Written by David A. Avila
Saturday, 29 December 2007 19:00
St. Pierre took the final chapter in the trilogy with Hughes and now is the UFC interim champion at the 170-pound division.
Hughes just shook his head after tapping out before a sold out audience at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. It was called “Nemesis” and St. Pierre conquered his nemesis.
“Georges is just a better fighter,” said Hughes (43-6) who beat St. Pierre several years ago, but lost two years ago in a title match. “I just don’t know how much longer I got.”
St. Pierre (15-2) found Hughes using a left-handed stance to change up his attack, but the Canadian quickly adapted and used his quickness, skills and raw strength to take Hughes to the ground.
“If it wasn’t for my wrestling training I wouldn’t have been able to adjust,” said St. Pierre who had been preparing to represent Canada’s Olympic wrestling team.
Inside the Octagon the Canadian was never in danger. In fact, Hughes was the fighter teetering for the entire fight that ended in 4:54 of the second round.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way.
Hughes, known for his wrestling skills, just couldn’t solve St. Pierre’s quickness. Every move the Illinois fighter attempted was squashed.
St. Pierre is now promised a fight against the current UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, who pulled out of the fight with Hughes because of injury.
“If I don’t get my belt back, I’m going to consider myself champion,” said St. Pierre filled in for Serra with less than a month of training.
After dominating the first round on top of Hughes, the second round was even worse as St. Pierre landed elbows and fists. Though the Illinois fighter escaped from underneath, he was quickly thrown down. Within seconds St. Pierre grabbed Hughes left arm and turned it into an inescapable arm bar.
Hughes screamed out: “I tap!”
St. Pierre now awaits Serra to recover from his back injury.
The semi-main event was no less intense.
The light heavyweight showdown between Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and Brazil’s Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva was a three-round punch out between two famous sluggers. In the end Liddell’s sharper punches in the first and third round decided the fight despite a knockdown in the second scored by Silva.
Silva (31-8-1) dominated the second round for four minutes and 30 seconds but Liddell rallied and took the Brazilian to the ground. Two judges were somehow impressed by Liddell’s last 30 seconds and inexplicably gave him that round.
With both fighters huffing and puffing, and Silva with a bad cut over his right eye, Liddell seemed the stronger puncher and landed a back-handed fist and a right hand that stunned the former Pride FC fighter Silva. But he survived the round.
The judges scored it 29-28, 30-27 twice for Liddell who won his first bout after back-to-back losses.
“I knew it was a big fight for everybody and especially for me to get back on track,” said Liddell (21-5). “He had a lot more than I thought he had.”
Silva, who was making his first UFC appearance, was gracious in defeat.
“He won,” said Silva. “I gave my best.”
Temecula’s Rameau Sokoudjou fell short against Brazil’s undefeated Lyoto Machida (12-0) in their light heavyweight contest. The Cameroon native was unable to use his punching power with effectiveness against the karate-trained fighter. Then, unexpectedly, Machida landed a left hand that dropped Sokoudjou (4-2) and proceeded to gain an arm triangle that forced a submission at 4:20 of the second round.
“I’ve been working on my ground game,” said Machida who wants a world title match. “I beat the Alaska assassin, the African assassin, what other assassins are left?”
A heavyweight bout featured two Southern Californians eager to punch out. But San Diego’s Eddie “Manic Hispanic” Sanchez’s experience proved decisive in beating Temecula’s Soa Palelei (8-2) with uppercuts for three rounds. With his nose bleeding profusely and sustaining three consecutive uppercuts, referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the fight at 3:24 of the third and final round for a technical knockout.
“He was out of gas,” said Sanchez (10-1). “He was always putting his head down.”
A grudge fight between two Louisiana fighters ended in a decisive submission victory by Rich Clementi of Slidell over the favored Melvin Guillard of New Orleans. A rear naked choke at 4:40 seconds of the first round forced Guillard, who had been predicting domination, to tap out. Though the fight was definitively over, Guillard attempted to assault Clementi but referee Herb Dean grabbed the fighter.
“He still didn’t learn his lesson,” said Clementi after Guillard attempted to rush him after the fight. “I validated what he’s known for six years, I’m the better man.”
James “The Sandman” Irvin (13-5-1) was nearly put to sleep by an illegal knee to the eye from Brazil’s newcomer Luis Cane (8-1) in the first round of a light heavyweight fight. Unable to continue, Irvin was declared the winner by disqualification at 1:51. Cane seemed unaware that UFC rules disallow knees to the head while the person is on the ground. Some mixed martial arts organizations allow it.
Former Ultimate Fighter participant Manny Gamburyan (6-3) quickly took his fight to the ground with former boxer Nate Mohr (6-5). Once on the ground the lightweight used his quickness to grab an ankle and twist. Mohr screamed to stop the fight at 1:31 of the first round.
“I’m so sorry for you man,” said Gamburyan who suspects he broke Mohr’s leg. “Nate’s a great guy.”
San Diego’s Dean Lister (10-5) scraped out a unanimous decision win over Bulgaria’s punch-crazy Jordan Rachev (16-2) in a middleweight bout. The judges scored it 29-28 for Lister.
Written by Robert Mladinich
Saturday, 29 December 2007 19:00
What he sees is the dynamic, hard-hitting heavyweight who made it to the finals of the 1996 Olympic Trials, and began his pro career with six straight knockouts and one decision victory.
Since being stopped in the first round by then undefeated Bermane Stiverne, who had won all nine of his fights by knockout, in February 2007, Sconiers has completely reassessed his life and career.
He has come to understand what transformed him from an exciting amateur and fledgling young pro with seemingly limitless future to a nominal heavyweight who had at one point lost 10 fights in a row.
Now aligned with a new manager, David Selwyn of New York, he plans on utilizing that newfound knowledge to embark on what he believes will be the comeback story of 2008.
“I always knew I had a lot of talent, but I never let that talent completely develop,” said the 31-year-old Sconiers, who has lost to such notables as Clifford Etienne, Maurice Harris, Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, David Defiagbon, DaVarryl Williamson and Eric Kirkland.
“I had a lot of different problems, but my biggest problems were self doubt and self sabotage. I would do things to make sure I never rose above a certain level.”
During his intensive, exhaustive and brutally honest re-examination of himself, he chose to forego all of the negative aspects of his career and instead focus only on the positive. Through lots of reading and candid discussions with his former trainer Larry Berrien, he went about changing the mindset that made him so comfortable with losing.
The first thing he did was look at his complete record from a totally different perspective. Rather than just dwell on the losses, Sconiers lauded himself for beating six previously unbeaten or once beaten fighters. Among them was Ray Austin, who was 14-1 at the time and later challenged Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight title.
He also fought Edward Escobedo, who was 12-1, to a draw, and lost a split decision to Ruddock, who has always been a formidable ring presence.
When he examined his 10 fight losing streak, he realized that his opponents had a combined record of 164-32-8. Of the 32 losses, Harris, who had revitalized his once dismal career in much the same way Sconiers hopes to, had incurred 10 of them.
And the always competitive Sherman Williams, accounted for another 10, which means eight other opponents had only 12 losses between them. Several were undefeated at the time they faced Sconiers.
“Losing to all of those guys gave the boxing world the perception that I was washed up and just didn’t care anymore,” said Sconiers. “I realized I had to change that perception, and the only way to change it was to change my old habits and my old ways of thinking, dissect everything I’d been doing wrong, and working really hard to establish a new belief system.”
Tapping deep into his own psyche, Sconiers came to realize that much of his lack of self worth was rooted in childhood issues. As a kid he had a passive personality, and both of his parents were college graduates who held what he calls high ranking positions in the corporate world.
He was bright enough to skip grades in school and he scored high on IQ tests. In no way was he destined to become a boxer. His parents had told him on many occasions that he would be well-suited as psychiatrist or attorney.
His life changed when his father held a Mike Tyson fight party at the family home. To say that Sconiers was mesmerized would be a gross understatement.
“I was instantly locked in,” said Sconiers. “I told myself that I have to do this.”
Sconiers ventured to the Frontline Outreach Gym in Orlando, where he met Antonio Tarver, who was roaring through the amateur ranks en route to the 1996 Olympics. Because Tarver was a few years older than Sconiers, he became a surrogate big brother to him. To this day, Sconiers has the utmost respect for Tarver as both a fighter and a friend.
During Sconiers’ amateur career, which consisted of 77 fights, of which he lost 9, his mother continuously reminded him that, in her opinion, “boxing was for dummies.”
Still, he managed to win a silver medal in the 1996 U.S. Nationals, where he beat eventual Olympic representative and future heavyweight title challenger Calvin Brock, as well as the finals of the 1996 Olympic Trials. In that tournament he lost to Williamson and Lamon Brewster.
When his pro career began to get derailed, the young and immature Sconiers blamed everyone but himself for his shift in fortune.
“I thought the problem was outside me, and thought everyone was responsible but me,” he said. “I dumped Larry in order to self-manage myself. I left what had always kept me grounded. Some of the fights I lost I could or should have won. There’s no way I should have lost to Etienne, but all I did was show up. The Ruddock fight should have been mine.”
As Sconiers lost interest and motivation, he also began dabbling in drugs and alcohol. More times than not, he would take fights on short notice. Even if he had time to train, he never cared if his opponents were switched or where he was lacing them up. Resigned to the fact that he was just fighting for money, he didn’t train hard, if at all.
He’d also pick up a few dollars working as a sparring partner for the likes of Etienne, Shannon Briggs, Jameel McCline, Larry Donald and Kirk Johnson, but the passion was gone. Many of those fighters, as well as their trainers, told Sconiers to snap out of his trance because he was a lot better fighter than he gave himself credit for.
While working with Etienne, the esteemed trainer Don Turner told Sconiers he could make him heavyweight champion of the world if only he’d “get his (stuff) together.”
Sconiers said he was at his personal abyss in mid-2003, when he was stopped by Kirkland, who was 16-1, in the first round in Vallejo, California.
“That was a real bad time for me,” he said. “I was up all night using drugs and alcohol and just didn’t care about anything.”
Although it would be nearly four more years before Sconiers embarked on his personal renaissance, when he looks back on his sordid past that is his most vivid memory. He has learned to use that memory to his advantage.
“A lot of people go down the same route I did and destroy themselves completely,” he said. “I was close to that point around the time of the Kirkland fight, but managed to survive another four years. It is so obvious to me now that I was trying to destroy myself.”
Sconiers is the first to concede that once you fall into the role of an opponent, it is hard to extricate yourself.
“A lot of guys go through this and fall by the wayside,” he said. “Look at Emanuel Burton (Augustus). He’s an immensely talented guy who’s good enough to be competitive and probably beat anyone. But he is in that opponent role, which is hard to snap out of.”
Having done lots of reading on positive thinking and overcoming psychological roadblocks, as well as completely revising his physical training regimen, Sconiers believes he has snapped out of it.
Besides the steadfast support of his beloved wife of six years, Jennifer, who just earned her master’s degree, he believes that his association with Selwyn is a pivotal component to the success he foresees for himself.
They plan on having a momentous and memorable 2008.
“Harold says he is going to be the Cinderella Man of 2008,” said Selwyn. “We plan on keeping a very busy schedule. History has shown that heavyweights are always just a few wins away from redemption. At his best, Harold is very good. It is undeniable that he was his own worst enemy in the past. Now he believes in himself, Larry believes in him, and I believe in him. I’m really looking forward to working with him so he can reach his full potential.”
“We plan on a busy schedule and a lot of upsets,” added Sconiers. “After my first couple of wins, people will probably say they were a fluke. I’m not quite the Cinderella Man and I’m not quite Rocky, but I am an underdog who can make it. Hope sells in boxing, and I plan on being one of the biggest stories of the new year.”
Manager Dave Selwyn can be contacted at: Boxingkid@aol.com or 845-893-2829.
*photo courtesy Harold Sconiers
Written by Michael Woods
Saturday, 29 December 2007 19:00
Thanks, Dana White, aka the big black bear.
Thanks for waking up the semi-slumbering powers that be, and forcing them to acknowledge that boxing needed to step up its game, or be eaten alive, and shifted even further back in the sports world’s relevance race, in 2007.
With UFC threatening to snarf up those much lusted after PPV dollars, the suits went into overdrive, and worked smarter, and harder, to give fans compelling matchups.
They agreed to get along to get money, and they relegated the sanctioning bodies, with those moronic mandatories, and instead listened to you, the consumer, and booked the fights that made sense.
Nobody worked smarter or harder than the PR arms for HBO, and “Money” Mayweather, the artist formerly known as Pretty Boy Floyd. Through his appearance on the ABC reality dance competition “Dancing with the Stars,” and stubbornly effective marketing by HBO (24/7 before the De La Hoy and Hatton showdowns were masterful mini-movies which whet appetites of even non fight fans), “Money” emerged as a pay per view attraction who can take the baton as the premier earner from Oscar De La Hoya.
He transcended the sport, and boxing added another player to the mix of fighters that even non-fight fans in the US recognize the name of. Now there’s Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, and Floyd Mayweather…
Boxing, a sprawling mess of interests lacking a central organization that insures cohesiveness in marketing, and message, and mission, relies on a central figurehead to maintain its precarious perch in the mainstream sports information flow. Mayweather, a savvy marketer who has outgrown his periodic outbreaks of youthful indiscretions, is a superstar that fits our age to a T.
He knows exactly what buttons to push to keep his name in the papers-—or, more accurately today, on computer screens---and feeds us rabid presshounds of negativity and turmoil red meat, with his intra-familial beefs and 50 Cent-inspired rants proclaiming his peerlessness.
The only thing holding Mayweather back is his own talent, probably, as he owns too much of it. He blew out De La Hoya, and Hatton, and like Roy Jones in his heyday, he so dominates his opposition, that drama is missing from his fights. Most of us tune in to the sport to savor the drama that comes from one man reaching deep into the well of heart and guts to bring forth reserves even he didn’t know he possesses, and imposing his will on an opponent who had been imposing his will upon him. That sort of drama, as manufactured by the late Diego Corrales, is the variety that the sweet science can deliver like no other sport.
We saw it in excess in 2007, from my personal choice for 2007 Fighter of the Year, Ohio’s Kelly Pavlik.
He dug into his well, after getting knocked to the floor in the second round of his tussle with middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, and refused to lose.
All of us could apply his tenacity in staying on his feet, and roaring back to topple Taylor with a furious flurry in the seventh round of their Sept. 29 battle, in our own lives. We all could identify with, and root for, the TSS Fighter of the Year.
One could argue that Mayweather, with ultra high profile wins over De La Hoya and Hatton, who did as much as anyone to keep the sport relevant in the last 12 months, deserves the TSS FOTY honor. As referenced before, maybe his superior level of talent has set the bar too high for us nitpickers. We may be prone to be too hesitant to bestow praise on Floyd, because he makes it look too easy. Sorry, Money, it’s possible you are being penalized for just being too damned good. You certainly are the runaway frontrunner for Fighter of the Decade…
Pavlik, we didn’t know how good he was coming in to this year. We knew how good his promoter, Bob Arum, thought he was. But we reserved judgment, unwilling to make too much of wins over Lenord Pierre and Bronco McKart. We became believers, to a point, when the Ohio native showed boxing skill and a closer’s mentality with his January win over Jose Luis Zertuche (KO8), and true believers with his dominant march over Edison Miranda (TKO7), the heavily hyped Colombian who was no match for the Youngstown hitter’s work rate in their May match.
But we still withheld a measure of respect before Pavlik met Taylor, the middleweight king, in Atlantic City. Maybe we had been burned by (not as great as we were led to believe) white hopes in the past, and were worried that hype and marketing were his greatest attributes as a boxer. The respect came pouring forth when he stayed on his trembling legs in the second round of his September scrap with Taylor, and intensified when he closed the show with a KO crack in the seventh.
The fighter has to be rewarded for staying the course, and not allowing himself to be knocked off the title path since turning pro in 2000, and progressing at a sometimes snailish pace, and sticking with his no-name trainer Jack Loew even though some experts urged him to trade Loew in for a flashier model, and battling frail hands, and getting pinched for slugging an off-duty cop in 2005.
Pavlik’s rise in 2007 came the old fashioned way, via training his tail off, and staying on message mentally, and rising to the occasion when the situation offered a softer, easier choice.
There was no mega marketing machine bombarding our short attention spans with a campaign to make Kelly Pavlik into the torchbearer for the sport in 2007.
But the 2007 leg of his march to prominence reaffirms the best of what the sport has to offer, and reminds us that with talents like Pavlik, the sweet science will never crumble into obsolescence.
Written by Robert Mladinich
Friday, 28 December 2007 19:00
Afterwards he told a gaggle of reporters that it was his destiny to become a world champion, and that when he did all of the hard work he put into his career would pay off.
“I always listen to the little voice in my head, and that voice is telling me that I’m going to be the champion of the world,” he said. “I can do anything I put my mind to.”
Cunningham has seen his lofty dreams come to fruition, but it has been a circuitous road to the title. In his very next fight after beating Bryan, in November 2006, he traveled to Poland to take on once-beaten local hero Krzysztof Wlodarczyk for the vacant IBF title.
Although the American judge scored the bout 119-109, the two European officials, one of whom was Polish, saw the local guy winning by three and four points each.
Distracted but undeterred, the never-say-die Cunningham returned to Poland seven months later, in May 2007, to dethrone Wlodarczyk by majority decision.
He now travels to Germany to take on the challenge of another local hero named Marco Huck on Saturday, December 29th. A native of the former Yugoslavia who now lives in the Deutschland, the hard-punching, 23-year-old Huck is 19-0 (14 KOs).
While the 31-year-old champion is 20-1 (10 KOs), and has beaten such notables as South African strongman Sebastian Rothmann, Guillermo Jones and Kelvin Davis, the challenger is heavily favored to win.
No names on Huck’s record are recognizable to American fans, but he did beat previously undefeated Vadim Tokarev, who was 23-0-1, in a title elimination bout. Still, the odds, which are as high as 4-1 at some sports books, can only be attributed to the fact that so many notoriously bad decisions are rendered in Germany.
Although Cunningham would much rather be fighting on American soil, preferably on HBO or Showtime, he is not the least bit concerned with geography.
“He’ll bring his best and I’ll bring my best, and I will be victorious,” said the seemingly unflappable Cunningham.
Cunningham’s faith in his ring abilities is enhanced by his immense belief in God. He does all of the hard work in the gym, and leaves the rest up to the Almighty. He also draws great strength from other sources as well.
Among them are his close-knit family, which includes his wife Elizabeth and two children: son Steve Jr., who is 5, and daughter Kennedy, who is 2. Kennedy was born with hypo-plastic left heart syndrome, which is an underdeveloped left side of that organ.
For her entire life she has been in the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, where she is now on the last, and least dangerous, of the three surgeries required to correct her condition.
The way Cunningham sees things, if his daughter can battle such a debilitating disease in the hospital, a fight in the ring for him is like a walk in the park.
“She’s the real fighter in the family,” said Cunningham. “It’s not me. I want to get her autograph when she gets older and is all better. If she can fight and win her battle, there is no man on Earth that can beat me.”
Another great source of inspiration for Cunningham is the four years he spent in the U.S. Navy. It was there that he became the sensible and responsible adult that he is, as well as where he learned to box.
While serving aboard the U.S.S. America and the U.S.S. Enterprise his job was to refuel aircraft of all kinds. With few off-duty options, he made his way to a small boxing gym in 1996. A quick study, he beat the light heavyweight champion of the entire Navy in his very first bout.
“My opponent’s captain was there, so there was a lot of pride involved,” said Cunningham. “He was expected to take advantage of me. A lot of people were surprised when I beat him, but I wasn’t. When I begin something new, whatever it is, I want to be the best at it. I’m willing to work very hard to become the best.”
After his 1998 discharge, Cunningham moved to Atlanta because he heard it was a great place to jumpstart a boxing career. The Olympic Games had been held there two years earlier, and the amateur boxing scene was flourishing.
He won the National Golden Gloves title later that year, and turned pro in 2000. He honed his skills at whistle stops and way stations in Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.
When he signed with promoter Don King and found himself winning a tougher than expected decision against Joseph Avinongya at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in July 2002, he knew he was on the right career path.
“I realized I wasn’t in South Carolina anymore,” said the champ, whose nickname is U.S.S. Cunningham in deference to his naval experience.
While Cunningham realizes the importance of having a connected promoter, he has no aversion to promoting himself. He is affable and friendly with his fans, easily accessible to the press, calls back when he says he will call, has a cell phone number that is not continuously changed, and has an active web site to keep everything and everyone up to date.
Since being crowned a champion, Cunningham has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. He has also been honored by the legendary Blue Horizon, spoken at dinners for a flag football league, attended community center openings with the likes of former heavyweight champions Michael Spinks and Joe Frazier, spoke at a college sports camp, attended block parties, and made himself available for just about every media request that has come his way.
While it is obvious that Cunningham is on solid ground in every aspect of his life, he and his wife are sensible enough to not put all their eggs in one basket, especially a basket made of ring earnings. To that end, they have recently purchased an already established pizzeria which is doing very well under their ownership.
There is no doubt that Cunningham very much likes being a champion. Huck, however, has plans to snatch his title and pursue his own championship legacy. When he heard that Cunningham had opened the pizzeria a few weeks prior to their scheduled fight, he said that after he beat him he’d have plenty of time to tend to his new business.
Huck is talking like he has this win in the bank. But anyone who goes into the ring with Cunningham and thinks its going to be easy pickings better think again. I can’t imagine that Huck would be foolhardy to believe he’s going to win as easy as he says he is, but he just might be.
If there is no tomfoolery involved with the judging, which is a big if in Germany, this corner says Cunningham leaves the country with his first successful title defense under his belt.
Sometimes nice guys do finish first, especially when they work as long and hard as Cunningham has.
“I don’t take shortcuts and I don’t expect anything I didn’t earn,” he said. “There aren’t many fighters that work harder than me. If I was another boxer, the last guy I’d want to fight is me.”
Cunningham’s web site address is: usscunningham.com
Written by Michael Woods
Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:00
This year, TSS is pumped to name Kelly Pavlik’s trainer, Jack Loew, as TSS Trainer of the Year.
We are jazzed to see Loew get the nod, over Joe Calzaghe’s trainer (his dad Enzo) and Roger Mayweather (who trains a fighter with so much fighting acumen, he could work his own corner on fight night), because before this year, just about the only people who knew who Jack Loew was, outside of his family, were the folks who had their driveway paved by the man.
That’s right, a full-time driveway paver is the 2007 Trainer of the Year. Ain’t that a kick?
On Sept. 29, no-name Loew stood behind his fighter, the 25-year-old who he’d crafted as a pugilist since he came into Loew’s gym 16 years ago, and across from Jermain Taylor, and his trainer, Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward.
No-name Loew…except to Pavlik, and the other kids who train in his Southside Boxing Club on Eerie St. in Youngstown… and the people who have contracted to use Loew’s company, Driveway Kings, to seal their driveway.
For the last 10 years, Loew has been sealing driveways, and then heading to his little gym, the one in which the ring takes up 50% of the floor space.
So, you had the driveway paver taking on the Hall of Famer, the trainer of Thomas Hearns, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko, and two handfuls of Kronk stalwarts, in AC.
You had the paver, the one without the showy credentials, win.
Kind of cheers you up, when you’re feeling like the underdog, like fortune is conspiring to hold you down, that you will not ever make it over the hump, doesn’t it?
Only in boxing, baby.
Loew told TSS that he will continue to pave driveways, just maybe downsize from 10 a day to 5 or 6.
It's safe to say that you'll be the only millionaire driveway paver in the world, huh Jack?
"Yes," he said, laughing. "But I'll enjoy each one more. Now I know I don't have to do it for the money. I can talk to people now. Th eonly way I won't be doing it is if I add more fighters."
It can happen, every now and again, in the NCAA hoops tourney, when you get a legend against a man heading up a bunch of Cinderellas. Remember li’l George Mason in 2006? GM was led by coach Jim Larranaga, and they toppled top seed Connecticut, overseen by the marquee name, Jim Calhoun, to enter the Final Four.
But usually, in sports, by the time Stairway To Heaven comes on, at the Big Dance, the upstart, the no-name, has been sent packing.
In AC, Loew, the part-timer, didn’t fold. He didn’t sweat bullets, and let Steward’s trash talking before the fight knock him or his guy off message.
"Really, I think this will be a competitive fight," said Steward before the title scrap. "For one round. Pavlik’s never been at the level Jermain's been at. You can't compare the fighters Jermain has fought to the ones he has fought. Who has he fought?"
We know the answer now.
A well school hitter, with physical and mental fortitude.
And while we all know that boxing isn’t all that much of a team sport when it’s man against man in center ring, without Jack Loew’s caring and perseverance and charity because he worked for a looooong time for no compensation, Kelly Pavlik would not have had the opportunity, most likely, to fight for the middleweight championship of the world.
A paver, a part-time trainer, is TSS Trainer of the Year.
Only in boxing, baby.
Written by Michael Woods
Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:00
The knives have been aimed at and inserted in Knicks coach and GM Isiah Thomas since the 2005-2006 season, when the squad he put together went 23-59. Isiah took over as coach in June 2006, and the team has slid futher into disarray. Most of the city’s fans now howl for the coach’s removal, because the team stinks, and for Thomas’ involvement in a sex harassment suit brought on by a female executive, who stated that Thomas harassed her sexually. Thomas lost the sex harass suit, and the Knicks have been ordered to pay $11.6 million in damages to the plaintiff.
Thomas is staying put, for now, but the Knicks need help, both on the court, and in their fight for some positive PR. The team looked to bolster themselves on both fronts on Friday, when they brought Roy Jones aboard.
No, Jones won’t suit up for the team in live action, but really, he couldn’t be that much worse than some of the people they have coming off the bench now.
“It was a dream come true for me to get on the court and shoot around and do some drills with the Knicks,” said Jones, who played a game in the minor league USBL and fought the same night, in 1996. “I was a little rusty but I wasn’t going to say no to coach Isiah. What a thrill it was to be on the court with the Knicks to see up close and personal how good they really are.”
Thomas was happy to be able to keep it light for a change.
“I don’t think anybody wanted to challenge him for fear that he may punch him,” said the coach, who perhaps fantasized about enlisting Jones to rough up some press persons who have been calling for his firing.
Guard Nate Robinson also appreciated the visit and the change of atmosphere. “Roy Jones is a boxing great and it was fun to have him practice with us,” he said. “That shows a lot of love on his part to join us today. It provided us with some inspiration. He didn’t have to come out here with us but that just goes to show what kind of guy he is. He may be one of the smaller guys out here today, but I’ll bet he could beat up all of us.”
The 38-year-old Jones, counting down to his Jan. 19 tussle with soon-to-be 35-year-old Tito Trinidad in NY, left the team with some words of wisdom and inspiration.
“It was inspiring for me too,” Jones (51-4-2) said. “I’ve had my ups and downs over the last three years so I came out here today to let coach Thomas and the Knicks know they just need to hang in there, do the best they can, and their time will come. I know it will.”
“Tito and his people think it’s going to hurt me to have to go all the way down to 170 pounds—and it is a smart move on their part—but it’s nothing I haven’t been through before. I’ve had more than enough time to get down to weight so I’m not going to have to kill myself getting there.
“The big question is can Tito bring his punch and take my punches at 170 pounds. Tito must go in fo’. That’s what everybody’s waiting to see on January 19.
Written by Raymond Markarian
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00
Amateur boxing is like grade school for fighters. The successful ones are taught at a young age by the most capable trainers to prepare them for the real world. Once the amateurs graduate to the pros and become champions, everybody wins. The boxers get the glory, popularity, and riches, while the trainers obtain the greatest form of achievement without a price tag: personal satisfaction.
But here is the question…..
What happens when a fighter goes pro and does not perform to the level of expectations? Or better yet, what happens when an impressive amateur turns pro and hits a bump in the road during his first pro fight? Who suffers, and what are the consequences?
As an amateur boxer, Stan Martyniouk was as remarkable as can be. “Stan the Man” acquired 32 amateur championships in less than seven years. Now, the 22 year old Russian stands at 5’10” tall and fights around the 130 pound weight limit.
Martyniouk has built a marketing empire around his amateur success. StanMartyniouk.com is live and running and “Stan the Man” t-shirts are being printed as we speak.
He comes from a strong family intertwined in boxing history. Martyniouk’s father, uncle, and grandfather all chased the dream of becoming great boxers with relative success. His uncle and grandfather fought professionally in the former Soviet Union. But now in America, Slava Martyniouk, (Stan’s father) raised his son to learn boxing in Sacramento, Ca.
Looking for an edge to Stan’s continuous mastery of the sweet science, Slava Martyniouk asked his former trainer Mateen Saifudeen to coach his son. Mateen Saifudeen happily accepted.
There is the good news…
Mateen Saifudeen (formerly known as Steve Hernandez) is the head trainer and owner of the highly regarded Mateen’s Boxing Gym in Sacramento, Ca. Mateen’s Boxing Club (“Where Champions are made”) has a bold slogan and the trainer lives by his word.
“My reputation speaks for itself. My record as a trainer is unblemished. I breed champions. If you are looking to breed a champion everything has to be consistent. But I also know that boxing is a business. I have been in this game for a long time. But it is like I always tell my guys. Boxing is the same game just different players.”
That sounds good enough….
After three years under Mateen’s tutelage, “Stan the Man” made his mark. The news was not only good, it was great. With every Stan Martyniouk amateur victory there grew a larger dream of glory and a clearer vision of professional championship gold. Mateen was happy. Stan’s father Slava was happy, and more importantly Stan “Stan the Man” Martyniouk was happy.
Now the transition to the pros….
Life as a professional boxer is not always easy. Michael Robinson, the acclaimed manager for Stan Martyniouk and Mateen makes a very clear point, “Boxing is not a hard sport to get into. Any one with half a brain could go pro. Boxing is the easiest sport to be a professional but the hardest to make it.”
Just to give an idea of how frightening Stan Martyniouk was before his first pro fight, Michael Robinson told a story of a fight that never happened. “In September 2007, we were scheduled to fight a boxer named Ronald Hurley in Reno, Nevada. Hurley took one look at Stan Martyniouk and decided not show up to the weigh in. The guy actually attempted to back out of the fight and was on the way back home. We had to postpone Stan’s first pro fight for a month.”
Robinson continued by saying, “When a fighter has a great amateur career like Stan, a mystic begins to build around him. Stan’s following became to be pretty big before his first pro fight.”
That eventful first fight came on October 19, 2007 when Stan Martyniouk faced Gerardo Robles in a four round bout. Michael Robinson, Stan, and Mateen were consistent with their assessment of Martyniouk’s opponent before the fight. Robinson said. “We chose a non-risk hand-picked opponent for Stan Martyniouk’s first pro fight. I mean the opponent was 2-7 and a perennial loser.”
Mateen called the opponent “a bum,” and Stan said that the fighter “was not supposed to be that good.”
The ultimate outcome was expected. Martyniouk defeated Robles. After the fight, Stan Martyniouk said, “I felt prepared coming into the fight because I had big support from my family and the people that were around me. I also trained with some of the best fighters out there, like Juan Manuel Marquez and Stevie Forbes so I knew I could compete at the highest level. I am a unique because I am tall for my weight and I sit down on my shots. I also have fast hand speed and I fight from the outside.
But, a lot of people came to the fight and I felt pressure. In the first round, I hurt my hand really bad on the guy’s head. We won by decision and we are going to try to build on that performance.”
Here is the problem…
To the naked eye everyone should be happy but they aren’t. With all due respect, everyone involved, including Stan, say that Martyniouk’s performance in his pro debut, did not live up to expectations. Therefore a heated exchange occurred in Martyniouk’s corner during the fight. Mateen said, “Stan’s father was being loud and screaming in Russian during the fight, he got warned by the commission to stop.”
Slava Martyniouk was yelling during the fight because the so called “perennial loser” was giving Stan Martyniouk, a fighter with unlimited potential, a run for his money. The fight ended with Martyniouk eking out a close decision.
Then things took a turn for the worse…
Stan’s father and Mateen got into a war of words after the fight and have both decided to go their separate ways. An accomplished amateur like Stan Martyniouk needs the appropriate guidance. Besides from being trained properly, the people around him should be supportive. Not butting heads.
Unlimited potential and heavy expectations can only take you so far. Stan not only faced the pressure to perform in his first fight, he also had to live up to the vision his family, his trainer, and his manager put forth for him.
The irony is that Stan accomplished the ultimate goal. He won the fight. But he lost the structure that was built around him. Stan no longer has Mateen as his trainer because Mateen and Stan’s father did not see eye to eye.
Most boxing fans believe that a victory brings happiness. But in this situation, Martyniouk’s victory forced a break up. Why would a fighter part with his trainer after a win? Michael Robinson has his own assessment. “This situation is in a sad state of affairs. Do the Los Angeles Lakers fire Phil Jackson after a win? No they don’t. The young man (Stan) still has life lessons to learn. Stan came into the pros with big expectations, huge expectations. The problem with boxing is that everyone has an opinion whenever money is involved. When it was about love, (in the amateurs) everything was good.”
Robinson said, “Mateen chose not to work with Stan Martyniouk after the Robles fight. Mateen specifically told me that he was done working with these guys because he would never want to come between a father and his son.”
Mateen agreed with Michael Robinson’s assessment. “Let’s get something clear. Nobody left Mateen. Mateen left them. Some trainers are motivated by greed but not Mateen. It was never about money for me because I never got paid. I just try to do right by these kids. I wish the best for Stan, but he should be old enough to make his own decisions.”
Stan said, “Family comes first, when an unfortunate issue like this comes up I have to go with my father’s decision. I think Mateen is a great trainer and I have no bad blood, but it was my father’s decision to leave Mateen after my first pro fight.”
The good people in boxing do it for the love of the sport. To be honest, Stan Martyniouk, Michael Robinson, and Mateen Saifudeen seem like the good guys. But in this particular situation no one wins.
In the meantime, Mateen will go back to the drawing board and continue to train up and coming fighters. “Mateen Boxing Club is not about me, it is about the youth,” he said. “Sacramento is about to hold the Golden Glove Championships in Feburary, so that is exciting. ”
And Stan “The Man” Martyniouk will continue his quest to become a great professional fighter. “I think I need about 5 or 6 more fights to be comfortable with the pro game,” he said. “I hope to be world champion in three or four years.”
Martyniouk fights again on January 17th in Sacramento, Ca. This time he has a new trainer. Stan’s father Slava has taken command. According to the younger Martyniouk, training has never been better. Stan says, “Things have been good great with my father as my trainer. I am learning so many new things everyday.”
Is this tragic or just another causalty to a sport that does not need more politically debilitating bad stories? The question could be answered in both ways. But the lesson has been learned.
Politics ruin boxing. Everyone is happy in the amateurs but once a fighter goes pro, and money is involved, people change. The tragedy is that a successful boxing relationship has been sidetracked. But more importantly, a promising boxer like Stan Martyniouk had to suffer a setback because those that were closest to him could not see eye to eye.
Questions or comments email me: Raymond.Markarian@yahoo.com
*photo by Markarian
Written by Robert Mladinich
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00
During his boxing career, which lasted from 1964 to 1978, Wepner compiled a 35-14-2 (17 KOs) record against such greats and notables as Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, Buster Mathis, Ernie Terrell, Duane Bobick, Joe Bugner and Manuel Ramos.
His nickname was the “Bayonne Bleeder,” which was a tribute to his hometown in New Jersey, as well as his propensity to bleed profusely but always finish on his feet.
But he is best known for being the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” character. In March 1975, the then 35-year-old Wepner challenged Ali for the heavyweight title in Cleveland.
Although he was given little chance of surviving past a few rounds, he is not only credited with knocking Ali down, he lasted into the fifteenth round.
Watching the fight on closed-circuit television was Stallone, who was then a struggling 30-year-old actor. Because he so identified with Wepner, who was holding down two full-time jobs at the time, he raced home to his hovel of an apartment and penned the first “Rocky” screenplay in just a few days.
Last year, Wepner, who had never been compensated for being the “Rocky” prototype, received an undisclosed settlement from Stallone after a well-publicized civil suit.
I became acquainted with Wepner about 15 years ago. While doing an interview with his colorful longtime manager, Al Braverman, the subject of Wepner naturally came up.
Without missing a beat, Braverman, who many people compared to a snarling dog, called Wepner’s home.
He left a message on the machine, instructing Wepner in no uncertain terms to treat me “like family.”
Within a day or two, I received a call from Wepner and was invited to his apartment in Bayonne, directly across from the venue where he had made his pro debut a few years after serving four years in the United States Marine Corps.
We have been friendly ever since, which only made me feel worse about his Christmas Day phone call. Every year I say I’m going to beat him to the punch, and every year he winds up calling me first.
And every time I call him, whether it is to ask him to autograph a bagful of boxing gloves to be raffled off at a police benefit or to make an appearance at a Cigar Night or other charitable endeavor, nearly all of which he graciously attends, I reprimand myself for only calling him when I need something.
I always apologize, but he inevitably tells me not to worry, that he’d do anything for a friend.
Even though I’ve probably written 25 separate stories on Wepner for publications ranging from Playboy (Australia), Gallery, Hustler, Heartland, to scores of boxing publications and web sites, believe me when I tell you he’s done a lot more for me than I could ever do for him.
Back in April 1996, when my first wife Frances, an active NYPD sergeant, was battling leukemia, our colleagues on the department hosted a fund raiser for us at the Ukrainian Hall in Manhattan.
Chuck and his lovely wife Linda showed up as the party was in full swing. Chuck even dragged Frances out on the dance floor.
One of my favorite mementos is a photo of the two of them whooping it up. It was taken by Teddy B. Blackburn and it appeared in the now defunct Flash/Boxing Update newsletter.
Their broad, beaming, warm and welcoming smiles, each of which complimented their partial Polish heritage, are both full of hope, love, joy and vitality.
To this day Chuck jokes that if he wasn’t told who Frances was, he never would have guessed that she was the one with cancer.
Several days later, Frances had a scheduled bone marrow transplant, from which she never recovered. Less than three weeks after dancing with the “real life Rocky,” she passed away.
Chuck and Linda were among the first mourners to attend the wake. They came early and stayed late and they kept a lot of people, myself included, somewhat loose during a very difficult time.
Over the years, I have seen the same kindness displayed by Chuck also shown by Linda. While working in a South Brooklyn detective squad in the early nineties, my partner and I would often have dinner at a restaurant in Staten Island where Linda was the bartender.
My partner was a spitting image of the “Detective Sipowicz” character played by Dennis Franz on the television series “NYPD Blue.” When told that “Sipowicz” had serious health issues a few years back, she has never neglected to inquire about him.
At my behest, she even called him to see how he was doing. While he greatly appreciated the call, his lady friend did not, so I had to ask her to stop. To this day, one of the first things she always asks me is how “Sipowicz” is doing.
Linda’s heart is as big as her husband’s. One can only assume that it was passed down to her by her father, a still regal, old school Italian gentleman at the age of 93. I’ve seen him several times over the years, and he always seems to be more youthful, buoyant and vibrant than he was the last time I saw him.
When Chuck told me that he and Linda were heading into Brooklyn to spend Christmas with him, I inquired about his health. Chuck told me that he was healthy as an ox and that he would be eagerly awaiting their arrival “with a knife and fork in his hand, ready to eat.”
It’s customary for me to get both nostalgic and grateful at Christmas time. As I ponder another year gone by, I also think of the limitless possibilities for the year ahead and acknowledge all that I have to be grateful for.
Among other things, in one way or another nearly every ambition or fantasy I ever had has been fulfilled.
My love affair with boxing is waning, but my love affair with boxers is stronger than ever. It is hard to get excited over the actual sport these days, with so many titles and too many managers or promoters who are unwilling to match their fighters against the best available competition.
For the most part, I believe that fighters are willing to fight almost anyone. That is what they do best. Managers are supposed to protect them from their own unbridled ambition. But lately, at the highest levels of the game, promoters call most of the shots and are all too often unwilling to put their meal ticket at risk.
The uninitiated might find it easy to dismiss Wepner as a glorified club fighter who got hit a lot but never went down. But he is so much more than that. His career was built on honesty, integrity, gritty determination, emotional resolve and the unwillingness to believe in the limitations so many others had projected for him.
Growing up without his father present, he could have gone many ways. Instead of opting for trouble, he chose to join the Marine Corps. Afterwards, instead of seeing himself as just a liquor salesman and a night security guard at General Electric – the jobs he held when he challenged Ali – he dared to dream big and clearly envisioned himself dethroning the man many still consider “The Greatest.”
The seven weeks he spent in a Catskill Mountains training camp preparing for Ali was the only time he trained full-time in his life.
“I realized in those mountains that a miracle could really happen,” he said. “I could become heavyweight champion of the world. I also realized that if somebody had been subsidizing me my whole career, things would have been different. I would have been a much better fighter. I never trained full-time for a fight in my life, except for Ali. And I fought the fight of my life against the greatest heavyweight in history.”
“Chuck was the gutsiest fighter I ever met,” Braverman once told me. “He was in a league of his own. He didn’t care about pain or cuts. If he got cut or elbowed, he never looked at me or the referee for help. He was a fighter in the purest sense of the word.”
Wepner has always been as stand-up outside of the ring as he was inside of it. When he was busted by the Drug Enforcement Administration for delivering cocaine in 1985, he could have bought his way out of a 10 year prison sentence by becoming a snitch.
Wepner chose to do the time, and served two years in a maximum security prison as well as 20 months in an Intensive Supervision Program (ISP). From day one, he assumed full responsibility for his actions.
“I was a big shot everywhere I went,” he said. “There was so much booze and broads. I was out of control, a crazy man. I had some heavy friends and was running with some crazy people. And everywhere I went, there was cocaine.”
Regarding his actual arrest, Wepner explained, “My makeup would never allow me to be a rat. I did the crime and knew I had to do the time. I was ready to accept my punishment.”
What he doesn’t tell you right away is how many people from the law enforcement community realized his actions were an aberration, and lobbied to get him released into the ISP. None have regretted that decision.
Several years after being released from prison, Wepner attended an NYPD amateur boxing show as a celebrity guest.
At one point he entered the ring, took the microphone and told the raucous crowd how much he respected them and what a great job they were doing. He thanked them for inviting him and told him what an honor it was to be there.
“I’m a guy everybody can relate to,” he told me afterwards. “Everybody gets in trouble at one time or another. And cops, especially New York cops, are real people. They work hard and play hard.
“I was a working stiff who finally got a break and took advantage of it,” he added. “I outgutted and outballed my way through a boxing career and a prison sentence. I got everything I have on endurance and perseverance. And when I screwed up, I owned up to it.”
As a writer, I couldn’t ask for a better subject. As a regular guy, I couldn’t ask for a better friend. After all these years, Wepner is still fighting the good fight. More importantly, he is still making everyone he comes in contact with feel better about themselves.
In my mind there is no better way to define a true champion than that.
Happy New Year, Champ.
Written by David A. Avila
Monday, 24 December 2007 19:00
A number of fighters captured world titles and a few older veterans made their last hurrahs, but one fighter stood out though she only had one fight in 2007, and her name is Elena Reid.
Reid, 26, who is better known as “Baby Doll” Reid, won the WIBA flyweight world title with a convincing victory over Mary Ortega in 2006. Then, unable to find an opponent, she eagerly took an offer to fight IFBA flyweight world titleholder Shin Hee-Choi of South Korea, she didn’t hesitate.
On July 2, at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California, Reid willingly put her WIBA world title at stake against the taller Choi who was supported by a large Korean contingent at the snazzy casino. Reid’s family and friends drove in from Phoenix and Las Vegas to witness the title fight show on Fox Sports Net.
Reid, 26, showed a national television audience and those in the crowd that her southpaw stance and ever-growing boxing skills had elevated her to the top of the computer rankings for good reason.
Using her right jab, quick foot movement and combination punching, Reid bewildered the confident Choi to the degree that by the second round, it was evident in the Korean’s eyes that she was lost for an antidote.
Round after round Reid battered Choi with little return fire. Each time Reid would land a combination the Korean fighter would open up with her own, but Reid would be out of range.
For 10 rounds Reid clubbed and smacked Choi with so many combinations that it seemed the Korean fighter was doomed to be knocked out. But Choi withstood the barrage and finished on her feet. Barely.
It was a complete wipeout with Reid taking every round on the three judges scorecards. It’s not supposed to be that easy on a unification bout but the Las Vegas fighter has learned her trade and taken fights overseas against top competition.
Reid can fool people with her exuberance and smiles, but she doesn’t fool potential opponents in her weight class. They avoid her at all cost. The Filipina-American boxer can’t find an opponent.
Reid’s next fight will be in a mixed martial arts cage this week in Las Vegas.
“I just couldn’t find anybody to box,” said Reid (19-3-5, 5 KOs), who recently signed an MMA contract to fight under Randy Couture’s company. “I love boxing, but I’m a fighter. This is what I do.”
The world flyweight-boxing champion just wants to fight whether it’s boxing or MMA.
“I’ve dedicated my career to being a fighter,” says Reid who began fighting professionally in 2000. “As a professional fighter we only have so many years to do this so I’m making sure I do all I can.”
Though many other female fighters had good year, only flyweight world champion Reid unified her weight division and for that, she is the Fighter of the Year for 2007.
Layla McCarter (27-13-5), another Las Vegas boxer, fought the first 12-round fight that included three-minute rounds in more than 15 years.
McCarter, the WBA lightweight titleholder, fought seven times this year winning six in relatively easy fashion. She lost a rematch against Melinda Hernandez after beating her two months earlier. Then won four consecutive fights including a win over New Zealand’s undefeated Daniella Smith.
New Mexico’s Holly Holm (19-1-2), the junior welterweight champion, won three big fights this year against sterling competition. But winning in her home state gives her a big advantage. That state is notorious for bad decisions in favor of the home fighter.
The same is true for Germany’s Regina Halmich (54-1-1) who announced her retirement in November. The German flyweight fought Elena Reid twice in Germany. Their first fight in 2004 ended in a draw and in 2005 she won by unanimous decision. Many felt Halmich lost both fights.
Northern California’s Carina Moreno (15-1) won all five of her fights in 2007. But the tiny WBC minimum weight champion was the house fighter in each match. She’s very exciting to watch and could easily be next year’s choice for Fighter of the Year.
Germany’s Ina Menzer (19-0) beat three good fighters in 2007, but only fought in her home country that is notorious for rendering bad decisions. It’s difficult to surmise if she is truly gifted or if she was given gift wins over Laura Serrano, Jazmin Rivas and Maria Miranda.
Best fight of the year
Florida’s Chevelle Hallback and Kentucky’s Terri Blair (9-13-2) engaged in one heck of a slugfest in an eight round lightweight bout that had more action than five Holly Holm bouts.
“That was a great fight,” said Sue Fox, a former fighter who is the editor-in-chief of www.Womenboxing.com web site. “Chevelle is always entertaining and Terri Blair is exciting too.”
Hallback (26-5-1) used her quickness and power boxing to offset the Blair’s relentless pressure and wind them up bombs that didn’t always land, but when they did, it was raw power at its best. After the fight, the crowd had to take a deep breath just to recuperate.
Knockout of the year
Undefeated featherweight Jeannine Garside (7-0-1) of Canada faced knockout puncher Brooke Dierdorff (4-1) who was also undefeated in September. But it was Canada’s Garside who had more experience against top level fighters like Lisa Brown and Heather Percival, and that helped her whack Dierdorff out.
Garside dropped Dierdorff three times before a final knockdown closed the show in the sixth round.
Contender of the year
Moreno Valley’s Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West, 19, is an effervescent bantamweight who would rather fight than switch. In her brief two-year career, she’s accepted any fight offered, even against rising prospects like herself.
Last August she traveled to San Diego’s Carly Batey’s backyard and won a close battle by split-decision. The Southern California fighter has also traveled north twice where she’s won two victories. West is definitely a wild card to take someone’s world title in 2008.
Prospect of the year
When a fighter wins four US National titles as an amateur, expectations are high. So when Elizabeth Quevedo entered the ring last May in Irvine, California, the crowd had their microscope on the South Gate prodigy..and she delivered.
Using her well-sculpted skills and inner ferocity, Quevedo wowed the crowd with a scintillating performance in winning a four-round decision in her pro debut. Sadly, she hurt her hand in the fight, but expectations are high for the fighter some say is as good as Lucia Rijker. Her trainer Robert Luna believes she can win a world title in her next bout.
Written by Raymond Markarian
Sunday, 23 December 2007 19:00
Prospect Karim Mayfield, head trainer Ben Batista, and the rest of the SFC gang contributed in making children of all age groups feel the love of the holiday spirit.
The atmosphere was truly heartwarming. There was barely enough room to walk in the jam packed boxing gym, children were quietly anxious, proud parents wore happy smiles, and the Straight Forward Boxing Club had their hands full. Keeping the joyful peace with a bunch of anxious children striving to earn their gift is not an easy task. But Ben Batista, among others took it in stride.
The event was a throwback of sorts. Being inside the gym made me feel like I was on a street corner of a 1970s Brooklyn neighborhood watching a happy group of people pass out a parcel of gifts to the grateful parents and children who appreciate and need it the most. It was humbling to watch the SFC give out presents because of the lasting affect this type of gesture can have on children.
The idea of the SFC Holiday Toy Drive was meant to encourage the feeling of holiday cheer for children that have parents who are either incarcerated or no longer living with them.
In reflection, members of the Straight Forward Club know that all of their hard work pays off for the greater good. Ben Batista said, “I give praise to God for helping us put this together because without God none of this would be possible. We realize there are some people less fortunate than others. This was our way of giving back. God gave to us, so we are just giving back. We are happy to put a smile on people’s faces.”
KMEL Radio Station, Walden House Treatment Center, and a few other independent investors contributed thousands of dollars that was raised for gifts. Batista said, “We try to encourage other boxing gyms to do the same thing. The SFC are trend setters, we don’t follow trends, we set trends.”
On a personal note, the entire event put me at a loss of words. It is always good to watch people provide for others because there are not enough that do. The SFC has the right idea. Giving a gift feels much better than receiving one. There were approximately 300 people in the gym. Each child and parent that received a present signed Christmas cards. Those cards were to be sent back to the helpful sponsors.
On behalf of TheSweetScience.com, and myself, I wish all of you a happy holiday season!