By Nick Brockman
Since Jim Justice gained control of The Greenbrier, the resort has experienced a sense of rebirth. With Saturday’s “Redemption in America” event featuring a prize fight between Evander Holyfield and Sherman Williams, that theme will continue for both the fighters and the resort.
Justice, owner and CEO, purchased The Greenbrier in 2009 and has helped America’s Resort reach a new level of prestige and esteem with events like the PGA’s Greenbrier Classic and the opening of The Casino Club, but Saturday’s main event is all about two boxers trying to reach the highest level of their sport.
“It’s a terrific honor to just think about having Evander Holyfield and Sherman Williams at The Greenbrier,” Justice said. “I believe it’s the first significant prize fight that’s ever been held there.”
The questions remain though: Why boxing? Why The Greenbrier?
“The answer is real simple: I truly feel The Greenbrier is a national treasure,” Justice said. “It became sleepy and actually, you know, I’ve been pretty critical to say at one time it almost became like an elegant retirement home.
“It has just tradition and history — it’s beyond belief and it is a hidden treasure. When you get there it’s 6,500 acres of every amenity in the world and it’s a really special place, but it needed energy. It needed energy put back into it and so that’s the whole concept of what we’re trying to do. It’s been our strategy and we got people coming out of the woodwork coming and visiting.”
The fight will be special to many but perhaps most special for Holyfield, who has the chance to begin his path to the heavyweight title once again as he said he’s eager to prove his ability.
“First of all, I’m honored to have an opportunity to fight at Greenbrier and given an opportunity to be able to show people at the age of 48 I’m just as good as I was at 38,” Holyfield said.
Holyfield (43-10-2, 28 KOs), a four-time world heavyweight champion, will battle Williams ( 34-11-2, 19 KOs) in the 12-round prize fight.
As “The Real Deal,” Holyfield boasts one of boxing’s most well-known names and stories, but Williams said he’s ready to make his own with a solid fight.
“I respect Evander as the champion and all that he is and all that he has accomplished,” Williams said. “I think this is going to make for a very exciting fight. I feel good. I’m in shape and ready to rumble.”
Williams said much has been made of Holyfield’s rugged warrior reputation, but he’s got plenty of tenacity, too.
“Evander is a tough guy,” Williams said. “I’m a tough cookie as well. I ain’t no pushover.”
Williams said he’s mentally and spiritually prepared as well as physically sharp, ready to fight any style to win.
“Whatever it takes to do, to accomplish what I need to get done is what I’m willing to do,” he said. “Evander has been around the block a few times. His goal is to once again become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and I’m just in it to get where he was, so it takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of a commitment and it definitely takes a strong mind and a strong spirit and I’m equipped. I feel like I got what it takes to go out on Saturday and put up a heluva fight.”
Besides the two boxers in the ring, another touted fighter will be in attendance in Mike Tyson. It’s been more than 13 years since Tyson infamously bit Holyfield’s ear during a fight between the two.
“We speak to each other,” Holyfield said of his relationship with Tyson. “It’s not bad, though, you know.”
Holyfield added it’s nice to have the support of Tyson and others in attendance to see if he can still compete at age 48.
Doors open at 6 p.m. with the first of six undercard fights to begin at 7 p.m. The fight will distributed by Integrated Sports Media for live viewing at 9 p.m. on iN Demand, DIRECTV, Avail-TVN and DISH Network for $29.95.
Justice said packages and tickets are still available for purchase at www.greenbrier.com. Deadline to book reservations is Friday.
— E-mail: nbrockman@