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How Evan Holyfield Ended Up in Texas (with a Termite)

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Eleazar “Evan” Holyfield met the press on Wednesday in Houston to announce his plans to turn professional. The former Georgia-based amateur boxing star is following in his father’s footsteps, the big boots of Hall of Fame professional boxer Evander Holyfield.

Evan Holyfield, 21, went 70-15 in the amateur system and said the last time he lost a fight was against Houston’s Austin “Ammo” Williams during a USA Boxing tournament. Holyfield said he’d love the chance to avenge that loss someday as a professional but only if the fight made sense financially. 

Seems like the kid is already thinking like a pro. 

Both fighters are now 154-pound professional prospects. Williams, 23, from Houston, is one of the city’s brightest boxing prospects. He is promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and trained by Doug Pratchett at the Main Street Boxing & Muay Thai Gym in downtown Houston.

Holyfield moved to Houston in February to train under Maurice “Termite” Watkins, a former professional boxer who is known locally as the first professional fighter Houston legend Kenny Weldon trained in what became a vast stable of excellent fighters. In addition to Watkins, other notable boxers Weldon trained before passing away in 2018 were Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Hector Camacho, Mike McCallum, Meldrick Taylor, Reggie Johnson and others. 

Watkins has long known the Holyfield family through his connection to Weldon, as well as Tim Hallmark, Evander Holyfield’s longtime strength and conditioning coach. 

But the way Watkins ended up with training Evan Holyfield is as interesting and seemingly random (or providential if you prefer such things), as the way he was invited to coach the 2004 Iraqi Olympic team. 

If you don’t know that story, Watkins said you’ll be able to watch a movie all about it soon. But basically, Watkins had retired from boxing and gone into the family bug-killing business as a fumigator. 

After the U.S. Invasion of Iraq in 2003, Watkins was hired to do some fumigation work in the country. While there, U.S. officials found out about his fighting career and offered him the job coaching Iraq’s boxing team.

It’s really quite a strange and wonderful story, but the key takeaway for our purposes here is that Watkins just lived his life and accepted what came to him. That might sound silly to some, but it seems to work for Watkins. Because that very same thing happened in regards to him landing Evan Holyfield, a prized prospect if for nothing more than the promotional value of his name alone. 

Watkins has taught boxing at the Fighter Nation Boxing Gym in Northeast Houston for the last nine years. It’s an expansive facility that’s connected to a church, one full of relics from Weldon’s old boxing gym, most notably the ring in which Muhammad Ali fought Cleveland Williams back in 1966. 

If you happened to drive up to it and didn’t know anything about it, you would assume it was just the church’s basketball gym or something. But inside that space is actually where Watkins teaches boxing to help keep kids off the streets. He does it through his religion, Christianity, and what some might consider his other religion, boxing.

“We are a faith-based boxing gym,” said Watkins. “We keep God first.”

Watkins was interested in buying some workout machines from Hallmark so he called and made the purchase. To his surprise, they were delivered to the gym by Hallmark himself. According to Watkins, that’s what led to him getting his new gig as Evan Holyfield’s trainer. 

“Oh my god, Termite, this is what Evander has been looking for,” said Hallmark, according to Watkins, as soon as he saw the gym.

Holyfield the father is still heavily involved in the Boys & Girls Club of America, and Watkins says the organization was interested in opening similar-style gyms at other locations to help inner-city youths.

Watkins said he and the elder Holyfield would talk about how it all might work via phone and one day the former four-time heavyweight champ called him with a question about something else. 

“Would you consider training Evan?” asked the dad.

“Of course I would, but can he fight?” asked the trainer.

“Well, why I don’t I send him to you and you can tell me?” asked Holyfield.

Watkins said he saw all he needed to see when Evan Holyfield visited the gym for a week in January, and the rest is fast becoming history before our very eyes.  

“He came down here and stayed with us for about seven days,” said Watkins. “And yeah, the kid can fight.”

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About Kelsey McCarson

Kelsey McCarson covers boxing for NY Fights, The Sweet Science, Gambling.com and Bookies.com. He also hosts a YouTube show about boxing with his wife, Rachel McCarson, called "Real Talk with Kelsey and Rachel".

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