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Articles of 2007

Kelly Pavlik’s March from the West

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Two undefeated middleweights with itchy trigger fingers are about to shoot it out when challenger Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik stands two feet away from middleweight champion Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor.

Middleweights explode like no other fighters.

Arkansas Taylor (27-0-1, 17 KOs) faces his first true middleweight time bomb when Pavlik (31-0, 28 KOs) brings his vaunted firepower to Boardwalk Hall on Saturday Sept. 29, in Atlantic City. The showdown between 160-pounders will be televised on HBO and is promoted by Top Rank and DiBella Entertainment.

Pavlik, 25, has burned and pillaged his way from the coast of California to the East Coast like a modern day General William “Tecumseh” Sherman. Though few boxing fans west of the Mississippi River know the opposition he’s faced, the fighters he left in his wake were feared and avoided by others in the middleweight division.

It’s time for the ultimate middleweight test.

“Middleweights are exciting because they fight with the speed of featherweights and have the power to knock out heavyweights,” said Larry Merchant, HBO’s long-time analyst.

Can anyone argue otherwise?

From the late 1890s to the present the 160-pound middleweights have proven time after time they harness the best of all worlds in prizefighting.

It probably began with the gangly and unseemly Bob Fitzsimmons whose bony features and anorexic-looking frame didn’t prevent him from landing the famous “solar plexus punch” that enabled him to become the first middleweight to capture a heavyweight world championship. That happened in 1897 against Gentleman Jim Corbett in Carson City, Nevada.

Though big Jim Jeffries clobbered him twice to wrest the title away, Fitzsimmons continued to beat up men much bigger.

Another middleweight who stood toe-to-toe with men twice his size was Sam Langford. The Boston five-feet, six-inch boxer fought more than 200 bouts including several Hall of Fame heavyweights that include Jack Johnson, but he fought as low as lightweight. In 1903 he fought lightweight champion Joe Gans. Later he fought middleweights, light heavyweights and dwelled in the heavyweight division for years until he retired in 1926.

Stanley “The Michigan Assassin” Ketchel was another middleweight who could care less about size. He proved it when he accepted a fight against Jack Johnson and dropped the world champion when they fought in 1909. But the knockdown infuriated Johnson so much that he jumped up and walloped Ketchel with some whirlwind punches. But for a few seconds it looked like another middleweight was going to do what other heavyweights were unable: beat Johnson.

A year later both Ketchel and Langford battled for six furious rounds to no decision. They set the watermark for middleweights.

Mickey Walker was another middleweight who tried his fists with bigger heavyweights. Like Langford he was not quite five-feet, seven-inches and could mug an opponent or out-box him. As a heavyweight he battled Jack Sharkey, Max Schmeling, King Levinsky and Johnny Risko. He fought Sharkey to a draw at Madison Square Garden in 1931.

Later the boxing world saw middleweights like Archie “The Mongoose” Moore and Ezzard Charles wreck heavyweights when they moved up in weight.

Middleweights are plain dangerous and should be registered as deadly weapons.

The western path

After fighting seven years professionally Ohio’s Pavlik meets Taylor, 29, for the WBC and WBO middleweight titles after taking a western path to the middleweight challenge.

Raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Pavlik it was in the flaming hot desert sands of  Indio on June 16, 2000 that he made his pro debut. It was the day before the huge showdown between Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Shane Mosley.

That night the temperatures were a sweltering 103 degrees after the sun disappeared and the tall middleweight emerged before a crowd who knew nothing about him. They were anxious to see hometown hero Antonio Diaz fight Argentina’s Omar Weis. Pavlik was merely a preliminary bout to keep the fans from yawning.

“I remember it was hot,” said Pavlik (31-0, 28 KOs).

Maybe it was the overwhelming heat or perhaps it was the pro debut jitters that made  Pavlik look rather slow and lethargic that night in stopping his first opponent Eric Tzand in the third round. It was the beginning of a slow gradual process of California and Nevada fight cards that last several years.

It took nearly a dozen fights before Pavlik’s hometown even got a glimpse. He had been traversing the western states like the pony express. Knockouts in Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada and Tennessee came before small popcorn-size arenas until he occasionally hit Las Vegas fight venues.

“He’s a good kid who paid his dues all the way to the top of the middleweight rankings,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum. “Kelly accomplished it just like the fighters from the 70s and 80s, like Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns.”

Pro debut at the Garden

Middleweight champion Taylor hasn’t exactly enjoyed a red carpet life either. Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas without a father tested his childhood decisions on right and wrong. But the only boy among women in the Taylor family found solace inside a boxing gym.

The steely-eyed Taylor survived the rough streets and lack of a father through the amateur boxing program that helped him become an Olympian on the 2000 team that went to Australia. It was there he won the bronze medal as a light middleweight.

That medal shot him to the top as an Olympic hero and DiBella Entertainment signed Taylor.

The prize for Taylor was fighting his pro debut in the Taj Mahal of boxing arenas Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Taylor powered through decent competition in the early going with wins over Grady Brewer, Marcos Primera, Nick Cervera, Alfredo Cuevas and Alex Rios.

Beginning in 2004 Taylor’s bad intentions were spent on middleweight contenders like Alex Bunema whom he captured the WBC Continental Americas title with a seventh round technical knockout. Then it was former junior middleweight titleholder Raul Marquez who slugged it out for nine rounds with Taylor. Then came former middleweight champion William Joppy in 2004 that lasted the entire 12 rounds.

Taylor’s crowning moment came on July 16, 2005 against undisputed middleweight champion Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins in Las Vegas.

Despite a severe lack of experience Taylor became the first fighter to defeat the Philadelphia warrior in more than 12 years. It was a very close split-decision that was awarded to Taylor who jumped to an early lead and managed to hang on as Hopkins rallied in the latter rounds. Though bruised and battered, Taylor was ecstatic as he and his team celebrated later that night around pool at the MGM Grand.

Five months later Taylor repeated the verdict in another close fight with Hopkins. The middleweight championship was his.

“He beat a guy twice who’s going into the hall of fame,” said Lou DiBella of Taylor’s victories over Hopkins. “All he’s done is beaten quality fighters.”

In his next three fights Taylor has seemed to hit a funk as smaller fighters in Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks that have been able to figure out the swarming style that gained him a title. Now he’s back to square one with Emanuel Steward training him.

Now comes the hard-hitting Pavlik. Forget that he’s a white middleweight; he’s the number one middleweight contender with a blue-collar lunch pail style that leaves fans hungering for more.

“This is the kind of fighter Jermain prefers,” DiBella says.

Under the radar

Pavlik’s last five opponents have been prizefighters that only a few hardcore boxing fans would recognize who fly under the radar of the casual boxing lover. But in boxing camps around the country they’re fighters that others avoid if they want to continue in the sport with health intact.

When Pavlik stepped in the ring against Colombia’s Fulgencio Zuniga in 2005, that fighter’s only loss came against junior middleweight titleholder Daniel Santos.

In the very first round Pavlik was suddenly dropped by a Zuniga left hook and it truly looked like the Ohio fighter was about to find his conqueror. But that night Pavlik showed much more than just power punching prowess and boxed his way to victory with a gritty determination that was never shown before.

After nine rounds of jabs and crosses to the eye of Zuniga, a cut forced the Colombian’s corner men to halt the fight despite protest from the muscular fighter. Pavlik captured the vacants NABF title that night.

“He was a strong guy,” remembers Pavlik.

Perhaps the biggest test came last January 2007 against Mexico’s little-known Jose Luis Zertuche. The former Mexican Olympian had warred twice with Colombia’s Zuniga and had engaged in a slugfest with power-hitting Carlos Bojorquez. Many boxing insiders consider Zertuche the toughest middleweight you never heard of.

“Zertuche was a guy who fought rugged fighters all through his career. He was a rugged fighter that no one else wanted to fight. He had pretty good hand speed and could hit,” said Pavlik of Zertuche. “In the end we just wore him down. He was a guy you didn’t want to take chances against.”

It was a horrific war with both boxers unleashing murderous punches that sounded like bombs landing. Ringsiders looked squeamish as both bludgeoned each other.

After five breathless rounds of pounding, the hard bricks Pavlik was firing began to wear down Zertuche’s resilience. A right hand pulverized Zertuche in the sixth round but he rose before the count of 10. However at the end of the round he couldn’t find his own corner. Two rounds later another right strafed through Zertuche’s guard and down he went for good. After the fight the ultra-tough Mexican was taken to the local hospital for observation. He hasn’t returned to the ring since.

Four months ago Pavlik was paired against the tough-talking Edison Miranda, a master of self-promotion who packed some wallop. After seven rounds Miranda became the second hard-punching Colombian middleweight to feel Pavlik’s power.

Miranda was beaten so severely all he could say was he was sorry for the insults he hurled at Pavlik.

So what does Taylor think of Pavlik now?

“I don’t mean to talk bad about him, I’m just saying what I see,” explains Taylor. “I just don’t see him on my level.”

It’s business as usual for Pavlik.

“That’s an advantage for me if that’s what he thinks,” Pavlik says.

Now the two middleweights who have never lost meet in the ring.

“This is a title fight,” says Pavlik.

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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