Getting it Done “The Holyfield Way”
Book Review By Sean Newman (October 26, 2005) 
Ever wonder what goes into negotiations for a major boxing event, or about several other nuances of the business side of the game that are often taken for granted by fans? If so, attorney Jim Thomas, a friend, adviser, and quasi-manager to former heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield for most of Evander’s career, has written an excellent book centering on many of those topics and titled “The Holyfield Way: What I Learned about Courage, Perseverance, and the Bizzare World of Boxing.

In this book, Thomas outlines for the reader in great detail what it is like to negotiate with such heavyweights as HBO, Showtime, and Don King, while at the same time painting a picture of friendship and the lessons we can all learn from each other.

“I realized what a special privilege it was to spend all those years with Evander and what an extraordinary person he is, and I wanted to share those things,” Thomas says. “I also wanted to shed some light on the business of boxing to serve as a blueprint for more equitable sharing of benefits among the parties involved.”

Thomas, a graduate of William & Mary and an excellent martial artist, does a fantastic job of shedding light on the business of boxing, and through his words illustrates how difficult and delicate a business it can often be. His experience as an attorney has helped him in this regard.

“All the major players, promoters, sites, television networks, have lawyers representing them and most times a fighter does not,” he explains. “There are mostly legal issues involved, and a manager who is not familiar with the law cannot really help with those issues.”

Money, that is, the money being requested by Holyfield for a fight and Don King’s (a man Thomas respects, and at one point in the book actually claimed to *gasp* trust on his word!) unwillingness to budge on his own demands, as well as contracts, are obviously central issues. One question this writer felt obliged to ask Thomas was whether he felt the standard managerial contract of one-third is fair to the fighter.

“It depends on the circumstances,” said Thomas. “In most instances, it is not. If there is a manager who takes a young fighter out of the amateurs, buys his gym gear and otherwise invests money in him, and the fighter makes $1,000 a fight, the manager’s fee is not adequate compensation at that point. A manager must eventually be compensated for his work and the risks he takes. Where there is a fighter who is established and making a lot of money, yes, one third is too much.”

Among other interesting topics, Thomas also takes time to explain to the reader why certain times of the year are better to stage big fights, relates a story from 1984 about Holyfield’s first encounter with a surly Mike Tyson, and how it is a fight proceeds to a purse bid.

If fault can be found with this book, it would be in Thomas’ biased accounts of what happened during each of Holyfield’s fights. It seems that every decision that did not go Holyfield’s way should have, and that every poor performance, even in victory, could be blamed on illness and injury. Not that it is not necessarily true, but one gets the impression that Evander should have only lost a couple of fights to this point. Given Thomas’ long and close friendship with “The Real Deal,” however, such biases can be forgiven.

This is an outstanding work that should be a part of any boxing fan’s collection, surely for the entertainment value and above all its educational value. Thomas reiterates why he decided to write the book in the first place by saying that “the most rewarding part of writing this book is sharing with anyone who reads it how special Evander Holyfield is. I hope it can be used as a manual by fighters’ representatives and help them become better at what they do.”

If Thomas gets his wish, the world of boxing and boxers everywhere will be much better off.

This book may be purchased for $24.95 at major chain and independent bookstores, by calling Sports Publishing, L.L.C. at 1-877-424-BOOK, or by logging on to
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