The modern day journalist, under pressure to churn out copy while staving off anxiety which comes from being in a business which has seen laborers battle a downward trend in wage growth, has to be careful not to fall prey to taking available shortcuts.
It’s all there, or enough to get you started, and acquainted enough with the life and doings of a subject you are writing about.
Except when it’s not all there.
Or what is there is riddled with inaccuracies, or glaring omissions, known maybe only to the subject of the entry, giving only a minimal portion of the total picture of the man.
I took a look at the Wikipedia entry for the man formerly known as Lenroy Thompson after seeing his name cross the wires a couple weeks ago, highlighting his successful participation at the Pan American Olympic Festival in Mexico City. “Cam F. Awesome Wins Gold Medal,” I read. And did a triple take.
Wait…what’s the guys name? Real name can’t be Awesome, can it? And lord, I hope the F stands for what I think it does. I thought to myself, chuckling dementedly.
I reached out to Julie Goldsticker, who does PR work for the USA Boxing program, and told her I’d like to speak to Mr. Awesome.
She quickly replied. Sure thing Mike. I think you’ll enjoy talking to him.
Indeed I did, Julie.
Awesome, who was born on Long Island, New York with the name “Lenroy Thompson,” is a standout at super heavyweight for team USA, a program which is working towards reconfiguring their mission and their result in competition. The women involved in the program have no shame in their game, as was hinted out in Mexico City, where Queen Underwood, Marlen Esparza and ace Claressa Shields all took golds, along with Awesome. You’ll recall Shields excelled at the 2012 Olympics, where she won gold, and Esparza impressed with a bronze effort. Among the fellas, only Errol Spence managed to make it to the quarterfinals.
I do confess, I will now be keeping track of Awesome’s progress and will be rooting for him to keep on winning, and get into the 2016 Games, in Brazil, and thrive in golden fashion, because to me, the world is well served when such free thinkers as someone bold enough to change their last name to “Awesome” are out and about and making noise.
My regard for Awesome ticked up almost immediately, when during a phoner I asked about that Wikipedia entry and he filled me in. “I’m not sure who put it together, but I was going to get on there, and fix some things, but then I got lazy,” Awesome said.
Point given for admirable honesty…
Now, the lefty-stance super heavy was indeed born in Uniondale, he informed me. He took up boxing at age 17, right after he graduated from high school, and found he made quick strides in the squared circle realm. He advanced to the US Championships in 2007, losing in the semis to Michael Hunter, currently a pro, and took part in the Olympic Trials. In 2008, Awesome--who by the way was still known as “Lenroy Thompson,” he didn’t change his name until 2011--took part in the US Nationals. Wikipedia informed me that he took advantage of Hunters’ absence, which allowed him to advance further, where he met and lost to Tor Hamer.
Awesome looked to clear up that “advantage” storyline, and helped me comprehend that he is not a cookie-cutter type who does as he’s told, when he’s told. No, he said, he was the best in the country in that class at that time, he stated, and is proud of the fact that he beat Hamer, who made some noise as a pro a few years ago. I chuckled silently as Awesome digressed, and said, “Hamer is just so weird, he’s really cool, actually. His name sounds like a super hero, right?”
By now living in Florida, Awesome’s path got a bit smoother, and then rockier, which Wikipedia touches on, but with semi-infuriating thinness. He beat Bryant Jennings, who just won a WBC title shot eliminator on July 26, in the National Golden Gloves finals in 2009. He was on a road to the 2012 Olympics, thanks to wins like the one at the 2010 USA Boxing Championship in Colorado. Then the snafu, which Wiki “details” under the heading “Drug Suspension.” USADA, the entry reads, in February 2012 suspended Thompson for a year, for failing to meet requirements regarding his whereabouts, needed to be ascertained so he could be found for out of competition testing. Three times he couldn’t be found, the entry says, in an 18 month timespan.
Hmm, think there might be something implied there? Yep, don’t know whose fingerprints are on this Wiki page, but if it were my entry, I’d hope that the counterfactual argument, or at least explanation, would be asked of me.
Anyway, I asked Thompson what happened there. He told me.
One time he was “AWOL,” he said, came when he was in NY, attending a Nets game. He informed testing agency USADA the house he’d be staying at, and gave them his cell number. He wasn’t at the house when they came requesting a sample, and when they tried calling his cell, he didn’t pick up. Why? Because he had no cell service in the arena. If he’d gotten the call, he’d have been tasked with getting back to that house within 60 minutes. But since he didn’t get the call, it was counted as a “miss.” Another miss came when he filled out some required paperwork for USADA for the Trials, online, past the deadline date. (I confess, not being so great at such tasks, I feel for the guy on this one.) And then, for his third strike, he was competing, in Azerbejian, and forgot to inform the testing folks that he was not at home. Since he was competing for USA Boxing, in an international competition, it strikes me that it wouldn’t have been too hard for the testing people to figure out where he was, but anyway…
Three strikes, and he was out. The whole Lance Armstrong doping kerfuffle was not coincidentally playing out during that time, Awesome notes, so, he thinks, that didn’t help when it came time to ponder punishment. “I feel as though they made an example of me,” he admits.
I grilled him, though. Has he used any illegal PEDs, or banned party drugs, or anything?
“No, I haven’t. Anything that is illegal, I wouldn’t know where to start to find them,” said the guy whose Twitter handle is PlantBasedBoxer, because he’s been vegan for the last two years. “I don’t do any drugs. I am anti pain pills even. No marijuana, no PEDs…I mean, I don’t look like I do anything. I don’t have the build for anyone to say I’m on steroids.”
Ah, but that which doesn’t kill us…
Oh, it might not kill us, but it might make us a bit more skeptical about the ways of the world, the way the powers that be operate, shift standards and practices based on whim and the direction of the wind. Not saying that happened with Thompson, but on Feb. 16, 2013, he had a party for himself, to celebrate the fact that he changed his name. Legally, he changed his name to Cam F. Awesome. “The party celebrated my rebirth,” he told me of the bash in Kansas City, which was attended by about 60 people, some of whom were celebrating a mutual friends’ birthday. So Awesome got his crew together and told them of his switcheroo. “Awesome” was the word stitched on his trunks, and, as he put it, “Because if you chose a name what would you choose? Life is awesome, and everyone is their own life. My life is awesome, I’m grateful for everything I have.” And the Cameron, that’s actually his first-given middle name, and the name he mostly answered too, being that his dad was Lenroy the First, and he didn’t want to be a Junior, and didn’t care for the unisex status of “Cameron.” Oh, and the F…tell me it stands for what I think it stands for, please.
“It stands for anything you want it to,” he told me.
So, at age 25, Awesome has a new name, and a somewhat altered POV of the world. Most of us by 25, I dare say, have had our teeth kicked in once or twice, causing us to shift out of a more simplistic way of thinking about the planet and the people who take up space on it. Ah, but we all still have parents, or elders in our life with frown lines showing deep furrows when we screw up. Like, for instance, when we show up and tell them we changed our last name to “Awesome?”
His parents were a bit surprised, yes. “They know how I am little bit out there,” he admits of his ‘rents, of his mom who came from England and his dad who was born in Trinidad. “My mom was a little confused but no one really questioned me. I’m a child with adult-like resources. I do whatever an eight year old would do if they had the money and power to do it.”
Amen to that…if eight year olds ran the world, there damned well would be peace in the Middle East. OK, and ice cream for breakfast all the time, but you get my point…What we’d spend in dentist bills we’d make up for with the dissolution of the military-industrial complex….
The name change has been basically a pure positive, he said. His name always pops out when media scans a list of 50 or so fighters in a tourney, so it guarantees ink. Now, the downsides….”There are a lot of airport checks. I didn’t see that one coming.”
Awesome for now is loving the experience as he lives the dream which has him traveling to foreign countries, allowing him to compare and contrast persons and systems. It has made him that much more grateful for what he and we all have. He recalls that he went to the Dominican Republic for a tourney, and was told that the place they were staying was in the good part of town. “We have running water,” he was told, by a proud person. It wasn’t hot water, but it was running. And there was no AC. “Their idea of living good is different. We’re spoiled, and often don’t realize how good we have it,” he said.
“Most of us don’t leave the country,” he continued. He splurged on a fan for his room in the DR, which he bought for $20, not inconsiderable wages in that nation for a laborer. He left it with a cleaning lady upon departure, but the money laid out seems to be well spent. “That’s why I love America so much,” he says. “So many people don’t know how crappy it can be elsewhere. Our level of poverty is what, $12,000 a year? You can live as king in the Dominican Republic for that.”
Speaking of kings and such…Awesome and the ladies fought like bosses in Mexico. He says they are buds, hang out, support each other all the way. “Every punch I threw, I heard Marlen like she was sitting next to me,” Awesome said.
He expects the ladies to clean up at the next Games, and wants to snag a gold himself, ideally. And how about a transition to the pro ranks after that? Think about it…a vegan gold medalist with the last name “Awesome?” Al Haymon, get your checkbook ready…
“I would love to represent America till I’m 40,” he says. “If there’s no Olympics for me, I may turn pro, but the jury is still out.”
Awesome has gone 43-5 in the last year and a half, and has close to 300 fights under his belt. Would his style be a good fit for the pros? “What am I like technically? As Kenny Powers said, fundamentals are crutches for the untalented,” he says, chuckling. “I made up my own style. It looks like I don’t know what I’m doing at times, but I’m not doing anything by accident. I throw punches from weird places, and it’s effective. I’m not a power puncher, so I don’t go toe to toe. I’m about 215 pounds, fighting guys at around 270. But I won’t drop down, because I’m so much faster than them at super heavyweight. As long as I don’t get hit, I won’t get killed.”
“You’re sort of supposed to fight and be this macho, manly way, supposed to stand and fight. I want to break the stereo, that you can be educated and articulate and have diversity in life, and be happy in life.”
The perception of the “normal” fighter in the minds of too many is Mike Tyson, complex and fearsome, and Muhammad Ali, his faculties diminished by punches he absorbed, supposedly. “I’ve never watched a Rocky movie and will not, and Ali with Parkinsons, you cannot attribute to boxing. With Tyson, people think he’s crazy. I prefer to be seen as a funny vegan.”
I get the sense that, in a good way, Awesome isn’t an automaton of ambition, that he rightly doesn’t wrap up his persona and being in his won-loss record. “There’s so much more like I’d like to do, before I decide to turn pro, dedicate my whole life to boxing. I want to do comedy, acting, public speaking. I don’t want to be the dude who gets punched my whole life. I’d like to leave a legacy. I mean, yes, money is very important to me. They say it can’t buy happiness. But having it doesn’t necessarily make you unhappy…. but it can buy a helicopter.”
Awesomely said, sir.
Keep punching Cam F., and if I can muster some focus, I will see what I can do about logging on to your Wiki backstage, and filling in some of those blanks. But be forewarned; I might lapse into a lazy spell, in the downtime when I’m not working on building my brand to where I can buy a helicopter.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV