LONDON - Heavyweight great Evander Holyfield dropped by London's boxing arena on Wednesday to cast an eye over the next generation of fighters looking to take a leaf out of his book by preparing for the professional ranks with an Olympic medal.
Holyfield joined a list of great U.S. fighters, such as Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali, who brought home an Olympic medal and then dominated the sport after he claimed a light heavyweight bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
The former heavyweight and cruiserweight world champion, remembered for famous battles with Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, said he planned to stick around for much of the Games to see what talent was out there.
"I want to see what the future of boxing is about," Holyfield told reporters on his way out of the arena after signing scores of autographs and posing for photographs.
"The professional game can only be as good as the amateur game. If you support the amateur game, then boxing gets better and better," he added.
"It's all about the people who get into boxing at a young age and have goals and they make it to the Olympics. If you look at boxing, all the Olympic stars always become the best boxers so it's driven by the Olympics Games."
Holyfield said sitting at the arena on Wednesday brought back memories of his own Olympic experience nearly 30 years ago, something an NBC TV crew overlooked earlier this week when they interviewed him on the streets of London, thinking he was a U.S. tourist.
Holyfield, who turns 50 later this year, met another Olympic medal winner-turned professional champion and former foe Lewis at the arena and advised fighters at the Games to take their time when deciding whether to follow them into the pro game.
"You have to do what you have to do, some people can stay a little longer. It all depends on how you look at boxing. I had to make some money so I had to leave at 21."