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Articles of 2007

Dawson overwhelms Adamek, wins WBC crown

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KISSIMMEE, Fla.— Jimmy Lennon is lucky the guy in the gorilla suit didn’t start jumping up and down on his head.

After reading the judges’ scorecards following Saturday night’s WBC light-heavyweight title fight, the ring announcer attempted to milk an extra bit of drama out of the verdict with the words “and still…”

Chad Dawson, who had just hammered Tomasz Adamek around the ring for the better part of 12 rounds, looked as if he were going to faint on the spot, and his promoter, Gary Shaw, almost had a heart attack before Lennon smirked and continued “… undefeated… and new light heavyweight champion of the world…”

When Don King moved his Super Bowl Eve card from the Miami Arena to Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Rodeo Arena a few weeks back, many thought it only fitting that the World’s Greatest Promoter would at last preside over an event surrounded by the smell of authentic horse manure, but, Lennon’s cheap theatrics notwithstanding, the crowd of 5,270 more than got its money’s worth out of the main event, as the 24-year-old Dawson upset the previously unbeaten Adamek to win the 175-pound title.

In a conversation a night earlier, Dawson had not only confidently predicted victory, but accurately described how he would do it.

“I’m going to rely on my superior speed, quickness, and boxing skills,” Bad Chad had said. “And I’ve heard he had trouble with southpaws.”

That, in a nutshell, proved to be the fight. Adamek, who had struggled against the few left-handed bums he had fought in Europe, seemed utterly baffled in the early going, and when he wasn’t being confused by the southpaw stance, he was being dazzled by Dawson’s quickness.

The New Haven challenger was able to land his right-handed jab nearly at will, and from the early rounds on Adamek’s right eye was growing puffy. And as the Polish champion grew wary of the right, he set himself up for some lashing left hand leads that Dawson threw with equal alacrity.

Adamek, who came into the bout 31-0, was fighting in the United States for just the third time, and for the first time here against an American opponent. If he had expected another blood-and-guts war like the two he had experienced with Aussie Paul Briggs, he was shortly disabused.

By the time the fight was three or four rounds old, the chants of “Polska! Polska!” had all but vanished from the barnyard, and Dawson, who had been led into the ring by a small posse including one guy in a gorilla costume, by now had an army of supporters 5,000 strong.

Dawson piled up a huge early lead, winning each of the first nine stanzas, flooring Adamek in the seventh along the way. (Adamek complained that he was tripped, but referee Jorge Alonso ruled it a knockdown nonetheless.)

The trip to the canvas came after Adamek moved in to throw a one-two combination. As Dawson stepped in to counter with a left to the body, he appeared to get his right foot behind Adamek’s left one, so that when he nailed him with the body shot the Pole was immediately caught off-balance and fell over backward.

After nine, in fact, the fight had become such a rout that in the champion’s corner, trainer Buddy McGirt warned Adamek that he was giving him one more round to turn things around before he stopped it himself.

Adamek must have thought Buddy meant it, because in the tenth he caught Dawson with a perfect left-right combination, knocking him down with the latter punch.

Dawsonseemed shaken, though he would later claim that he wasn’t.

“He caught me with a good punch,” said Dawson. “It was a flash knockdown, but it didn’t hurt me at all. I just went right back to the game plan.”

In fact, Dawson fought more warily over the final two and a half rounds, which seemed quite prudent, given that he had built up such an insurmountable lead that Adamek could have knocked him down two or three more times and still lost the fight.

Dawson coasted to victory, winning by scores of 118-108  (Peter Trematerra), 117-109 (Alejandro Rochin), and 116-110 (Anek Hontongkam). The Sweet Science card also had Dawson winning 116-110.

“This has been a long time coming,” said the happy Dawson, whom we’d spotted back in 2001 when we’d named the 19-year-old middleweight ‘New England Prospect of the Year.’

“He was much quicker and I was slower, that’s all,” said Adamek. “That’s why I lost. He’s the fastest I’ve ever seen.

“Chad is a good fighter,” added the Pole, “and after I knocked him down (in the tenth) I didn’t finish him.”

“I knew Chad was a good fighter, but when Thomas finally threw punches he knocked him down,” said McGirt. “[Adamek] was waiting on him, trying to counterpunch, and you just can’t do that with a guy that fast.”

Dawsonalso credited new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr., for whom he dumped Dan Birmingham eight weeks earlier to prep him for the title fight.

“Floyd’s the best,” explained Dawson, who felt he had been playing third fiddle to Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy in the Birmingham stable.

“I trained my ass off for this fight. Six or seven long weeks, and I reached my potential. I’m just happy.”

“Chad dominated him from the start,” said Mayweather, suggesting that we have yet to see the best of Chad Dawson. “I liked his speed, but I didn’t like his combinations. When Chad had him hurt, he could have finished Adamek. He needs to press more, pick his shots and really dig in.”

The win gave the new champion a perfect 23-0 record. (Dawson’s ledger also includes one ‘No Contest,’ a 2004 win over Andaulen Sloan at Foxwoods that was voided when Bad Chad registered positive for marijuana on his postfight drug test.)

So what does the future hold for a youngster of such apparently limitless potential?

“Whoever they bring to the table,” said Dawson. “I’ll fight the best fighters. I’ll be on top for a long time.”

Dawson’s thrilling victory compensated for the other two world title fights on the bill, each of which was disappointing, albeit for entirely disparate reasons.

It probably wasn’t a great omen that Jesus Chavez came into the ring wearing a Rex Grossman Bears’ jersey for his IBF lightweight title defense against Julio Diaz.

Chavez was fighting for the first time since the Leavander Johnson bout two years ago, a bout in which he won the title but left his opponent with fatal injuries, and there were questions about his ability to handle that episode, as well as nearly two year’s worth of ring rust.

Diaz, who had won the IBF’s ‘interim’ designation in the meantime, figured to be a stern test in any case, but the title fight quickly fizzled to an end when Chavez’s right knee became unhinged in the third round and he was counted out by referee Frank Santore.

Chavez had previously undergone surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, but he had twisted the right one jogging back in Mexico, and entered the ring wearing a brace on that appendage.

Following two lackluster rounds (we gave them a round apiece, but the three judges gave both to Diaz), the combatants met in mid-ring early in the third. As Diaz threw a jab, Chavez tried to roll with the punch, presumably intent on countering, but as his weight shifted to his right leg the knee buckled and gave way beneath him.

He lay, in obvious pain, on his face, and never attempted to regain his feet as Santore counted him out at 22 seconds of the third.

“I thought he had a lot of soul, but I didn’t see that tonight,” said Diaz. “He must have injured himself.”

The ringside physician, Dr. Allan Fields, confirmed that Chavez had suffered a sublaxation, or hyperextension, of his right knee.

“And that,” said Chavez, “was supposed to be my good leg.’

Chavez was left with a 42-4 record after the loss, while the new champion is 34-3.

“I love boxing, but now I have to go back home to heal and see what the doctors have to say,” said Chavez. “I lost the title, and I pass it along to Julio and I hope he does well with it.”

Showtime viewers were spared another, more odoriferous, title fight on the Kissimmee card, which saw Cory Spinks defend his IBF junior middleweight title with a convincing but uninspired win over 38-year-old Rodney Jones, whose status as the IBF’s top-ranked contender says a lot more about the IBF than it does about the challenger’s boxing gifts.

After a promising beginning, the bout quickly deteriorated into the tactical match of light-punching southpaws most experts had expected – and feared. (The Silver Spurs audience, not exactly hardened boxing spectators, didn’t even begin booing until the fourth round.)

Neither boxer was ever remotely in danger of going down. Two judges – Adalaide Byrd and Billy Ray – didn’t give Jones a round in scoring it 120-108, while Pat Russell gave him two in returning a 118-110 verdict. The Sweet Science card had it 119-109 for the champion.

“I feel satisfied with my performance,” said Spinks, now 36-3, even though most of the audience did not. “[Jones] is a long, rangy guy and I had to outsmart him. He’s been in the game a long time and he’s a veteran, but I was the superior boxer. I used my athletic talent and smarts to win.”

“He just boxed,” sniffed Jones, who fell to 37-4-1 with the loss. “I tried to hurt him, but he kept running.”

Spinks, who said he was looking for “the cash cows,” mentioned the quartet of Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, and Fernando Vargas.

“I’m ready for them,” insisted Spinks. “It’s just a matter of whether they are ready for me.”

Former WBC cruiserweight champion Wayne Braithwaite posted his first win in nearly three years, stopping Mexican Gustavo Enriquez in the seventh round of their scheduled 10-rounder.

Braithwaite, stopped by Guillermo Jones after losing his 2005 unification bout against Jean-Marc Mormeck, appeared a bit rusty, but for the most part outclassed Enriquez. By the second round the Mexican was bleeding from a cut above his left eye, and his face increasingly resembled hamburger as the bout progressed.

Braithwaite caught Enriquez with a good left-right in the seventh, and while the opponent hit the deck shortly thereafter, Alonso ruled that the Guayanan had pulled him down as he leaned forward. When action resumed, Enriquez was taking all the punishment, and the referee elected to wave it off at 2:46 of the round.

Braithwaite is now 22-2, Enriquez 15-7.

Las Vegasprospect Bermane Stiverne hurt Harold Sconiers with a left to the body and then finished him off with a right hand, knocking the well-traveled Clearwater heavyweight out at 2:05 of the first, as Santore stopped the fight without a count.

It was the tenth KO in as many fights for Stiverne, and his eighth first-round knockout. Sconiers is now 15-17-2.

Unbeaten Texan Marcus Johnson, fighting as a cruiserweight on the Florida card, posted a unanimous decision over a surprisingly resilient William Gill (6-15) of New Jersey. Although Johnson effectively attacked Gill to the body over the first half of the fight, the opponent not only withstood the punishment but dealt out some of his own in the sixth. That proved to be the only round he would win, as all three judges (Trematerra, Ray, and Alex Levin) scored it 79-73 for Johnson, now 12-0.

Johnson’s younger brother, super-middleweight James Johnson, didn’t fare as well, and wound up on the wrong end of a unanimous decision in his 4-round prelim against veteran Darnell Boone. Trematerra, Levin, and Ray all scored it 39-37 for the winner, whose record went to 14-8-2 with the win. Johnson, after absorbing his first pro loss, is now 7-1.

Colombian cruiserweight Epifanio Mendoza was awarded a fifth-round TKO over Tennessee journeyman Eric Howard when Alonso waved the bout off, at the behest of Howard’s corner, before the bell could sound for the sixth.

Mendoza, who had been docked a point for a low blow in the third, hurt Howard with a hard right midway through the fifth. Howard took two more punches before seeking refuge on the canvas, and another after he had taken a knee. Alonso ruled it a knockdown, but deducted two points from Mendoza. Once action recommenced, Mendoza battered away at an almost defenseless Howard, who barely managed to stay on his feet.

Despite having had three points assessed, Mendoza was comfortably ahead on all three cards at the time of the stoppage, and went to 26-4 with the win. Howard dropped to 11-15-1.

* * *

SUPER SATURDAY
SILVER SPURS ARENA
KISSIMMEE, FLA.
FEBRUARY 3, 2007SUPER SATURDAY

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: Chad Dawson, 175, New Haven, Conn. dec. Tomasz Adamak, 174, Zwyiec, Poland (12) (Wins WBC title)

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Cory Spinks, 153¼, St. Louis, Mo. dec. Rodney Jones, 153, Stockton, Calif. (12) (Retains IBF title)

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Julio Diaz, 135, Huiquilpan, Mexico KO’d Jesus Chavez, 134¾, Parral, Mexico (3) (Wins IBF title)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Bermane Stiverne, 248¾, Las Vegas, Nev. KO’d Harold Sconiers, 220, Clearwater, Fla. (1)

CRUISERWEIGHTS: Wayne Braithwaite, 197¾, Georgetown, Guyana TKO’d Gustavo Enriquez, 197, Juaurez, Mexico  (7)

Marcus Robinson, 177¾, Kileen, Texas dec. William Gill, 178, Point Pleasant, NJ (8)

Epifanio Mendoza, 178, Barranquilla, Colombia TKO’d Eric Howard, 185, Crossville, Tenn. (5)

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Darnell Boone, 166, Youngstown, Ohio  dec. James Johnson, 169, Killeen, Tex. (4)

Articles of 2007

St-Pierre, Liddell, Clementi Win @ UFC 79

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LAS VEGAS-A reinvented Georges St. Pierre proved he’s ready for the true Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title with a dominating win over Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell returned to the win column in his big showdown on Saturday.

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.”

Undercard

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.

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Articles of 2007

Pavlik Or 'Money': Fighter of the Year Is…

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There’s nothing like the terror felt when you have a big black bear snarling and snorting and hunting you down, eager to stuff your tender head into his mouth, to make you run as fast as you’ve ever run.

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.

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Articles of 2007

Resolution Time For Harold Sconiers

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When Harold Sconiers of Tampa, Florida, looks in the mirror these days he doesn’t see the journeyman heavyweight with a 15-17-2 (10 KOs) record that most other people do.

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

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