After Evander went for his daily training run, he stopped by and picked up his mom for a walk as part of his cool down.

He told her she had to keep at it for 15 days because that’s how long it takes for something to become a habit. Although she complained that her joints ached and she wanted to stop, her tenacious son wouldn’t let her. After 15 days, Evander stopped and she kept going. “She kept on walking,” Evander says. “She said she just felt like it because it made her feel good.”

To help her stay motivated, her good son loaded a portable music player with gospel music, telling her to walk for at least 45 minutes each time. But all she did was listen to her favorite song – Tramaine Hawkins’ “Holy One” – over and over again.

The exercise and the music helped. “My momma never complained about her knees once she started walking,” he said. Not only was her joint pain relieved, but she was back dancing again. “You couldn’t come into my house and not dance with my momma,” says Evander, who competed on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2005, coming in fifth place.

“I remember one dance when they asked, ‘Why are you so confident with this one?’ and I said, I know how to do that. That’s the kind of dancing I did with my momma.”

A Proud Legacy

His mother, he said, would’ve loved seeing him dance, but she passed away in 1996 in a car accident. “My momma always said, ‘You gotta appreciate me while I’m here because one day I’ll be gone.’”

It’s obvious she lives on. Her words pour out of Evander when he lectures to his own 11 children, forbidding them to be quitters and making them work to be better at everything they do. “My momma said, ‘If you get in the habit of doing things, you’ll do it all your life. You wanna get in the habit of doing good things, not bad.’”

His habits have stuck with him. He’s obviously still moving and, inspired by his mother and her need to move, he partnered with moveforever.com, introducing MaxGXL and Max N-Fuse, products designed to fight inflammation naturally (with some proceeds benefitting the Arthritis Foundation.) He is also in training for his fifth world heavyweight championship title to be decided in October in Moscow. Ironically, despite all his ring success, his mother never enjoyed her youngest son’s career path.

In 1990, Annie Holyfield flew from Atlanta to Las Vegas to see Evander fight the world championship against Buster Douglas. But before the fight she asked, “Can I stay in my room and pray for you? Just save the first dance for me, though.”

Not only did Evander win, at the celebration afterward he turned down pretty girl after pretty girl, all wanting him to twirl them around the dance floor.

“I promised to save the first dance for my momma.”