Jameel McCline fought at a high level in the heavyweight sphere for many years, before finally hanging up the gloves in 2012.
"Big Time" dropped a haymaker of an announcement on Monday, when he said that he's looking to get into the ring again, in another sphere, one just as rugged, oftentimes, as the ring: McCline, a 44-year-old Florida resident, said he will run for Congress.
The ex fighter, who grew up in New York, stands as a boxing success story, as it was the ring which gave him a reason for being after being derailed as a teen, and getting incarcerated for five years.
He fought for a heavyweight title three times, and came up just short in 2004, when he fought IBF champ Chris Byrd, but lost a split decision. McCline, who has been working in bringing stem cell-based rehab practices, especially for athletes, up to grade in the US, told me why he's decided to step into this new brand of ring.
"It's one of my biggest tests, definitely one of the greatest challenges I've set for myself," he said. McCline told me he approached daughter Brianna, age 17, who will be attending Rutgers (in NJ) as a freshman in the fall. What do you think about dad running for Congress, he asked her?
"She thought it was a tremendous idea," he said. McCline decided about six weeks ago to aim for Congress, and said he's ready to get put through the wringer, if that's what it'll take to get elected. "It's no secret that I'm an ex con, an ex addict, an ex husband. But what that has made me, is empathetic. I'm more understanding of what people go through everyday than other politicians out there. I understand the needs of everyday people."
The seat McCline seeks is in Florida's 20th District, and is currently held by Alcee Hastings. In Congress since 1993, the Democrat was a US District Court judge, but was impeached and removed from the bench. The impeachment stemmed from a charge of bribery, in exchange for receiving a lesser sentence. His comeback rivaled anything McCline managed in the ring; today, he's a standout in the Congressional Black Caucus, but still makes negative headlines. A March 27 article on JudicialWatch.org is titled "Alcee Hastings Ranks No. 1 In Nepotism." He ranked No. 1 of the 435 House members for paying salaries and fees to family members and friends. The same organization made the 2011 Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians list. The story indicates that Hastings, who reps the southeast Florida section which includes West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, paid a woman described as "his girlfriend/deputy district director" more than $500,000 from 2007-2010. You might think it ironic that Hastings is the Senior Member of the House "Rules" Committee....
And they say boxing is a dirty game...
McCline had a stellar run back in 2001, when he beat Michael Grant (TKO1), Lance Whitaker (UD12) and Shannon Briggs (UD10).
That brought him to a crack against WBO champ Wladimir Klitschko; he lost that bout, when his corner threw in the towel, in round ten. McCline's admirable stubbornness and desire to get that crown led to opportunities against Nikolay Valuev in 2007 and Sam Peter the same year. His knee buckled against Valuev and he lost a UD12 to Peter.
He gave the ring one more crack in 2011, and bowed out after losing to Magomed Abdusalamov in September 2012. McCline's ring record stands at 41-13-3 (24 KOs).
I spent a good deal of time with the ex fighter when we worked together on an EPIX Sports boxing broadcast, in April 2013, in England. It was clear then that the fighter possesses a wider breadth of knowledge than some would assume the "average" prizefighter does. He was conversant in history, finance, economics, etc, etc., and I was impressed with his obvious passion for fairness, decency, equality.
McCline, who was put into a group home by his mom, who was overwhelmed, at age 7, is casting himself, not a big surprise, as a fighter. He said he'll go the full twelve rounds for his constituents, and will focus on issues like affordable, decent housing, and jobs. He's seen regions in his district where some companies have been promising trickle down economic prosperity, but while they make out hand over fist, residents are left to scramble for meager crumbs. "I will hold some of these companies to account," McCline told me. "The most important thing for me will be fighting for the people. I fought as a little boy, as a boxer, and now I will fight for the people."
I hereby give my heartiest endorsement to McCline, for I can speak to his intelligence, and more importantly, his decency as a human being, and I have zero doubt he would serve his constituents with pride and some of that combativeness he showed in the ring.
Lord knows we need it in DC...