Words and Musings | A FULL CIRCLE MOMENT: Meeting Evander Holyfield
The challenge about writing songs for worship is that it’s often difficult to know whether you’re making any impact for the Kingdom of God. Worship by nature is always a gift given to another, not paraded in the streets in self-aggrandisement. So often the life of a worship songwriter is, “here’s my offering, Lord. I sure hope this is a blessing to someone as they sing it to You.” Sometimes you get actual feedback that lets you know your creative work is indeed a blessing to someone. But that is a lot rarer occurrence than you’d think. So I’m always grateful to hear someone’s personal story about one of my songs because it encourages me to keep writing.
A number of years ago, I wrote a song called “Be Magnified” that made a significant impact. It even reached boxer Evander Holyfield’s training camp at a time he desperately needed some encouragement. Evander was a 25-to-1 underdog going into his match against Mike Tyson. His wife introduced him to “Be Magnified” one morning over the phone. He learned it with her and actually began to sing it often. As he got his eyes on the Lord, his confidence grew and even his timing improved. Evander commented in post-victory interviews that “Be Magnified” was sung so much that everyone in his training camp knew it. Long story short, Evander Holyfield defeated Mike Tyson to became only the second man in boxing history to win the World Heavyweight Championship three times (and a fourth time since).
When Evander’s story emerged in national publications, friends of mine sent me copies of the articles. It was so surprising to see the lyrics of “Be Magnified” printed in Sports Illustrated – and definitely encouraging! I just grinned and enjoyed my 30 seconds of fame.
Evander’s win is the only “celebrity story” connected to one of my songs that I know of, and I enjoy telling it from time to time. I related it recently to the 2018 graduating class of the Presbyterian Children’s Home. My friend Doug Marshall is their new director, and he asked me to come and minister that night. Dough specifically asked me to sing “Be Magnified” and to tell the Evander Holyfield story, which I gladly did.
A few weeks later, Doug invited me to be his guest at Positive Maturity’s “50 Over 50” awards gala in Birmingham, Alabama. One of the fifty being honored was Evander Holyfield, and would I like a chance to meet him? Well….when else am I going to have a chance to meet the man? “Yes, Doug, I’d like to go. Thanks!”
I did get to meet Evander – he was seated at the table next to ours. A few admirers began to line up, so Doug and I made our move. His assistant introduced me as the writer of “Be Magnified.” I saw the smile of recognition. I told him how much I enjoyed reading the articles connecting the song and his championship win, and that it was a pleasure to meet him. He’s not a big talker, but he smiled a lot. And Doug took our picture together. His picture was taken a lot that night, as you can imagine. I said, “I bet your life is one big photo op.” He shrugged and said, “Not really.” Like I said, he’s not a big talker.
It’s been over twenty years now since “Be Magnified” was “the song that Evander Holyfield trained with,” as my friend Doug puts it. I never thought I’d actually meet this famous boxer, and now here I was shaking his hand and having our picture snapped. It felt oddly satisfying to me, too, like I had come “full circle” to something. I’m still at a loss to explain that “something,” but It was definitely encouraging. I think the Lord intended it that way.