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Articles of 2007

Andy Terra, A Credit To This Nation

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Three years ago, Arthur Perry, a former Golden Gloves boxer, and a 33 year NYPD veteran, revisited his old neighborhood in Richmond Hill, Queens, after many years of living away from there.

As he and several of his childhood friends, all of whom were in their late fifties at the time of the reunion, canvassed the neighborhood, their minds were awash with memories of a bygone era.

As they walked up and down their old street, which was now filled with recently arrived immigrants from many other countries, they saw Andrew and Christina Terzano walking out of the house that they have lived in since 1951.

Nearly a half century ago, Perry and his boyhood friends had hung out with their son Patrick, who later served honorably in Vietnam. They had no idea that the elder Terzanos were alive, much less still living in the neighborhood.

Perry remembered that Mrs. Terzano was tough and stern, but strikingly beautiful. Even when he was all of ten years old, he could tell that her tough exterior belied a big heart.

He also remembered Andrew Terzano as a good dad. Perry, who grew up fatherless, lived with his mother and grandmother. He watched with curiosity as Mr. Terzano came home each day from the butcher shop he owned in Brooklyn.

“Hi fellas,” he’d shout at the kids.

“Even through the eyes of a ten or twelve year old, he seemed very solid,” said Perry. “He was a very nice man who seemed like a good father. Maybe I idealized him because I didn’t have a father, but I respected him without even knowing him all that well.”

When he caught up with the Terzanos all these years later, Perry told Andy that way back when he reminded him of a young Rocky Marciano. Even well into his eighties, Terzano’s square jaw and compact build, coupled with his ruggedly handsome face, make it clear that he is of good Italian stock.

“Maybe that’s because he was a professional prizefighter,” said his wife, which caused Perry’s jaw to drop.

As a youngster Perry was an avid boxing fan, who looked up to anyone who ever laced up the gloves. How could he not have known that Mr. Terzano was a fighter? That would have made him a neighborhood hero. How could a secret like that be kept for so long?

Andy then told Perry that he fought as a lightweight under the name of Andy Terra from 1938-41. Competing at once fabled venues like the Coney Island Velodrome and the Fort Hamilton, Broadway and Ridgewood Grove Arenas in Brooklyn, as well as the Dexter Park Arena in Queens and the St. Nicholas Arena in Manhattan, he compiled a solid record of 13-3-2 (5 KOS).

All of his losses were by decision to unbeaten or once-beaten fighters.

When Perry sent Terzano a copy of his record from boxrec.com, the ex-fighter was thrilled. So was his daughter, Andrea, who now lives in Las Vegas. She wrote Perry a thank-you note that brought a lump to his throat.

Perry and I visited the Terzano household in mid-September. Although Andy and his wife are both octogenarians, they get along almost giddily. When we arrived in the late afternoon at the well-maintained, bright and cheery house, the front door was wide open and they were watching television on the couch. The house was extremely welcoming and their humility, as well as their inherent decency, was immediately evident.

Terzano told us how he started boxing quite by accident, while working as a delivery boy in his childhood neighborhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn. He was forced to go to work when his mother passed away when he was ten. She left behind 11 children.

His brother Jim, who was seven years older, took over the day to day operations of running the family. Their father, a shoe maker, worked long hours to make ends meet.

While making deliveries one day, Terzano met another delivery boy who happened to moonlight as a pro fighter. The young pro had a ring set up in his basement, where he was coached by his father. He invited young Terzano over to spar. After just one session, he told him that he was “damn good.” Terzano was hooked.

“I just wanted to work with him because I enjoyed the workout,” said Terzano. “But after a few amateur fights, where I’d win watches, I was taken to Stillman’s Gym.”

At Stillman’s, Terzano caught the eye of legendary trainer Ray Arcel, who only worked with the best fighters in the city back then. “Ray said, ‘I can make you a champion,’” said Terzano. “But you have to get rid of your trainer.”

Besides being extremely loyal to his original trainer, Terzano concedes that he was too young and naïve to realize what a great opportunity he had passed up.

“Who was Ray Arcel to me?’ he wondered aloud. “I wasn’t even 20 years old. I had no idea what a great trainer he was.”

Because Terzano is such a practical thinker, he began planning out a pro boxing career incrementally in his head.

“First,” he mused, “I wanted to be a star bouter,” which he described as a solid six or eight round fighter who was good enough to regularly get work at Madison Square Garden.

Many of today’s fans don’t realize that being a star bouter was quite an accomplishment back then. Being deemed a good club fighter was an honor in those days, unlike today where champions are crowned with just 10 or 15 fights under their belt.

“Becoming a six and eight round fighter brought you a lot of pride,” said Terzano. “In those days, eight round fighters made $500 to $800. We would hear star bouters talk about how much they were going to make in the gym, and they’d sound like millionaires.”

Terzano trained alongside Bummy Davis in East New York, Brooklyn, where he says all of the fighters “wanted to follow him (Davis). He was a big shot, a real hero to us.”

He fought on several cards that were headlined by Lenny “Boom Boom” Mancini, a ferocious fighter whose son Ray would later become lightweight champion of the world, as well as former National Boxing Association middleweight champion Solly Kreiger. Those “small” club shows regularly drew as many as 4,500 fans.

Terzano remembers being mesmerized by the sight of lightweight titlist Kid Chocolate at Fort Hamilton. “He was like Petey Scalzo, who was like Willie Pep,” he explained. “Those guys could really fight, and I looked up to them. You could never hit them. Fans like sluggers, but those guys would open up in the last minute of every round and steal them. They were great to watch.”

Scalzo was a New York favorite who held the National Boxing Association featherweight title.

“Even though I was Italian, I had a big Jewish following,” added Terzano. “Back in the thirties and forties there were more Jewish fighters than (any other ethnic group). It’s changed completely now.”

Terzano was dropped only once during his pro career, by Benny Rubano at the Dexter Park Arena. “That was the only time I ever sat on my fanny,” he said. “He really surprised me, but I got up and beat the hell out of the guy.”

Terzano seemed well on his way to main event status. He was being recognized in and out of the ring.

“If you walked along the street and were a fighter, you got a lot of respect,” he said. “Part of you thinks you’re a nobody, but then everyone says they saw you fight and they wish you luck in your next bout. It really builds your ego.

“You have to remember,” he added, “there were really no other sports but boxing back then. Boxing was number one. Most people (sports fans) were involved in the fights.”

One fond memory that Terzano has is not shared by his wife.  This is one thing they will never agree on, no matter how long they are married.

She had only seen one of his fights, which was enough for her. However, one night at a Queens fight venue, she met Abe Simon, a literal bear of a man who had challenged Joe Louis for the heavyweight title.

Terzano was thrilled that he and his wife were meeting someone he considered a bonafide celebrity, even though he jokingly referred to him as “the (toughest looking) guy in the world, a real monster” because of his immense size and inhuman strength.

“Yeah, I was thrilled,” deadpanned Christina.

All of Terzano’s professional boxing dreams were scuttled when he served in the armed forces during World War II. While assigned to Fort Grant, Illinois, a general told him he could stay stateside if he was willing to represent his battalion on the boxing team.

The extremely proud, loyal and patriotic Terzano wouldn’t hear of it. “I had lots of friends from Brooklyn and Queens in the service with me,” he explained. “If they were going overseas, I was going with them.”

Terzano and his battalion departed San Francisco for Australia to guard against a Japanese attack that never came. He later took part in invasions in New Guinea and Ireland. He was then shipped to Japan after the bomb had been dropped and that country had surrendered to allied forces.

“We had just come from all these invasions, and were now in Japan where there were thousands and thousands of Japanese everywhere,” he said incredulously. “We kept expecting a sneak attack, but they were welcoming us. They all bowed so respectfully to us. It was something.”

Terzano returned home to Queens to be with his new bride, whom he had married during a wartime leave. They had met in front of the Coney Island parachute and then danced the night away at one of the ten cents dance joints that abounded during that era.

“If you kept dancing, you stayed out of trouble,” said Christina with a mischievous twinkle.  

Terzano began his hitch in the U.S. Army in August 1942. While home on leave, he and Christina got married in January 1943 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. In those days, couples had to wait three weeks from the time they got their marriage license until they were allowed to wed.

Because Terzano was being shipped off to war, he pleaded with various bureaucracies to lift the rule for him and his sweetheart. A priest at St. Patrick’s warned Terzano that a lot of girls were marrying war-bound men for the insurance they would collect if they returned home in body bags.

“I told him I had $13.50 in a joint bank account, and she was welcome to have it,” said Terzano.

Boy, did that priest underestimate the power of love between the two. Christina worried about Andy incessantly, prayed for him constantly, and thanked God when he came home alive. She was also very grateful when he opted to discontinue boxing upon his return from the Pacific Theater.

Terzano was smart enough to realize that by the standards of the day, 26 was old for a fighter.  That’s how old he was when he returned home from the war.

“By 30 most fighters were finished,” he said. “I had a growing family and wanted to make sure I could take care of them. I became a butcher instead of a boxer.”

Terzano eventually owned and operated his own Brooklyn butcher shop, which he named after his nephew Frank, the son of his sister who he promised to look after. He and his wife had four children: Patrick, Bruce, Wayne, and Andrea, the latter of whom is 51 but is still referred to by Terzano as “my little girl.” His eyes get dreamy with any mention of her.

As the decades rolled by, family life for the Terzano’s reads like an abridged version of recent American history. A neighbor of theirs, an only child of a single parent named John Dickinson, enlisted in the armed forces during the height of the Vietnam conflict.

Terzano grabbed him one day and asked him what the hell he was doing. The boy had always been a quiet kid, whose cherubic face was adorned with red hair and freckles. If he was killed or injured, his mother might never recover.

“He said, ‘Mr. Terzano, this is my duty,’” Terzano recalled as tears welled in his eyes. “I felt ashamed for scolding him, and I bit my tongue and said no more. I poured a scotch for him and a rye for me and I wished him luck.”

Dickinson was not to have such luck overseas. Just three months after his arrival in Southeast Asia, the helicopter he was piloting was shot down. He managed to save his crew before succumbing to gunshot wounds to his head.

When Terzano’s son Patrick was drafted and shipped off to Vietnam, he was even more worried than before. A measure of relief came when Patrick assured his parents that he was in a safe place, chauffeuring a colonel around.

One night, however, the Terzanos were watching the news when a report came from the province where Patrick was stationed. They saw him firing a weapon at the enemy and then running through water with a wounded soldier slung over his shoulder. Machine gun fire was blaring all around him.

“My wife and I walked around Richmond Hill crying and crying,” said Terzano. “We were in very bad shape. Every night when I’d come home from work, I’d expect to see a soldier with a flag on my porch, telling us that our son was killed. I would drive to and from work, and have no memory of the trip. I was afraid to come home.

“Things got even worse,” he continued, “when a customer’s son was killed over there. I went to the funeral. It was unbearable.”

One Christmas Eve, Patrick was due home but he got derailed along the way. His parents had no word on his whereabouts. “I drank Southern Comfort and it didn’t do anything to me,” said Christina. “That’s how worried I was.”

Patrick finally arrived home okay. He is now 60 years old, in good health, and living in Philadelphia. Son Bruce lives on Long Island where owns a car service and a Laundromat. Son Wayne passed away in the eighties.

Daughter Andrea, who earned a Ph.D. and still calls her parents daily, co-authored a book called “Coaching Culture, Hidden Profits” (Insight Publishing, July 2006). According to a description on Amazon.com, it is “written for CEOs, division heads and middle managers to provide insight and a formula for using a coaching culture to maximize profits.”

From the outside looking in, it is hard to imagine a family with a greater foundation than the Terzanos. The bedrock seems to be trust, confidence, faith and compassion. They’ve certainly had no shortage of travails, but seem to have come through very much intact. You need not spend more than a few minutes with Andy and Christina to get that sense.

Prominently displayed on their living room wall is a photo of young Terzano in a fighting pose.

The inscription reads, “To my dear brother Jim. From your kid brother, Andy Terra.”

Even today, 77 years after their mother’s death, Terzano does not forget the sacrifice his brother made for his family.

By the diminished standards of today, Andy might be considered an inconsequential club fighter. But by the standards of yesteryear, however, he has so much to be proud of. What he accomplished in the ring was plenty, but what he did with his life outside the ring is what makes him such a special human being.

He served his country with honor, his business with integrity, his customers with dignity and honesty, and his family with an abundance of love.

“I always wanted to fight at Madison Square Garden,” said Terzano with no real sense of regret, because he is savvy enough to know what is most important in life.

“That was Broadway. A movie star wants to go to Hollywood, a fighter back then wanted to go to the Garden. I almost got there, but the war got in the way. Things happen for a reason. Whatever the reason was I don’t know, but things turned out okay.”

While not a star bouter at the Garden, Terzano is one in every other aspect of his life. The United States was built on the backs of people like him, and we owe collectively owe him a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

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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