Mitt Romney, Holyfield to stage charity bout

Salt Lake Tribune

Now we know the real reason Mitt Romney chose not to run for president for a third time in 2016.

He's taking up boxing.

In fact, Romney is slated to fight former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield in the marquee event during a several-bout evening May 15 at the Rail Event Center near the Union Pacific Depot in Salt Lake City.

"It will either be a very short fight, or I will be knocked unconscious," Romney, a Bloomfield Hills native, quipped in an interview recently. "It won't be much of a fight. We'll both suit up and get in the ring and spar around a little bit."

Alas, it will be a one-fight career for the 68-year-old former Massachusetts governor, Salt Lake City Winter Olympics boss and son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney.

Holyfield agreed to participate in a fundraising event for Charity Vision, a humanitarian organization founded about 20 years ago by retired Salt Lake physician Bill Jackson, who, as a mission president in the Philippines for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, saw the suffering in areas with abject poverty and the total lack of medical care.

Jackson came up with the idea of raising money and partnering with medical suppliers to donate state-of-the-art medical equipment for poor areas around the world. The charity offers the donated equipment to doctors and medical facilities in those areas, on the condition that half of the surgeries and medical services they provide will be charity work for the poor.

"It's an interesting model," said Romney, a friend of Jackson who has become heavily involved in the charity work, along with his son Josh.

In fact, Romney just returned from India with Jackson and his son, Doug, who is CEO of the organization, where he helped raise money and set up the facilities to aid the poor.

"It (Charity Vision) operates on about a $1 million annual budget," Romney said. But the foundation is able to oversee about 40,000 surgeries a year in developing countries around the world. That's about $25 per surgery.

One of the criteria, said Romney, is that the surgeries are conducted by local doctors. The charity provides the surgical equipment and support, but local doctors provide the medical services.

When Bill Jackson founded the international charity effort, it was called Deseret International. "At the time," said Romney, "it was all kinds of medical procedures, but over the years the focus has been eye surgeries, so the name was changed to Charity Vision."

The Romney-Holyfield fight will not be the only bout that night. "There will be bouts between real, active professional prize fighters," he said.

The fundraiser will be aimed toward attracting corporate sponsorships, and will run between $250,000 to $25,000, depending on the level of sponsorship. Josh Romney said corporate sponsors can then bring in guests, "so it will be a good promotion for them (the sponsors)."

"We just thought it would be a lot better to provide this kind of entertainment rather than just have dinner and listen to speakers," Mitt Romney said.

Meanwhile, he has two months to work on his footwork.