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Rachael Ray surprises kid boxers with Evander Holyfield

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Detroit – Rachael Ray is famous and everything, but she never knocked out Mike Tyson.

So, while Detroit youths were impressed with meeting the TV cooking doyen Sunday, they were bowled over by meeting former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

After all, one of the most famous memorials in Detroit is the monument to Joe Louis, otherwise known as The Fist.

The two celebrities mingled with 50 youths at the Downtown Boxing Gym on the east side during a taping of Ray’s TV show.

Even Ray was impressed with the world champ.

“He’s so handsome,” she told staffers off camera.

Ray didn’t come empty-handed to the party, where numerous cameras watched the youths train and box.

She presented the gym with a renovated kitchen boasting a new refrigerator, stove, cabinets, counters and chairs.

The only thing old in the kitchen were the numerous trophies won by the young boxers through the years.

Madison McQueen, 13, said she liked the new kitchen but cooking isn’t her favorite pastime. Boxing is.

“I do my work and still box, all in one,” she said about combining her homework with her favorite sport.

Her twin, Brooklyn, also fights. Thesisters joined the club four months ago.

Madison is the better fighter, said Brooklyn.

“I get shy in the ring, but she’s not shy at all,” said Brooklyn.

After watching and speaking with the youths for an hour, Ray said she had a special announcement.

As Holyfield walked in, the mouths of some kids hung open. As excited as they were, their parents were even more tickled.

The champ told stories from his youth, including a trainer who told the 8-year-old Evander he would be like Muhammad Ali one day.

Holyfield told his mom, who was more than a little surprised by the prediction.

Still, his mother believed in him and said, no matter how good he boxed, he still needed to get an education.

“Boxing let me be the person I am today,” he told the group.

Ray said the education part of the story was just as important.

“Work is a good four-letter word,” she said.

The action then moved to one of the gym’s two rings where Holyfield, who removed his jacket, offered tips to the young fighters.

He told one young fighter to keep up his left hand so he wouldn’t be hit. He told another boxer to stop slapping his opponent, and put his weight into his punches.

He told a third pugilist to get on his toes because flat-footed fighters are losing fighters.

The young combatants took his tough love to heart.

Holyfield turned down an offer to don boxing gloves.

“I don’t get hit,” he said. “I don’t let anyone hit me.”

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Twitter: @francisXdonnelly