I hate to start off an article with negative overtones, but we have to do some digging before we get to the positive. We’ve all seen those fights before… an extremely talented fighter, fighting way below his capacity… almost refusing to throw punches, yet everything is on the line. It is a study in frustration. Does he realize that his inaction is causing him to lose a fight that is winnable? Forget about the purse, he will get that anyway, but he is directly affecting his future income. This is a fight were he doesn’t have to take unnecessary punches; unnecessary heckling from the crowd and boxing pundits. What does he think when in the ring? What is actually going through his mind? Why does he hold his hands back when another man simply doles out punishment? Is it intimidation? A lack of confidence? An excuse for losing without even trying? At least make an effort, go down swinging and the crowd will appreciate your effort. TRY! You want to smash your head against the wall in frustration. It just doesn’t make sense. Yet the same thing persists… no concerted effort on behalf of the talent. Why are you in the ring to fight, yet your actions so placid?
Meet Lamon Brewster
I speak with Lamon Brewster and the first thing that comes to my mind is the term contradiction… His easy demeanor and stay-the-course personality will cause you to pause and reconsider yourself and your motivations… In speaking with him, you’d be hard-pressed to find any one athlete as cool and pleasant as he. And is there anything more influential and refreshing than THAT in a world of hyperbole, a world were the “empty wagon makes the most noise” and the most money?
I found myself making the same associations that all writers made when they first meet a fighter – to the point of sickening myself – and I’m not really a writer. In between sentences I catch myself thinking things like: “Wow, he doesn’t seem like a boxer… this dude is cool, thoughtful, so down to earth… how does he get in the ring and fight?” Then I smack myself back to reality by remembering that I used to trade “glove taps” and you don’t necessarily need to have the mouth of a sewer or the intent of the crusaders in order to succeed in boxing. What actually made me think that just because the man is a boxer he is automatically going to be curt and obnoxious? After all, through my experiences (and I bet yours), it’s the guys in the button-down suits that have given me more grief in my life than any athlete. I could end this story here by saying Lamon is the kind of person that you would be proud to call your friend… not your usual choice of words when you hear a description of a fighter, but he is genuine and fights with his heart and that, in the end, that is the true measure of a champ. (Thought you’d laugh at that one. Let me try that again)… I have always found that the way a fighter fights is generally a reflection of their true personality/character, and that being the case, when the heat is on, Lamon might just be the one. Yeah, Lamon’s chance is coming once again and now he is in the position of proving just how deep some still waters run… and the undercurrent’s a bitch!
So let’s go a little deeper than subcutaneous on the man, the fighter Lamon Brewster, a boxer I think has the physical ability to become the dominant heavyweight. That’s 50% of it…
I ask around the boxing scene and the most frequently used word to describe Lamon is relaxed. And when I say relaxed, I am purposely choosing a different adjective over the ones given me. “Walk a mile in a man’s shoes,” I (don’t) always (but try to) say. Most won’t forget his two performances against Clifford Etienne and Charles Shufford, two fights he was not expected to lose but did… and just when you thought he threw away those soggy blankets… Kali Meehan…Oy, yoy, yoy.
So what do I do? Out of the box I asked Lamon to compare himself to the greatest heavyweights of all time. Some of you may scoff, thinking: how can I ask such a question of a man who hasn’t the longevity nor the tests of someone considered a great fighter to compare himself to the very pillars and foundations of fisticuffs? Well, friends, I asked this question for several reasons. But every fighter, some may admit it, some not, see themselves fighting their division’s greatest fighters of all time and they deep down know how they would’ve done against them. In retrospect, I guess I wanted to see where Lamon’s head was at... But truth be told, I didn’t know that this question would be a great way of finding out. Oh yeah, the mental aspect, that’s the other 50%.
Jack Dempsey – “My first trainer, Honey Bill Brown, used to bareknuckle box and knew the Manassa Mauler… I would have to get to Dempsey’s body and wear him down. I would also have to go toe-to-toe with him every round… I think Dempsey would beat me.”
Rocky Marciano – “He would beat me. I mean, the man would hit you anywhere and could hurt you.” I suggest that maybe he doesn’t give his ability enough credit, Marciano was a small heavyweight and not noted for his defensive prowess, but Lamon deftly counters, “Wars are won on the will. Look at the Ali vs. Frazier fights, those fights were won on the will of the individual. You could be beating the best fighter in the world until you lose your will. Marciano had tremendous will and that is what allowed him to beat some great fighters and you can never sell the man short.” That’s truth... and I should know better. Often we only measure things like reach and height and see them as advantages, where in fact they can also be detriments. You have a weapon, whether physical or mental, only if you know how to use it, can you benefit.
Joe Louis – “He woulda knocked me out before the first bell rang,” Brewster said with a laugh. What about the fact that guys like Two-Ton Tony Galento dropped Louis and Billy Conn had him in all sorts of trouble? I can’t get him to budge. Personally, I firmly believe that on any given night any one fighter can beat the other, no matter the odds. I remember back to Peter McNeely and Mike Tyson. The bell rang, Tyson was on McNeely, and it was over… a microcosm of controlled violence, but within that furious flash, McNeeley skinned Iron Mike’s chin with a right hand. Had it hit solid, what would’ve happened? Maybe nothing… but I highly doubt it. In boxing, every single fighter has a chance to change their fistic destiny when the bell rings. No matter how short the fight. Why couldn’t Lamon, landing the hook he put on Klitschko or Golota, done the same with Louis? “I couldn’t of beat that man.”
Muhammad Ali – “The greatest of all time. Never would’ve hit him.” But wait a minute, Richard Dunn hit him.
Joe Frazier – “Uh, uh. Every time I exhale, that man would be on my chest inhaling my carbon dioxide.” (I say to myself, “But Oscar Bonavena…”)
Larry Holmes – “Second greatest fighter of all time… No way. For a number of reasons we’ve already discussed about other fighters. Especially his will as well as ability.” Lucien Rodriguez, anybody?
Alright then, Gerrie Coetze? Just joking!
I begin to think that Lamon’s issues in the ring, and why he hasn’t set the fight world on fire is because he may not have true belief in his abilities. Maybe that… or maybe he just wasn’t certain what it is he wants to do. I want him to say we all have the ability to go as far as our minds will allow us and on any given day he can beat any of the greats. But that wasn’t the case. He himself will tell you that he recently made peace with himself… NOW he knows what he is good at. “I’ll never be a Bill Gates-type business man, that isn’t my calling,” he said to me, but now he is ready to take the reigns at what he excels. More people wish they knew their true calling. So what did asking that question about the greats tell me about Lamon? The man respects those that were there before him. And they have nothing to do with his perception of his own ability.
My next question… If you were going to fight Lamon Brewster, how would you prepare? What would you have to do to win? The same meek man that said he would lose to every aforementioned fighter, before I could finish uttering my question, adds to the complexity by saying: “Be prepared to die.” He refuses to go back to an existence where he has to go to church and beg for food. He is not going back to were he was. Leaving his destiny up to someone else. Not his, and certainly not the destiny of his three children, Lamon Jr., Kierra and Shaniah. But what happens when the bell rings? Those thoughts often go to the wayside, believe it or not.
Well, what is it that makes Lamon’s performances so… Relaxed? How can he go into one fight with smoke (Meehan) and then into the next with fire (Golota)? Boxing not being a team sport, you can definitely have your ups and downs and there is no masking them… especially given the fact that biorhythms play a major part of the fight. Lamon wasn’t raised like many fighters who were physically and socially abused throughout their formative years. His parents loved and provided for him… even though in no stretch of the imagination were they middle-class, they didn’t fall below the poverty line either. So using anger as petrol isn’t an option.
In boxing there is so much mental effort involved that at times you come across personalities that may remind you of someone you like and don’t necessarily want to hit… or conversely, an opponent may embody personality traits of someone that used to intimidate you, and you freeze. A certain individual may just have your number because he fights a certain style you always had a hard time with and instead of addressing that shortcoming, you fold, or go into your shell… there are so many reasons why a fighter may lose other than a fighter being genuinely more gifted than the other…
Or am I projecting?
Past the point of humility, I am not convinced Lamon is aware of the talent that he has and therefore you wonder how his true ability is going to come out if he doesn’t have high expectations of himself. These are just some of the things that make a fighter’s performance… Relaxed.
Delving deeper into a fighter’s mind game… another significant reason a fighter’s performance can be so drastically different is not only because they are fighting a different style of fighter or even a better fighter than they have fought before, it is because they really don’t want to do it… they don’t particularly like going into the ring and bringing pain into other men’s lives… nor do they particularly want to get hit either, but happenstance being what it is they end up boxing and doing very well at it.
Lamon didn’t choose boxing, he was brought to boxing… make of that what you will.
Brewster’s last four fights go like this… He destroys Klitschko in 5, but it wasn’t looking too good in the 4th before the bomb was unleashed. He got a split decision over Kali Meehan, and as I noted he destroyed Andrew Golota in 1. His last fight was againstLuan Krasniqi in Germany and he was reported to be behind on the scorecards in that fight until he scored the TKO late. Talk about imbalanced performances. There is certainly a pattern there that maybe only Sigmund Freud is qualified to diagnose. A distinct and definite Jekyll and Hyde issue is going on here and I don’t remember which one was the bad and which the good, but I would hazard a guess to say that when fighting Lamon, just let sleeping dogs lie. You may be able to “sleepwalk” him to a loss, but once you hurt him, or he feels in some way threatened, uh-oh… Like a pit-bull, you won’t hear it bark, but you sure will feel its bite.
Here are the positives of Lamon… He has a new trainer, former world champion, Buddy McGirt, and this alone can make all the difference in Lamon’s ability to fight up to his potential. Just given the fact that you have a former and HIGHLY respected world champion, who is now a HIGHLY respected trainer, is empowering. Forget the fact that Buddy actually knows what he is talking about and has faced pretty much every situation Lamon has and will come across in the ring to some degree… Mentally I believe Buddy can relate to Lamon the way no other trainer can… Buddy was also a thinking man’s fighter.
That left hook! I haven’t seen an axe swung like that since Schwarzenegger played Conan. I mean, he swings it like the scythe of death, and should it hit, no man will be left standing.
His resiliency. The ability to withstand punishment is pretty impressive… almost to a detriment. I don’t know if it is a high pain threshold or nature provided him with an anesthetized nervous system, but this is a man that doesn’t figure to go out sitting on his stool, or flat on his back.
His experience. He has been on the rollercoaster ride of “almost” and it sure helps when you get off the ride without having suffered extreme whiplash… and get back on it again with new eyes.
Having a second chance at life through the same eyes, having spoken with Lamon, I feel he is better prepared for what is coming his way this time and knows what he has to do in order to succeed in the ring.
Lamon can fight, and to tell you the truth, physically I would put him in the ring with any of the greatest heavyweights of all time, and physically none of them would have an advantage (well, just Ali)... When you are in the ring, thought leaves too much room for indecision. Indecision causes hesitation… Hesitation gives the appearance of being too relaxed.
His own personal drama is being lived out on the public screen. He has the tools to “make it.” We’ve seen all the fighters, fights and their wild outcomes… fighters get stopped on cuts, being knocked out the ring, quitting, losing split decisions, losing decisions even Stevie Wonder can see they won, getting hit by their opponent’s mother’s shoe in the head… there is so much physical drama in the fight game, but it’s the fighter’s psychological drama that keeps me intrigued… how he overcomes himself is what will keep me coming back. Lamon Brewster is in the process of getting out of his own way and accepting his ability... I for one am in his corner, and from what I have seen I feel he’s the one to watch in the heavyweight division. Now, if he can turn off his analytical mind and rely on his instinct, my good people, I think then Lamon will fulfill his potential. “Don’t think/use instinct.” Yeah, that’s the question life is asking of Lamon. But can you teach a thinker not to think?
A CLOSING THOUGHT… Reach is irrelevant in boxing… RANGE… now there is an attribute they can put up on the screen that will determine the outcome of a fight, because reach, has NEVER decided the outcome of a fight since the inception of boxing and never will.
IN ANSWER TO… TSS reader Chuck, who asked, amongst other things, why couldn’t Holmes and Hopkins leave when they were on top? In short, for me boxing is a microcosm of life… and just because you hit your prime, and you know it’s all downhill from there, you don’t quit living… you continue your search for one more high; to relive a good moment. It is human instinct and after all is said and done, that is what rules. And no, a fighter’s performances when they are no longer at their prime shouldn't affect their standing in the Hall of Fame. The ability they had is the ability they had. Can’t take that away.