Summer 2022

Faith & baptism of boxer Evan Holyfield, son of Evander, highlighted in new docuseries

Maurice “Termite” Watkins tried to contain his excitement and stay engaged in the conversation simultaneously, which was not easy to do. On the other end of the phone was former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, asking Watkins if he would train his son, Evan.

Watkins, a decorated boxer in his own right, immediately agreed and promised to treat Evan like his own child.

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The story of Evan’s arrival at Watkins’ Fighter Nation gym in Houston, Texas, though, begins before he was born and is detailed in the second episode of “Legacy: In the Shadow of Greatness,” a Discovery Plus docuseries.

Watkins went to kindergarten with a man named Johnny Brady, and the two are lifelong friends. While Watkins pursued a professional boxing career that ultimately ended in him struggling with drugs and alcohol, Brady became a pastor and founded Fellowship of the Nations church.

Next to the church was an empty building. Brady decided to turn it into a boxing gym and asked Watkins to run it, eventually making him the pastor of Fighter Nation.

“I took him in the gym and I said, ‘I want you to look at something. What God wants to do is He wants to take your pain and turn it into a ministry,'” Brady said in the episode.

Ten years after Watkins took over Fighter Nation, he got the call from Evander Holyfield. When Evan arrived, he quickly learned just how intertwined the church and the gym are. The people Evan sees at the gym are the same ones he worships with on Sundays.

“For us, bringing in Evan, it was a joy because everybody’s heard of his father,” Brady said in the episode. “Not only was he coming in just to Fighter Nation, but he was really coming into a church, and kind of coming into a family.”

Soon after he was fully settled in Houston, Evan made the life-changing decision to be baptized as a way to symbolize his new life in Christ. Watkins himself performed the baptism, which is shown in the episode.

Evan goes on explain that the importance of getting baptized was first instilled in him by his father.

“My dad always told me to really step forward in faith, you’ve got to be baptized,” Evan said. “That was always something that was always kind of, like, on my mind growing up.”

Even with a world-famous father, life was not always easy for Evan, who lives in an extra room in Brady’s house. After the baptism scene, he reflects on the role faith and boxing have played in shaping the person he’s become.

“Without God, I probably wouldn’t be boxing,” Evan said. “I could have easily gotten into the wrong things while all my friends were out getting into, you know, some of the mischievous stuff. God and boxing has definitely given me direction in my life.”

For the elder Holyfield, he felt as if the sport was a gift to him from God.

“I kind of felt that God blessed me with something,” Evander said in the episode. “Boxing was kind of like a gift to me.”

The first two episodes of “Legacy” are now available on Discovery Plus. In addition to the Holyfields, the series features Vashti Cunningham — the daughter of four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Randall Cunningham — and Zaire Wade — the son of 13-time NBA All-Star Dwayne Wade.

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