For Evander, the effect of this union was immediate. Janice, who had never seen a boxing match, provided more winning inspiration in a month than any seasoned fight man could have. The truth is, in the weeks before his fight against Tyson, Holyfield thought the 25-to-1 odds against his winning were actually low. It wasn't his loss to Bowe, when he appeared strangely weak at the end, that discouraged Holyfield. Neither was it his showing in a win on May 10,1996, over Bobby Czyz, a performance so uninspired that Don King was finally persuaded to match Tyson against Holyfield. It was worse than that. His sparring partners were getting off on him, his timing was bad—he was a disaster waiting to happen. He told Janice his misgivings—over the phone at 5:30 in the morning a few weeks before the bout—and she responded with Be Magnified, a hymn appropriate to a man so in doubt of himself. She sang it from Atlanta. Then she demanded that he get his songbook and sing along. He did, and he took from the verse this lesson: His problems weren't so large after all.
The next day he bloodied a sparring partner, and the camp's theme song was thereafter Be Magnified. "Everybody was singing it," Janice says.
This was not something that, say, Angelo Dundee had ever thought to do with his fighters. Nor did he ever dance with them in the tense minutes before a big bout. But Janice, alone with her man in their Las Vegas hotel room the night of the Tyson fight, sensed his nervousness. Evander was indeed wondering just how much work this bout was going to be, how much pain he would have to absorb. He wondered if he'd be embarrassed. "Lord, you look nervous," she told him. "Dance with me." He was startled. Did she understand what he was about to do, the magnitude of the event? She put the gospel song Mighty Man of War on the CD player, and they danced. "Boy," says Janice, not sure which courage was the greater, to marry or to fight, "is he an excellent dancer."
There were issues surrounding that fight, of course, which aren't showcased in marriage. Holyfield's instinct to deflate bullies, for one. There were no parallels in his courtship to help explain that. Really, nothing explained it, except perhaps the notion that his handling of Tyson was payback for all those days he'd felt persecuted.
"It's just his mental makeup," says Emanuel Steward, who trained Holyfield for his November 1993 victory over Bowe but who parted ways with him over money afterward. "He's got a thing with bullies, and I saw it in his amateur days."
During the long training and selection process for the 1984 U.S. Olympic boxing team, Holyfield and others were beset by Ricky Womack, "a tough, tough guy," according to Steward. "Everybody was scared of Womack, a dangerous man, one of the most vicious guys ever. Ricky was a bully who walked the walk." Womack had sized up Holyfield as his principal competition for the Olympic slot in the 178-pound division and set about terrorizing him. Once, just before a fight with Holyfield, Womack walked over to Holyfield and stomped on his foot. Holyfield was somehow galvanized by this, and he eventually beat Womack in the box-offs and went to the Los Angeles Games, where he received the bronze medal. "Same with Tyson," Steward says. "Evander's just always had an obsession with exposing bullies. Bullies have always excited him."
But how excited will Holyfield be this time, now that Tyson has been exposed? Steward expects Holyfield's competitive instincts to get him through a rematch.
Holyfield has the need, which is good for boxers but irritating for friends, to be the best. "Take bowling," says promoter Dino Duva, of his former client's principal training camp diversion. "He thinks he's the greatest, but he's only O.K. Yet he plays you until he beats you."
Watching Holyfield show up for training at the House of Pain, a gym in a grim section of Houston, at 6 a.m. every day, is to understand the singularity of his purpose. He has no manager and a minimum number of handlers—only live or so. He has many more former employees, like Steward, than longtime associates.
He has handed off supervision of his business interests to Janice, who says she discovered a lot of slow leaks and inefficiencies. She fired nearly everybody on Evander's six-member staff before reopening his management company this year. Though she says she misses medicine and intends to practice again, she clearly has an intense interest in running Warrior Properties/Holyfield Management Company.