighters and sports heroes including Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, WBC Champ Mia St. John, fellow 1984 Olympians Henry Tillman, Paul Gonzales and Robert Shannon, boxer Ronnie “The Dragon” Essett, NBA Lakers legend Elgin Baylor and more. All were there to pay tribute to the five-time world titleholder.
While watching the birthday cake being cut, I had some time to catch up with the prizefighters gathered around.
Mia St. John just returned from Tokyo and told me about her exciting new gig as a K-I commentator. She’ll be traveling to Athens in December but before that will face Molly McConnell on November 10 in defense of St. John’s WBC Female Light Middleweight title. The brunette beauty was happy to be able to wish Holyfield a happy birthday in person as I watched “The Knockout” greet the beaming guest of honor.
And former Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Tillman lent his own heavyweight presence as one of the co-hosts for Evander’s celebration. Henry trains fighters at The Rock boxing gym and has stayed very active in the fight game. And he was happy to have this reunion with four of the 1984 Olympic boxers together again.
“This is a great night; the 1984 team was some bad ass dudes–my alternate was Mike Tyson!” Tillman chuckles, shaking his head. “I was the oldest on the team and I’ve kept everyone all together.” Henry made sure to invite Tacoma’s Robert Shannon down for the fiesta. The heavyweight puncher (who fought Evander in 1987) has a soft spot for his Olympic mates. Holyfield was even in Tillman’s wedding as a groomsmen, after they fought.
Thinking of all the one-of-a-kind awards that will be auctioned off, Henry says it’s a bittersweet moment for the champs. “If I had the money, if I was a multi-millionaire I would buy everything back and give it back to Evander,” he says with conviction. “No one will ever duplicate what he’s accomplished. It’s a shrine in there with all of his things. You should’ve seen his house in Atlanta–it really was like a museum.”
Tillman brought Holy to the front of the audience as all of the special guests, including the champ’s children, feted their favorite fighter.
There was also a presentation by the “Real Deal” BBQ Sauce team of Allen Pierce, Subriana Pierce and David Moya in honor of the new business adventures the Atlanta boxer is involved with. The BBQ sauce company and distributor gave Evander a gift of a Native American blanket.
So has he hung up his boxing gloves and officially retired from the ring yet?
There’s been a lot of talk that the heavyweight spoke of retirement only to quickly “unretire.” I asked him if he planned on fighting and if he’d rather face a Klitschko brother or Alexander Povetkin, as the internet has been buzzing. He smiled, nodded and said he still wants to fight and he’d take on any of them!
Whether or not any future fights will ever be signed we’ll just have to wait and see as critics and fans agree it’s time for him to step away from the ring at age 50.
But all can agree that the Georgia fighter (44-10-2, 29 KOs) has certainly had an esteemed career. And now fans around the world have a chance to own Holyfield’s collectibles, memorabilia and so much more from the life and career of this champ and past “Dancing With the Stars” fan favorite. We got a sneak peek at the items up for bid next month. During the party, I combed through the two large rooms and vault that housed display after display of the boxer’s personal items both in and out of the ring.
If you love the sweet science as much as I do, you would’ve been in boxing heaven while touring the building. Keeping things lively and the mood jubilant, the hosts offered AsomBroso tequila sampling (with Holyfield Foundation labels on the bottle), delicious appetizers and slices of “edible art” in the B-day cake shaped like two large boxing gloves.
And everywhere I looked history was unveiled. Julien’s has been transformed into a venerable boxing museum featuring a bounty of treasures from the champ.
There are championship rings, trophies, fight-worn robes, boxing gloves, shoes, wraps, paintings, diamond cuff links, gold watches, shoes, silk suits and more, all from the collection of the boxer. The lot is called “Property from the Life and Career of Evander Holyfield” and included in the offerings are the leather gloves worn in his infamous fight versus Mike Tyson.
Aside from the infamous gloves, one corner of the room caught my eye. There were fight highlights being played along with a large selection from Holyfield’s amateur career. And one trinket really stood out under the glass: Holy’s 1984 Olympic Bronze Medal. If I had to choose one sentimental item to bid on, I would pick the Atlanta fighter’s Olympic medal.
When I tell Olympian Henry Tillman about my #1 choice, the pug understands. Although Holy’s boxing items are going to be auctioned off to the highest bidders, one thing that can never be taken away is the title of Olympian. “They can call us ‘former’ champs or ‘ex-champion’ but for the rest of our lives, we will ALWAYS be Olympic Gold Medalists.” I remind Henry that Evander’s controversial medal is bronze.
“Everyone knows what happened back then,” he says of the highly-controversial disqualification. “We will always be Olympians forever and his bronze medal is still GOLD to us.”
The hanging piece of Olympic jewelry is just one of the historic souvenirs you can own–if you have the winning bid. While the medal is one of my top choices, others in the crowd were just as wowed by the array of prized possessions, saying they will have a very tough decision choosing from such a vast eye-opening collection. The bright satin robes also garnered a lot of attention from the crowd and every bit of space reveals memories from Evander’s storied past.
So many choices.
There’s still time to decide. The free Public Exhibition begins November 19-29 before going live on November 30.
In the meantime, check out my photos from the night as the standing-room only crowd wished “Real Deal” Holyfield a very HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY!
Photos by Michele Chong
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