“I needed the time off to collect myself. I needed time, the time out to spend with my daughter and family.”
Politicians tell the public they are leaving the political wars to spend time with their family. Those words construct useful euphemisms for those fleeing scandal, failure, boredom, inconsequence and exhaustion. For the former welterweight champion from St. Louis there was failure, exhaustion and a creeping sense of inconsequence. The failure was his February 5th loss last year of the welterweight championship to a fighter he’d already bested, the ubiquitous Zab Judah. Losing a unified championship by stoppage amid the fanfare of a homecoming championship celebration certainly can take the wind out of a fighter’s sense of mission and might, even at 27. Exhaustion inevitably grabs hold of the wounded ego, the saturated psychology for years honed to arrive at the pinnacle of display and function. Then the world seems to invert and cave in on the predicates that have sustained viability. Having been trained to best the best only to be bested can foster humiliation, making a flat-line of coursing intention.
“My mind is clear and I know what happened last time when I was at home… there are personal issues in life that do that… I sent the fans home with a bad taste in their mouths… everyone was disappointed.”
The word redemption swirls around the Don King Ohio training facility where Spinks has trained for his jr. middleweight fight with IBF titlist Roman Karmazin, 34-1-1. Spinks looks ahead to meeting the 5’11½” Russian nicknamed “Made in Hell” sensing that he’s the guy with the talent, the pedigree and the responsibility of his training remains the renaissance of his best boxing.
“I look at myself as a world-class fighter and I am a boxer… this is a gift what I do… it’s my talent and my life… I can fight any way I want any way I need to,” says “Next Generation.”
The general sense of Team Spinks concerning the Karmazin fight is that the IBF champion has a solid foundation tending to outwork his opponents over the distance, sustaining his intensity and concentration for as long as it takes. Talent so often becomes a barometer for possibility; Karmazin puts his winning performances together by steady consistency and determined application. Technically, Spinks and his trainer Kevin Cunningham do not believe Karmazin has the tools that the former welterweight boss possesses. Add to the mix Spinks has the left-handed combination look to throw at Karmazin. Bottom line: Team Spinks don’t really see the steady Karmazin as being in Spinks class as a professional.
“I haven’t lost any speed at 154… but I have more pop on my shots,” Spinks says what all progressing welterweights announce as they climb to 154. Cory Spinks, 34-3 (11), has never scared his opposition with his hitting capacity and yet his punching quality – the jab weaving into combination hitting – does counter as well as lead, his speed of application often confusing fighters who love to apply their offensive pressure willfully. Speaking of economics, Cable providers Showtime will be looking for a solid tune-in as Spinks returns to St. Louis, Missouri – where over 20,000 turned out for the Spinks-Judah encounter – his standing as a top flight boxing draw also being put to the test, at a time when boxing economics are in a state of general retrenchment.
Spinks comes off as mellow and reflective these days, not consigned to his ambition as much as to the search for what he was able to embody such a short time ago. And to return at a new weight, in a championship match, after a year’s absence, facing his hometown fans again, Spinks braves the unconscious demons that would have to haunt even the most keenly assertive of men.
“It took me a while (to get over the loss)… to collect myself… but I am a professional… always being ready is what I am about.”
Spinks says he’s already 155 or 156, fight day weight already achieved, the desire of the fighter’s body to metabolize the foreign body, the energetic figure of the Russian champion keen to try to overwhelm him. The dictates and necessities of the body and mind are being conditioned to do what Cory Spinks must make happen. Though only twenty-eight years old, the loss to Judah stands out as a mark of de-legitimation that only winning a championship – if even only a title belt – can expunge. Such things are demanded of fighters who have accomplished unified world championships in post-modern boxing.
Spinks does say, “personal problems (divorce) in life had my mind else where (during the Judah rematch) and the weight loss… well, and I didn’t have the strength I needed” to make excuses stand in for disinformation. In fact, Spinks can give Karmazin his dues; “he’s a real hard worker in there and he did beat Ouma convincingly.”
“Actually my weight problems and other issues go back to the Gonzalez fight… I had my problems…” Unlike with other fighters who hover around title fights, we don’t suspect Spinks’ indulgence in rhetoric is thrown out to deceive or deflect the ultimate matters for responsibility. Spinks has always been a guy who’s stood up to the testing nature of big time boxing. He covered most of the known boxing universe just to legitimate his candidacy for challenging at the summit. Now he’s asking himself for a second chance and for us to give him the chance to believe in him again, as a fighter of quality and significance, moving beyond welterweight, into largely untested regions he’s taking on faith renewed. “I knew there were some problems before the [Judah] fight and Kevin wanted to pull but I was the one who decided to go through with the fight… it’s my home town and I wanted to put on a show for my fans…”
Spinks says those words as if he almost means, ‘I wanted to do the right thing.’
“I do feel just as quick… I do have my speed but I feel stronger at 155… I really do.” As long as the fighter believes it, there’s a ring of validity to convincing speculation.
The man described as Cory Spinks’ manager, trainer and confidant, Kevin Cunningham admits that beating Karmazin is all about the big picture, the human cost of diminishment. “It’s all about redemption for us going into this fight.”
“I like it (being the underdog) and it motivates me to go in there and prove them wrong… I am not even worried about Zab… for me that’s going backwards,” at least Spinks has his internal geography plotted, his targeting honed. “The Cory Spinks that they well know and love is back… I truly am feeling stronger and faster… I am ready to get it on!”
“I know that I am all the way right!”
Without bravado, Cory Spinks offers up something like the momentum of certitude, as if he’s just arrived at a decision, a final contemplation of his future. He wants to be something special in a boxing ring again and has come to the conclusion his gifts can still make that happen. The soft spoken fragility in no way contradicts what sounds like confessions of an honest man. Cory Spinks, former undisputed welterweight champion, has trained and sacrificed in order to reenter the ongoing debate that is boxing.
He’s come back to the desires of his being, his self-imposed exile ended; if he’s fated to disappear, to fall out of championship standing, nevertheless oblivion must be challenged. And that’s what champions do, as they walk into the ring which ultimately contains only fashioned glory or ritual ruin. The titles pass on, win or lose, fistic domination is reversed or simply withers, though for now, the finer points of history are concealed, their exact renderings still to be defined.
And so championships, if only title belts, are to be won and lost on the merits. How else would champions such as Cory Spinks hope to prove on their own terms acts of redemption?
(Patrick Kehoe may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)