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He didn't fly back to Atlanta right away. He went to church, sure, but he was heavyweight champion, and the world wanted him again. Did he want the world? Of course he did. He flew to Los Angeles, for The Arsenio Hall Show, on Monday, two days after the fight. He took the red-eye to New York that night and once there sat in a hotel suite and talked to reporters—no, entertained reporters, made them laugh, made them listen—with an ease, a serenity, a command that was unmistakable. Why did everyone love him now? Everywhere he went, they circled for his autograph, like hungry dogs; everywhere he went, it was "Yo, champ!" and "Hey, champ!" and "Congratulations, champ!" He went to a party in the new Sony Plaza, one of those parties, with spotlights and paparazzi, and champagne and delicate snacks fashioned out of caviar and truffles, coming around on silver trays; he sat behind a rope, in the area cordoned off for celebrities, but although he was in the company of Gregory Hines and Michael Douglas and Rosie Perez and Jason Patric, he was the one the gawkers were gaping at: "You see him? He's huge!" He went to Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks' home opener and sat courtside, in the seats reserved for Paul Simon; and when they flashed his image on the video screen, the crowd stood and roared and, in the ultimate approbation of New York City's sporting public, thrust clenched fists into the air and cried, "Yo, Ho-laaay!"
He couldn't go home. He wanted to go home on Tuesday after Letterman; he decided to stay. He wanted to go home on Wednesday; but late Tuesday afternoon, a man came running beside Holyfield's limo, out of nowhere, and there he was, Jay Larkin, vice-president for events and specials at Showtime, sticking his head in the window, asking him, begging him, to stay for a victory party on Thursday. Well.... Holyfield was out of clean clothes, and he really had to go back to Atlanta, but Larkin was a good friend, and as Steward said from his seat in the limousine, "This is your week, baby; you're never going to have another one like it." So Holyfield decided to stay until Friday, but even then, who knew how long the world would make its demands on him? And who knew what God intended for a man who dared claim that all this—the life of a champion—was what had been prepared for him all along?
As it turned out, the Letterman people didn't have to worry about a thing. Holyfield was just fine. The scripted bit about Regis Philbin was amusing enough, and Holyfield's conversation with Dave was warm and funny, especially when he talked about his nine-year-old son, Evander Jr. Indeed, as she sat in the greenroom—where people wait before they go onstage—Kathy Duva watched the taping on a monitor and couldn't stop shaking her head and saying how proud she was of Evander. Then Marv Albert came in and watched the show for a few minutes. "This is the best I've ever seen him," Albert remarked. "Yeah," Duva said, "this is the longest I've ever seen him smile."
Then Holyfield shook Dave's hand and said goodnight. He came into the greenroom, and one of the Letterman people thanked him and said, "Dave really enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed it too." Then, with his friends and handlers following him, he headed for the side door, and on his way to his limousine passed through the gantlet of men and women proffering pictures and boxing gloves and scraps of paper for him to sign. "Yo, champ! Yo, Evander!" He signed quickly and was already scaled in the limousine, with the pens and papers and pictures rattling against the window, when the men and women read an autograph he had given them: "Evander Holyfield. Philippians 4:13." I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me....
Two guys in New York Giant jackets read what Holyfield had inscribed on their boxing gloves and looked at each other.
"What the hell is this?" one asked.
"I guess it's from the Bible," his friend said.
"Oh, wow. Thanks a lot, Evander."
"I guess we'll have to look it up, see what it is."
Then, as Holyfield's limousine sped away, the two guys climbed into their Oldsmobile and followed him into the world.