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Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 15:11 UK

From boxer to bankrupt

By BBC Sport's Ronald McIntosh

Evander Holyfield
Holyfield appears set to lose his luxurious home

It appears even multi-millionaire fighters are feeling the biting effects of the credit crunch.

Evander Holyfield is once again facing foreclosure on his Georgia mansion and the news has sent a wave of disbelief and dismay through British boxing.

The sprawling, 109-room house on Evander Holyfield Drive, south of Atlanta, was due to be auctioned last June but Holyfield struck a deal to remain in the property.

However, the $10m manor is now due to go under the gavel on 7 July at the Fayette County Courthouse.

An Olympic bronze medallist in 1984, Holyfield participated in some of the biggest bouts of all time and is reputed to have earned over $200m in the boxing ring.

Yet his present financial predicament sees him join the legion of legendary fighters whose fortunes have dwindled, or who have fallen on hard times.

From old-timers, like the great Sam Langford, who ended up blind and broke, and Joe Louis, who went to his grave with the IRS still in dogged pursuit of a tax claim, to modern-day champs such as Mike Tyson, boxing's rich history appears to serve as a cautionary tale of how not to manage money.

Clearly, this isn't unique to boxers. But the fact that the fortunes are earned in such a dangerous, demanding occupation makes the oft-repeated tales of impecuniousness somehow more tragic.

Especially when one considers that the prospect of earning big bucks is often the catalyst for fighting in the first place.

Boxing and football, these are working class sports, and education is key

Frank Warren

"Boxing was the quick way out of being poor," former WBC light-heavyweight champion John Conteh noted in his autobiography 'I, Conteh'.

But he added that "for someone who was obsessed with making millions of pounds, I never was much good at counting the pennies".

Why is this experience so common among first-rate fighters? How come the discipline, dedication and mastery displayed by these extraordinary men in the ring doesn't transfer into other areas of their lives, particularly when it comes to finances?

Manager, promoter, and trainer Adam Booth believes the contradictory nature of the demands provides a clue.

"Some of the characteristics that allow boxers to become champions - aggression, intuitiveness, the desire to dominate - can occasionally be detrimental in other aspects of life," he said.


"It could be difficult to get a boxer with that innate desire to fight to switch those traits off, sit down and study his income like an accountant. If he could, he'd probably be schizophrenic."

The uncertain, inexact nature of economics also has to be considered. Investments gone awry are another common feature of fighters who lose their fortunes.

"It can happen to anyone," manager and promoter Frank Warren told me. "It almost happened to me! I invested heavily in the London Arena and almost went under.

"But boxing and football, these are working class sports, and education is key."

Heavyweight contender David Haye concurs.

"I think a lack of education is the primary reason," he said.

David Haye
Haye believes boxers need more education around money matters

"Not that boxers are stupid, but most aren't educated beyond high school, haven't studied business and have spent most of their lives in a gym trying to be the best fighters they can be.

"Help from advisers you can trust is crucial."

There is also the matter of perception.

Former undisputed welterweight world champion Lloyd Honeyghan explains: "People see these big numbers, but don't realise how it actually works.

"Standard deductions come to around 40% - and then the taxman's coming for his 40%. So it's not that the boxer had it and lost it. Often, they never had it!"

Of course, there are success stories as well.

"Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya, these guys have protected their investments and are financially secure," adds Warren.

"It's always sad to hear these stories of boxers going broke. But ultimately, the fighter has to take responsibility for his affairs."

Good fortune, a measure of frugality and, perhaps most importantly, trust of those around you - these are among the factors that must be in place if boxers are to achieve what Larry Holmes whimsically wished to be his legacy.

He said: "How would I like to be remembered? As a fighter who saved his money."

see also
Boxing's bout of call-offs
14 Jun 09 |  Boxing
Valuev ends Holyfield title dream
20 Dec 08 |  Boxing
BBC pound-for-pound world rankings
31 Aug 10 |  Boxing

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