Holyfield is the second heavyweight champion to go into a world title fight with a serious medical condition in the last six weeks. Last month, after losing his World Boxing Organisation title to Britain's Herbie Hide, Michael Bentt was advised to retire because he was suffering from severe concussion.
Holyfield, 31, appeared listless for much of Friday's fight for the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles in Las Vegas and admitted he suffered intense pain in the chest during the fight.
Stephens said Holyfield's condition meant his heart was unable to fill up with blood properly, which limited the amount of oxygen delivered to the body. Stephens said Holyfield could live a normal, active life, but the stress of boxing was out of the question. The diagnosis was made after Holyfield went to hospital on Monday with a kidney condition caused by post-fight dehydration.
'You treat that condition with massive fluid replacement, and that's when we determined Evander had a heart problem because his heart couldn't handle the fluid,' Stephens said. 'This is a condition that only comes out when you push the heart to its limit.'
Holyfield decided to retire as soon as he learned the diagnosis. 'Back in 1987, when my licence was suspended due to heart problems, I came to the hospital for testing and everything checked out fine,' he said. 'But the older I got, it became more of a struggle each time I trained. Some people said I was lazy. I learned to never admit that I was tired, but deep down inside, I knew something was wrong. It got to the point where I couldn't hold my hands up. I'm happy in one way - at least I know what the problem is.'
Douglas Morris, a cardiologist, said Holyfield did not experience a heart attack. 'His heart was not functioning at its maximum, and he was in a situation of extreme stress. However, his life was not in peril at any time,' Morris said.
Holyfield's retirement removes one of the major players from a heavyweight scene in which there is stong British interest. As well as Hide, another Briton, Lennox Lewis, holds the World Boxing Council title.
Holyfield began his career as a professional in November 1984 and won the cruiserweight world title in July 1986. He moved up to the far more lucrative heavyweight division, winning the world title in October 1990 when he knocked out James 'Buster' Douglas in three rounds.
Despite beating the man who beat Mike Tyson, Holyfield was never completely accepted as a genuine heavyweight, but still made three successful defences of his titles before losing them to Riddick Bowe in November 1992.
His courageous performance in winning the rematch a year later convinced many that he was, after all, a worthy champion. He departs with a record of 30 victories - 22 by knockout - and two defeats.Reuse content