Retro Corner: The Ballad of Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing

After a year in the retro collecting game, I decided it was time to start up my Sega collection and relive that glorious period from when I was 6-10 that I identified as a bad ass rebel (read: glasses clad asthmatic) Sega kid. Sure there were plenty of flashy Genesis games I wanted to add to my collection, but I just about did a double take when I saw one of my personal favorites, Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing shining atop the woefully neglected Sega shelves. As a kid, I loved how I could just spend a day building up a new boxer’s career and becoming the champ thanks to the RPG-lite elements of the game. Hell, it was in my blood coming from a boxing loving Cuban family that rented all the big fights on Pay-Per-View, especially those featuring my all-time personal favorite boxer Evander Holyfield. While the siren song of Sonic may have been calling me, I knew what my first major mission as a Sega household must be. I had to become a legend of the ring once more.

The Humble Beginnings

This is the story of a boxer lost in time named “Terrducken”.

As I contemplated my boxer’s appearance and attributes, things quickly came into focus thanks to a fairly limited number of customization options and the fact that the third one I scrolled through seemed like what my dad would have looked like if he decided to spend every moment of the 70s/80s in a gym instead of settling down and having kids. With some minor tinkering, I adjusted his stats to focus on power and speed. He was gonna float like a butterfly and sting like a frigging Mack truck. Properly disco porn-stached, it was time to begin the long road from being ranked 30th to champion supreme.

The first few matches took a little adjusting. I’m not going to lie; I was a rusty after 27 or so years away from the Sega ring, and Terrducken hadn’t had the chance to train enough. Around fight 3 or so, everything started to click, and I suddenly recalled my ultimate cheesing strategy from childhood. By simply alternating body shots with head shots you could form punishing combo chains that were destined to lead to quick knockouts so long as my fingers had enough dexterity and stamina to quickly keep the beat. With a new strategy to lead the way, I plowed through opponents like Dick Steptoe and JD LaForge quickly making my way into the Top 10 fighters and earning Evander Holyfield’s attention.

Greatest name ever

The Lessons of a Fallen Champ

Now that I had seemingly made it to the upper echelon of the sport, my rise to the top was surely inevitable, but what I saw next gave me great pause. The number 9 ranked fighter was none other than the “Real Deal” himself, Mr. Evander Holyfield. As I was playing a previously owned cart, much had changed in the landscape of Sega boxing in the 30 years since the game’s release. It appeared the former owner had a fighter named “The Beast” that now resided as the champion, and the titular Holyfield had fallen upon hard times. The game proudly exclaims on the box that the Real Deal was 27-0, but what I found before me was a husk of a man with depleted stats and a 30-9 record. Time, I suppose, comes for us all, and it most certainly had caught up to the ex-champ. It took just 3 rounds, but Terrducken proved to be too much for Evander Holyfield, handing him a damning 10th loss via TKO and likely sending him off to pasture.

The Danger of Hubris

With the man prominently featured on the box out of the way, surely nothing could stop me now from becoming the ultimate champion. I wasted no time challenging as far ahead as I could and mowing down each opponent with precision and ease until I was rightfully the second ranked boxer in the world. All that stood in my way now was the original game owner’s creation “The Beast” and some quirky 1990s game design.

Suddenly something was off. I couldn’t challenge the top ranked boxer for the championship. No, I kept getting challenged to fights by the 6th ranked Alan Beast (no known relation to The Beast). After 4 straight wins against this stubborn foe, I decided to decline his next challenge only to discover this caused me to drop to 6th place and suffer a forfeit. Then the 10th ranked boxer kept challenging me. I got annoyed and quit mid-match, which the game somehow was not outsmarted by and marked me with a second loss while dropping me yet again to 10th place. This was likely the virtual equivalent of an athlete getting too cocky and partying too hard. Perhaps the disco in Terrducken’s blood had taken hold and won out. Despondent that my dream from earlier in the evening may never be reached, I turned the game off and called it a night, maybe even a career. I would have to sleep on it and figure out whether or not I was hanging up my gloves.

Ethical Dilemmas

On my lunch break the next day, an epiphany struck. I could probably fix this weird circle of challenges by retiring the original owner’s boxer. This created quite the moral quandary, as I try my best not to delete previous saves when I pick up retro games so as to preserve the original owner’s achievements, but there seemed to be no way around it. I’d have to Million Dollar Baby The Beast for my own career’s sake, so I prayed to my gods, decided 3 decades on top was long enough, and hit the retire option paving the way for my comeback.

Redemption and Victory

My hypothesis was proven correct, and I was no longer being challenged to fights. However, I discovered that those two losses had dropped my stats significantly, and the length of my career (now 25 fights in) meant my boxer was taking big losses with each new match. The road to the top wasn’t going to be as quick or easy as it had appeared in the past. I was no longer capable of knocking the other boxers out in the first round. Instead, it was a war of attrition as I would have to slowly work them down until either they would fall by knockout around round 4 or so, or their corner would ask to stop the fight due to the sheer amount of damage their faces took from my fists.

Slowly, but surely I found myself ranked 3rd and able to challenge the current champ, Rob Hemphill. With a maxed out defensive stat, I knew the champ would take a while to work down, and I prepared for the long, epic battle ahead of me (read: took a bite of my instant noodles. It was still lunch break after all).

Round one set the tone, but also showed the champ wasn’t going to fold easily. I may have outclassed him landing 107 punches to his 48, but his health barely took a hit. I was throwing everything at him, but he blocked more than I was used to. Even this early on, a knockout seemed out of reach. More of the same followed in Round 2, but the gap seemed to be closing with 99 punches landed to his 54. Round 3 saw the gap close even further at 95 to 61, but I set the stage to wear him down by opening a cut above his left eye.

With his corner crew unable to get his eye wound under control, Round 4 is where I made my move, demolishing him with 112 punches landed to just 47, and a bloody nose joined the party. Round 6 saw a cut lip added to the mix, and my clasping the championship belt seemed mere moments away. Finally, in Round 7, the furthest an opposing boxer had ever taken me, his corner man threw in the towel and shouted “Stop the fight”. The championship was mine, and the promises I made to myself 16 hours ago had been fulfilled.

As an aging boxer, I knew my stint on top would be limited, so I would have to make the most of it. I accepted one final rematch against the former champ, pocketing $5 million to bring my final tally to over $12 million in career earnings to go along with a 27-2 record, and then I did what I knew had to be done. I clicked to retire my boxer and called it a career, so I could spend more time with my virtual family who was surely ignored in my road to the sweet sport’s upper pantheon. Then, just as quickly as I had pulled it down from my shelf, I packed up Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing and wondered if the final story to ever be told by that 3 decades old cart would be the rise and fall and rise of Terrducken.

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