By Penny LeLeux
For the Record 

Holy Moley, is that Holyfield?

Local retirement party causes internet stir


Last updated 4/9/2024 at 7:10pm

The eclipse wasn’t the only strange sighting in Orange County over the last few days. Saturday, pictures started showing up of local residents with four-time heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield at K-Dan’s in Orangefield. The champ was eating breakfast with his good friend Craig Stilley. He had flown in overnight to attend the retirement party later that night honoring Stilley’s father, Dan Stilley.

Retirement party isn’t really accurate, because the older Stilley isn’t really retiring, he is just switching places with Craig.

The younger Stilley took over as president and CEO of Stilley Enterprises about a month ago and his father assumed the vice president position Craig used to have.

“He demoted me and I gave him a raise,” said Dan Stilley of the new positions.

Stilley Enterprises is a commercial paint company started by Dan Stilley in 1982 with 15-20 employees.

“Back then we had to have drywall finishers, too,” said Dan. “Now we contract that out.”

“I've been working for the company for 33 years since I was 17,” said Craig.

“When my uncle retired, I became vice president of the company. I have kind of revamped the company so he (Dan) decided it was time to pass the torch.”

“I’m still gonna stay active, but he’s got all the say so,” said Dan. “Craig and I are close. He’s always been my right-hand man.”

He plans to stay in the office in an advisory position, but if a nap is on the day’s agenda, that’s OK, too.

Currently they span a radius from Jasper to Mont Bellevue according to Craig. “I’m looking to expand it event further.” He sees it growing exponentially in the future, even as far as Houston.

The party at Tia Juanita’s in Orange was originally planned for the following week, but when Holyfield decided to come Craig kicked everything into gear to accommodate his schedule.

“It was a spur of the moment deal,” said Craig. Stilley stays with Holyfield all the time and when he asked Holyfield when he was coming here, Holyfield decided to come now. Dan has spoken with Holyfield on the phone several times over the years, but this was the first time they had met in person.

Craig said he was worried about how people in the area would react. He wasn’t worried about people wanting to take pictures with him, “That happens wherever we go.” He was more worried about stalker type situations or paparazzi following them. None of that happened to Stilley’s relief.

Will Holyfield be coming back to Orange?

“I'm sure I’ll be coming a lot of times,” said the Champ. He confided he’s looking for a place to move from Florida.

Wait. Don’t get too excited. Orange is a little further out than he wants to go. He confided he will likely move to Houston, which is where he lived when he was training. He expects that move to be within about a year.

With Stilley living in Orange County, Holyfield sightings may become common in the future.

If you hear, “Holy Moley is that Holyfield?” you will be able to answer, “Why yes, I believe it is.”

Brothers in Christ

How does one become friends with Evander Holyfield? That’s a question on everyone’s mind after the recent sightings of Holyfield in Orange County over the weekend.

“He's like my brother, he’s my best friend,” said Craig Stilley of Orangefield. “He’s like family.”

It’s a story that started about three decades ago.

“It's a spiritual thing it goes back to 96. I've turned my life to the Lord because him.” Stilley said he saw Holyfield on television talking about Jesus Christ. “It’s a transformational thing because he's very Christian guy,” said Stilley.

Stilley told people Holyfield was responsible for his conversion and friends kept suggesting he should send a letter to Holyfield telling him the story, but Stilley resisted, feeling it would get lost in the shuffle of fan mail and just be discarded.

The late Kenny Weldon was training Holyfield in Houston and offered to introduce Stilley to the champ. Weldon had also trained Stilley in the past.

“Once we met in Houston, we kept talking,” said Holyfield.

They hadn’t seen each other in 15 years when Stilley contacted him about four years ago. Stilley was working on a boxing proof-of-concept film project, “Against the Ropes.”

“I got frustrated one day and wanted to quit,” said Stilley. “I said, ‘God what do you want me to do? I don’t know how to do this.’ I had never asked. He said, ‘Get a hold of Evander Holyfield.’ I know that sounds crazy, but that’s what he said.”

The rest is history.


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