The 51-year-old former heavyweight champion, who famously had a part of his ear bitten off by Mike Tyson during a rematch in 1997, was talking with one of his housemates, Luisa Zissman, on the reality show when he was asked if there are homosexuals in pro boxing. The question was a simple one, but Holyfield cited the Bible and said being gay is unnatural and one can become straight if one chooses to do so.
Despite Zissman wanting to drop the homosexuality topic, Holyfield continued, saying being gay can be “fixed … if you’re born and your leg would turn this way, what do you do, you go to the doctor and get it fixed that way.” The dialogue could have turned tense but the two housemates disagreed amicably despite Holyfield being taken aside by the producers and being told his comments were “offensive.”
Despite this potentially inflammatory scene, Evander Holyfield will remain on “Celebrity Big Brother UK.”
As housemate Zissman didn’t have her question answered by Holyfield, here are some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in professional boxing:
- Nicola Adams is a British boxer who won the gold medal in flyweight boxing at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- Thai boxer Parinya Charoenphol is a former Muay Thai champion who is renowned in her country for being a “kathoey,” which means either a transgender woman or an effeminate male.
- Orlando Cruz, who hails from Puerto Rico, is a featherweight boxer who identifies as gay. In fact, in 2012, he was the first boxer to come out as gay while still fighting in the professional boxing arena. He is number four among featherweight boxers.
- Emile Griffith was a world welterweight and middleweight boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands. His most famous match was against Benny Paret in 1962. In the early 1990s, he nearly died after being severely beaten upon leaving a gay bar in New York. Regarding his sexuality, Griffith reportedly told a sports magazine: “I like men and women both. But I don’t like that word: homosexual, gay or faggot. I don’t know what I am. I love men and women the same, but if you ask me which is better… I like women.”
- Canadian Mark Leduc won a silver medal in boxing at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. He came out as gay in 1994, along with fellow Canadian Mark Tewksbury. Leduc died in 2009 from an apparent heat stroke.
- American Christy Martin is a professional boxer who identifies as lesbian. She has won 49 of 57 fights in her career. She retired in 2012, after losing to Mia St. John. Martin’s husband was convicted of stabbing and shooting Martin during a fight at their home, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In professional mixed martial arts (MMA), “out” MMA fighters are Liz Carmouche, an American who fights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), in the bantamweight division; and Fallon Fox, the first openly transgender MMA fighter.
By Juana Poareo