A HEAVYWEIGHT DIVORCE SETTLEMENT

Three-time heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield and his second wife, Janice, reached an out-of-court divorce settlement in March. The agreement, which ended the couple’s 3-1/2-year marriage and full year of divorce proceedings, precluded what could have been a very messy split, including the incarceration of Holyfield’s pastor, the Rev. Creflo Dollar, for refusing to give a deposition in the case.

The couple first met in June 1994 at faith healer Benny Hinn’s Philadelphia Miracle Crusade. Two months earlier, Holyfield had lost his championship belt and had retired from boxing after receiving what later was learned to be an erroneous medical diagnosis. Holyfield traveled from his home in Georgia to Hinn’s meetings “to get closer to the Lord.” He said that while there, he “got anointed and I got closer to the Lord and got healed as well.”

While at the Philadelphia meetings, Holyfield agreed to foot the $265,000 bill for Hinn’s two-day crusade. As Hinn prayed for the then ex-boxing champion, he asked that God would “Give him a wife, because he’s got five children that need a mother.” Hinn then proclaimed that his future wife would be found among those attending the Friday morning service of the Philadelphia crusade. Attending that service was a Chicago-based physician and licensed minister, Janice Itson. Itson did volunteer work at Hinn’s crusades. Holyfield met her there and soon afterward began calling her on the phone. The couple were married Oct. 4, 1996, in a private courtroom ceremony in Atlanta.

Apparently the marriage had as many twists and turns as the divorce case itself. While the union produced one child, Elijah Jedidiah Holyfield, two other children were born out of wedlock to Holyfield during his brief marriage to Janice. Holyfield has a history of marital infidelity. Of the nine children Holyfield has fathered, three were born to his first wife Paulette, one to second wife Janice, and the five other children were born out of wedlock. His first child with Paulette was born a year before their marriage in 1985.

Before the births of Holyfield’s two children in late 1997, he told his wife of his infidelity, suggesting they divorce quietly. She declined. Ultimately, Holyfield filed for divorce in March 1999, citing irreconcilable differences. Charges and countercharges mounted.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Holyfield claimed “that a prenuptial agreement existed, an allegation denied by Janice Holyfield.” The issue was never settled, the newspaper reported. In May 1999, Mrs. Holyfield sought that the divorce case be dismissed claiming that she and her husband had marital relations after he had filed for divorce, thereby constituting a reconciliation. Holyfield “said he couldn’t remember when they had sex,” the newspaper further reported. Fayette County Superior Court Judge Ben Miller, who presided over the divorce, denied Mrs. Holyfield’s request, saying that Holyfield would only re-file his petition for divorce.

Holyfield also sought a paternity test on Elijah, the couple’s child. John Mayoue, lawyer for Mrs. Holyfield, said he was “appalled” at the boxer’s request given his “track record of fidelity.” The Journal-Constitution reported that, “The tests showed the boxer was the father.”

The divorce proceedings caught even more of the news media’s attention when Mayoue alleged that Holyfield gave $7 million to his pastor, the Rev. Creflo Dollar and his World Changers Ministries. Charisma magazine quoted the Atlanta newspaper as stating, “The boxer reportedly gave more than half the sum to the church in the 60 days before his filing for divorce in March 1999.” Mrs. Holyfield’s attorneys wanted Dollar to account for the millions of dollars Holyfield gave to the church and to Dollar personally.

Dollar promised he would go to jail before he would respond to questions in a court deposition. He cited constitutional provisions for the separation of church and state, pastor-parishioner privilege, and his personal opposition to divorce as the reasons for his refusal. Judge Miller found the minister in contempt of court. Dollar appealed the judge’s ruling. On March 9, the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed Dollar’s appeals. However, the oral agreement between the Holyfields the following day put to rest the possibility of arresting Dollar.

Critics of the 38-year-old “prosperity gospel” preacher label him “Cash-Flow Dollar.” His World Changers Ministry’s property holdings include the World Changers Dome (built in 1996 at a cost of $6.5 million), two homes (one valued at $1 million, the other at $1.25 million) and a pair of private jets (a Gulfstream Jet valued at $5.3 million and a Gates LearJet valued at nearly $1 million). According to a report in the Christian News, “Members are required to tithe and show church leaders their personal financial information.”

Dollar’s connection to the Holyfield divorce caused other unfavorable information to be published about the minister. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution further reported that last December, “100 Fulton County police officers were admonished for accepting $1,000 apiece from Dollar.” According to the newspaper, “Dollar sent the money to recognize the officers’ service to the community. But the gesture was criticized because it came a month after two traffic tickets Dollar had received were downgraded to warnings.”

Mrs. Holyfield’s attorney said during the announcement of the initial oral settlement last March, “The parties have resolved the issues between them, and we fully expect to take a final settlement to Judge Miller within the next week or so.” Mayoue further said the terms of the Holyfield settlement will remain confidential.

—MKG

 

2000 - PFO. All rights reserved by Personal Freedom Outreach. This article may not be stored on BBS or Internet sites without permission. Reproduction is prohibited, except for portions intended for personal use and non-commercial purposes. For reproduction permission contact: Personal Freedom Outreach, P.O. Box 26062, Saint Louis, Missouri 63136.