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Articles of 2007

Boxing Sometimes Allows For Happy Endings

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On a recent Tuesday PROOF magazine hosted what its editors described as “an evening of readings and photography with a punch.” The photojournalism magazine, which is published twice a year, had just released its sports issue.

Among the stories was a behind the scenes report by occasional TSS contributor Peter Wood on one of Lou DiBella’s popular Broadway Boxing club shows, as well as a sensational feature on Chuck Wepner by James T. Campbell.

A prohibitive underdog against Muhammad Ali in a 1975 title fight in Cleveland, Wepner, who was known as the Bayonne Bleeder in deference to his hometown and his propensity to bleed as if stabbed with a shank, became the muse for Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” character.

To date, the “Rocky” franchise has grossed $3 billion. Until a recent lawsuit initiated by Wepner was settled, Wepner had not seen a dime of it.

Wood and Wepner, as well as Peter Spanakos, who, like Wepner, is a 1964 New York City Golden Gloves champion, were in attendance for this grand event, which took place in the basement room of the Cornelia Street Café in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Although Spanakos was not the subject of a PROOF story, his presence only enhanced and enriched the already interesting legacies of Wood and Wepner, both of whom charmingly regaled the non-boxing audience with their tales of fistic derring-do.

Like so many boxing stories, Spanakos’ saga is not easy to categorize. The son of Greek immigrant parents who ran a small restaurant in downtown Brooklyn, he and his twin brother Nick were set upon daily by local gangs.

“One day it was the Italians, the next day it was the Irish,” said Spanakos, who although pushing 70 is still incredibly fit. “We had to learn how to fight for survival.”

Their father, a stern taskmaster, did not believe in sports as an outlet for any of his children, regardless of the reasons. It was important to him that his kids spend whatever hours they were not in school working in the family business as either bus boys or dishwashers.

“In my family, if you weren’t a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant you were a failure,” said Spanakos, who, along with Nick became two of the most celebrated amateur boxers in United States history.

As a member of the 1960 Olympic team in Rome, Nick roomed with Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

Wood and Wepner, on the other hand, came from altogether different but equally inauspicious beginnings. Wood’s birth father, Guy Wood, was a noted songwriter whose credits include “My One and Only,” which was made famous by Frank Sinatra, and “Till Then,” which was a number one hit by the Mills Brothers in the forties. It was later recorded by The Hilltoppers in the fifties and a doo-wop group called The Classics in the sixties.

Peter’s personal favorite, “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy,” was written in the fifties and recorded by, among others, Red Foley and Dinah Shore.

Guy Wood’s career was on the fast track, says his son, when two words stopped it in its tracks. “The Beatles,” he proclaims. “Once they came along, my father was an overnight anachronism.”

Guy had an office in the Brill Building in Manhattan’s Tin Pan Alley, and his eclectic group of friends included boxing champions Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Benny Leonard and Mickey Walker. Dempsey’s restaurant was within walking distance of his office.

After his parents’ divorce in the early sixties, Peter Wood’s life quickly went into a downward spiral. His mother remarried a man who Wood describes as “cruel and cold.” Equally cruel and cold were Woods’ new step-siblings, several of whom took delight in torturing animals.

One of five children from his original parents, Wood became frightened, embittered and full of rage. He sought refuge through boxing.

A celebrated amateur, he made it to the finals of the 1971 Golden Gloves finals at Madison Square Garden. While boxing, which he describes as having an “ugly beauty,” gave him “the ability to become a man,” his siblings did not fare so well.

One brother became a heroin addict while still in high school. Another brother, who had been voted “Most Friendly” at school, attempted suicide. A sister who was the captain of the cheerleading squad has been in and out of mental institutions, while another sister became a prostitute.

If not for boxing, proclaims Wood, who is now 54 and a high school English teacher, life would not have turned out so well for him. He has no doubt that he would have hurt himself or others.

Wood trained at Bufano’s Gym in Jersey City.  Even in the early seventies, which is now a bygone era, the facility was a relic. Among the popular fighters Wood trained alongside were professional heavyweights Brian O’Melia, who was a schoolteacher, and Wepner.

At 6’5” tall and about 225 pounds, Wepner was the biggest, strongest and roughest fighter in the gym.

While Wood was much too small to tangle with Wepner, even in a controlled sparring environment, he trained regularly with the smaller O’Melia, who even then was considered one of boxing’s truly nice guys. O’Melia was also one of Wepner’s regular sparring partners.

It was through the association with O’Melia, Wood told the assembled audience, that he has an indirect fistic link to Ali.

“I punched O’Melia in the nose,” he explained. “O’Melia punched Wepner in the nose, and Wepner not only knocked Ali down in the ninth round, he punched him in the nose plenty. As pathetic as that might seem to you, it is very important to me.”

All of this is, and more, is chronicled in Wood’s two autobiographical books. “Confessions of a Fighter: Battling Through the New York Golden Gloves” and “A Clenched Fist: The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion” were either released or re-released this past February by Ringside Books.

Although he has a tough façade and an intimidating physical presence, it is quickly apparent that Wepner is an emotionally accessible man. His eyes always well with tears when he talks of his late mother, and he is blindly loyal to anyone he considers a friend.

He is also as standup as they come. Two decades ago he was caught transporting cocaine and sentenced to ten years in prison. When his attorney suggested he become a snitch, he fired him.

He served several years before being released into the Intensive Supervision Program. It was friends in the law enforcement community who got him the break. Wepner has always loved cops, and is quick to attend any charity function on their behalf.

“They realized what I did was an aberration,” said Wepner, who began boxing while in the United States Marine Corps. “I was very lucky.”

Although Wepner does not give the impression that he was ever consumed by anger, he fought as if his life depended on it. In amassing a record of 35-14-2 (17 KOS) against the most formidable opponents of his era, including Ali, Sonny Liston and George Foreman, he was known as much for his resiliency as his unique style of brawling.  

Before one fight, he was warned by referee Joe Cortez that none of his repertoire of dirty tricks would be tolerated. “C’mon Joe,” Wepner jokingly pleaded. “You just took away my entire arsenal.”

With the exception of the Ali fight, Wepner, a quintessential blue collar champion, never trained full time for a fight in his life. He was always working one, two, sometimes three jobs to make ends meet.

That was why he couldn’t contain his excitement when he knocked down Ali in the ninth round. He went back to his corner and told his trainer Al Braverman, a grizzly bear of a man, to “start the car and go to the bank. We’re going to be millionaires.”

Braverman was not so sure. “He’s getting up,” Braverman responded, obviously impressed by the champ’s quick recuperative powers. “And he looks pissed off.”

Ali stopped an exhausted Wepner in the waning seconds of the 15th and final round. By almost going the distance with the man many consider the greatest champion in history, Wepner has been known as the real-life “Rocky” ever since.

Having never forgotten where he came from, he still lives in Bayonne, directly across the street from a high school where he fought several pro bouts. He is on the board of his condominium complex.

His body is rock hard and his mind mentally sound. He and his third wife Linda seem made for each other. The subtle affection they display provides proof that lasting love really does exist, even the third time around.

That was evident on this night in the basement of a hip Greenwich Village club where Wood and Wepner were “playing” to an appreciative crowd. If one’s imagination was vivid enough, it could have been 1960 and the main attraction a young, yet-to-be discovered folk singer like Bob Dylan.

Instead it was two fighters who are inexplicably linked by a sport that rarely allows for such happy endings.

Wood told the crowd that it was his late father’s birthday. If he was alive, Guy Wood would have been 95 years old. Because it was such a special occasion, Wood awkwardly but eloquently sang a few verses from “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” which, he reiterated, had long been his favorite.

<<<Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy

Makes my eyes light up

And my tummy say howdy

Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy

Never get enough of that wonderful stuff>>>

Watching Wepner made one realize that sometimes even the toughest of men have the tenderest of hearts. He gingerly stroked his wife’s hand, with his mind, perhaps even his heart, lost in the simple beauty of the moment.

Maybe he was thinking of the fact that he met his own father just once. Charley Wepner, who was a police officer, showed up on the night his son won his coveted Golden Gloves title. Could Wepner have been musing about all the memories that he never accumulated as a son, and then comparing them to his collective memories as a man?

Maybe he realized how good such an unforgiving sport like boxing had been to guys like him and Wood. Both were ultimate underdogs who, when all was said and done, came out on top.

Wepner was too busy with well-wishers to respond to such questions. And Wood is too classy and respectful to even speculate what Wepner might have been thinking or feeling.

He conceded though that fighters are so unpredictable, only a fool would try to categorize them.

Because Wood wears his emotions on his sleeve, it was clear that this event would forever hold a special place in the heavyweight heart that pulses through his still close to middleweight body.

“Boxing was my unhealthy way to a healthy life,” he assailed. “Boxing saved my life. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.”

Check out Proof magazine’s web site: proofmagazine.com

Peter Wood’s books can be purchased at: ringsidebooks.com

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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