Undefeated junior middleweight Sechew “Iron Horse” Powell (18-0) steps into the ring tonight against Robert “Push Up” Frazier, a man with more than twice as many fights in an eleven year career. In fact, when Frazier (31-6-4) made his pro debut, Sechew (pronounced “Suh KOO”) was still competing as an amateur in the junior division. And Frazier has faced much tougher competition than Powell, going the distance in title fights against Felix Strum and Winky Wright.
At the moment, Powell is perhaps best recognized for his 22 second KO of Cornelius Brundrage following a Ripley’s-Believe-It-Or-Not simultaneous double knockdown off the first exchange. “What bothers me the most about that is that I was never hurt,” Sechew explains. “My foot was on the inside [of his] and I tripped over his foot. My eyes never left him because I knew I cracked him and I wanted to see his reaction. When he got up wobbly, I threw the straightest left I could throw.”
While he dominated Archak TerMeliksetian, for ten rounds, most of the ink and footage from that card was devoted to Allen Green’s devastating KO of Jaidon Codrington.
“I expect a tough fight from Robert on Friday night,” states Powell. “He knows he’s more experienced, so that gives him confidence.”
So if he trails his opponent in experience, and he has yet to become a household name, what exactly is Powell bringing to the table tonight?
For starters, Sechew’s three year pro career builds on over a decade of competing as an elite amateur boxer. He and his brother Jamelle Hamilton began training in Brooklyn at age ten, and by 22, Sechew owned three national titles and had traveled the world with the US team.
“Having the opportunity to box against so many different styles definitely helped me as a pro. European fighters use a different set of tools. If you’ve never seen it before, you can’t defend against it.” In Powell’s last fight, many warned him the “Shark Attack” ate southpaws, but he said he was never worried because he’d “seen it a hundred times before.”
Powell’s amateur resume includes wins against “Irish” John Duddy, Kelly Pavlik, and “Contender's” Sergio Mora and Peter Manfredo. Sechew remembers boxing Duddy at a dual meet. “I hit him with everything. I mean everything! But I give him credit because I couldn’t break his spirit.”
As a youngster, Sechew knew that boxing was serious business and not about play.
His father, Norvic Powell, had the foresight to take his young sons to a professional gym from the start. The boys could have attended a rec center youth program for free, but dad opted to foot the bills for gym dues and trainers’ fees so his sons would be amongst and learn from professionals. “When he couldn’t drive us, he even arranged for a taxi service to pick us up from school and drive us to the gym, which was an extra expense that he couldn’t really afford,” Sechew recalls.
While Mr. Powell has provided unwavering support for his sons’ boxing careers, he remains relatively silent and unseen. He is Sechew’s manager, but not the type to meddle with training, or to and yell scream advice from the ring apron. “Once he gives you the job [of training us], he respects you as a professional and trusts you to do your job.”
That job is currently held by Francisco “Yiyo” Guzman, who trained the brothers as kids. When Jamelle makes his pro debut tonight, it will not be the first time they are fighting on the same card. In 1997, they won the New York Golden Gloves as 139 lb. novices. Brothers are not permitted to fight each other in that tournament. “I cleared my bracket, he cleared his, and we met at the center of the ring as co-champs to get our gloves. That was exciting because the only Golden Gloves I ever won was with my brother,” Sechew remembers.
The amateur program gave Sechew opportunities to grow outside the ring as well. “I grew up in Brownsville. It’s a very limited place. I had a younger friend who died recently, and he probably never even went to New Jersey.”
Sechew Powell is not afraid of learning. In the fall of 1997, at age 18, Sechew wrested himself from his Brooklyn neighborhood to attend Northern Michigan University on scholarship through USA Boxing. Working towards the 2000 Olympic Games, Powell trained under Al Mitchell and studied forensic engineering and auto-body repair.
While he made it to the Trials but not the Games, Powell recalls his personal growth. “Traveling abroad gave me such a different outlook. It showed me a lot of the ignorant things that people think about other people aren’t true. There’s more to life than Brooklyn, New York, and even the United States.”
Accomplishments aside, what really impresses me about Sechew is his consistency. To remain an elite athlete from childhood through pre-pubescence, adolescence and young adulthood requires constant recommitment to the sport. As a child athlete ages, he or she experiences growth spurts, a social life, and financial responsibilities, not to mention hormones. These are all reasons to lose focus or desire and drop out. It takes a strong internal vision and drive to stick with the game.
I don’t have to ask Sechew to know he has that drive. I can remember seeing Sechew and Jamelle training as youngsters. They were kids in an adult environment but there was no playing, babysitting, or whining. The work ethic, focus, politeness and friendliness they had as youngsters are qualities they still possess as adults.
I wondered what kept Sechew so steady for so many years. I realized it was the same force that will hit Robert Frazier straight in the face tonight. Whether it’s a straight left or a right hook, it’s the passion behind the punch that will overwhelm him.
“My passion to win is the same as when I was a kid,” says Sechew. “Ultimately, I’m trying to inflict some damage on my opponent, get the win and get one step closer to being world champ. When it comes to fighting, I have to win. If you hurt me, if you knock me down, I’ve got to get up and win. That’s why I work so hard.”
Who wins the WBO Middleweight title fight Dec. 19th?