x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Money proved to be beyond Evander Holyfield's reach

Often attached to Muhammad Ali's name is the acronym GOAT. It translates to Greatest Of All Time. Holyfield, however, is WISE: Worst Irresponsible Sportsman Ever, fiscally speaking.

Evander Holyfield's home was sold at a foreclosure auction. He owed US$14 million on it, counting taxes.
Evander Holyfield's home was sold at a foreclosure auction. He owed US$14 million on it, counting taxes.

You have probably never seen a home like Evander Holyfield's, unless you have gained entry into a sheikh's palace or a king's castle.

The boxer's lavish abode, situated on 235 acres of rolling hills in Atlanta, contains enough rooms - more than 100 - that you might get lost without a GPS.

There are 11 for sleeping, 17 for showering, one for bowling (with two lanes) and one for movie watching (with 135 chairs).

It is so regally appointed - think marble staircases - that you half expect gowned servants to scurry about.

Outside, there sits a guest dwelling, a swimming pool long enough to accommodate Michael Phelps in training and a field where full softball teams have engaged.

Actually, it is his former domicile. Today, the mansion stands as a monument to athlete excess.

It is empty, Holyfield having been evicted recently after his residence was sold at a foreclosure auction. He owed US$14 million (Dh51m) on it, counting taxes.

Often attached to Muhammad Ali's name is the acronym GOAT. It translates to Greatest Of All Time.

Holyfield, however, is WISE: Worst Irresponsible Sportsman Ever, fiscally speaking.

For this dishonour, he is an unlikely candidate, being notoriously frugal with everyday expenses.

But somehow, before he has turned 50, Holyfield squandered a stack of money upon which he could have looked down on the mansion's chimney: as much as $250m in income from his work between the ropes.

Fighters, especially those with sustained excellence, are compensated like nobody else. Peyton Manning, the most deep-pocketed football player, has punched the clock for 14 seasons to earn $175m. Floyd Mayweather amassed $85m with just two bouts last year.

Anyone with a scintilla of self-control could live comfortably forever on a quarter of a billion dollars, even if they were Kirk Douglas or Zsa Zsa Gabor (both 95).

You might assume that drink or drugs, the slippery slope for many wasteful athletes, are to blame. But, no, Holyfield has eschewed both.

Among his bugaboos are naivety with financial advice, stubbornness and being blindly trusting of associates and hangers-on. Oh, and a rocky love life. There are, by most counts, 11 children with seven mothers, three of them ex-wives.

Despite the mess he has created, to know Holyfield is to feel a pinch of pity. He has never met a stranger. He cared enough for his first wife that she bunked in the guest home after their divorce.

He is boxing's ultimate overachiever, owing to an unmatched work ethic.

One admirable motive for his extravagant accommodation was to have plenty of elbow room - plus all body limbs - under one roof for his ever-expanding brood.

During construction, Holyfield kept reminding himself about growing up amid poverty in a crowded home with eight older siblings, and he could not resist redoing the architect's plans.

Yes, he went overboard. Annual maintenance and upkeep costs alone, he once estimated, approached $1m.

Holyfield is hardly destitute; he has moved to a condominium in an upscale neighbourhood. But money woes will burden him for the remainder of his days.

His cautionary tale should be tweeted, texted, emailed or, for the semi-literate, pod-casted to all athletes to absorb.

For lack of restraint over a house, this powerhouse of a fighter has been, relatively speaking, sentenced to the poorhouse. May others learn from his mistakes.

sports@thenationalae

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