When it comes to your favorite athletes, what do you think makes them the winners they are?

What kind of drive made him stay the course when everyone else was winning? Why did she keep practicing when everyone told her she’d never be good enough? When the road got rough, what prodded your favorite athlete to stay the course?

In the new book “Becoming Holyfield” (c.2008, Atria, $25.00 / $28.99 Canada, 288 pages) by Evander Holyfield (with Lee Gruenfeld), you’ll see that in this case, guidance, a national club, a few kind people with vision, and a mother’s love gave a champ a glove up.

As the youngest of eight children, being raised by a single mother and a Bible-quoting grandmother, Evander Holyfield remembers that he and his next-oldest brother spent hours playing in their Atlanta neighborhood. The Holyfield boys loved sports.

When a neighbor mentioned spending time at the Boys Club, Evander and Bernard couldn’t wait go, too. There, Holyfield says he was awed by the number of activities he could participate in, and he signed up for everything.

Except for the mysterious goings-on at the end of the gym, that is. Kids weren’t allowed there, but young Evander kept trying. Eventually, Carter Morgan let him in, taught Holyfield a thing or two, and became the boy’s first mentor.

Holyfield won his first match at age eight, and didn’t lose for three years.

In this thoughtful, humble, and gracious biography, Holyfield writes about the people who stepped in to help him when he was a struggling amateur athlete with a young family to feed, and the belief they had in his budding career.

He writes about the excitement of the Olympics, the heartbreak of the outcome, and the patience he found in learning there were people in his corner who would take up certain fights on behalf of a boxer.

He writes of opponents both in the ring and out. He admits to a few things he did wrong and a lot he did right. He remembers his mother who raised him to be a good man, and the father Holyfield didn’t meet until he was well-grown. And Holyfield talks about his best fight and the one that fans still mention in disbelieving tones.

Think all athletes write memoirs to brag?

Not at all. This one is different.

At a time when grandstanding seems to be the reason so many people put pen to paper, author Evander Holyfield doesn’t boast. He’s proud of his achievements, sure, but the usual chest-pounding just isn’t there. I was pleased and surprised to see a good sense of humor, too, as well as a little-boy hurt and confusion at being lied-to. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect those things from a man who admits to how much he loves to TKO his opponent in the ring.

The big question is, will Evander Holyfield attempt a comeback? I’m not telling. You have to find out by picking up this very well-done book. For boxing fans and non-fans alike, “Becoming Holyfield” is a knock-out of a book.