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Articles of 2007

Pound for Pound: The Top 12 Fighters

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The year 2007 could go down in history as the period that the sport of professional boxing took a sharp turn upward with a necklace of sterling fights that glistened for fight fans. It began in March with junior featherweight champions Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez and has continued with last week’s Juan Diaz and Julio Diaz showdown.

Long-awaited fights that were begging to be made have transpired and boxing has delivered.

Because of several explosive confrontations a number of fighters formerly on the Pound for Pound list have dropped off or moved up. There are lots of changes in the top 12. A number of elite fighters suffered losses and are not on the current Pound for Pound list including Rafael Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Jermain Taylor and Marco Antonio Barrera.

Lets remind everybody how the fighters are selected. Pound for Pound means if all the fighters fought at the same weight, who would be the man to beat? Taken into consideration is the fighter’s record, knockouts, and above all else a boxer’s overall offensive and defensive skills.

Popularity doesn’t really matter on this list.

Here is the list for the current best 12 fighters Pound for Pound in the world of prizefighting:

1. Floyd Mayweather (38-0, 24 KOs) – The Las Vegas-based fighter has super quickness, has captured titles in the junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight divisions. For a while he was fighting nobodies after beating somebodies like the late Diego Corrales, but he’s back on track with victories over Oscar De La Hoya, Zab Judah and now set to fight Ricky Hatton. That’s what a Pound for Pound king can do, beat the elite fighters. If you ask Floyd how he does it, it’s simple he says: “It’s about using your brain inside the ring,” said Mayweather two weeks ago. “How can anyone say Manny Pacquiao is the best fighter if he has three losses and been knocked out twice. I’ve never been knocked out and never been beaten.”

2. Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2, 35 KOs) – In the last three years the humble Filipino bomber has accumulated a huge fan base aside from his home country where he’s the most popular sports figure ever. The reasons are simple: he’s fast, fearless and provides electrifying knockouts. Early in his career he suffered knockout losses but that was probably due to fighting at a weight that weakened him. Now he’s in the proper weight class and his skill level keeps increasing. His trainer Freddie Roach says “Manny picks up things quickly.” Plus he’s a demon during training sessions. If Floyd slips up then Manny takes over as the best. But Pacquiao does own the right as the sport’s most exciting fighter. He could probably go up to lightweight and maybe junior welterweight if he desires. But at 130 pounds it’s hard to see anyone beating him.

3. Bernard Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs)  – Not everyone thought Hopkins could beat a younger Winky Wright but that’s what he did last summer. Hopkins proves that age is not a factor just yet. He may fight the winner between Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler. Hopkins wanted a rematch with Roy Jones. Jr. but we’ll see if television wants to buy that possible match up. After he claimed he was retiring it was difficult to take Hopkins serious. But after out-boxing both Antonio Tarver and Winky it’s difficult to not take him serious. The Philadelphia fighter proves if you have tremendous skills and keep fit you can go on long after the age of 40. Hopkins reminds me of old Archie Moore who was able to combat some fierce customer well into his 40s too.

4. Juan Manuel Marquez (47-3-1, 35 KOs) – The Mexico City native beat fellow chilango Marco Antonio Barrera and is finally getting some respect and the paydays for his scientific boxing approach taught by Nacho Beristain. Now he faces the always-dangerous Rocky Juarez next month in Tucson, Arizona. It won’t be an easy fight. Juarez is very hungry. But if Marquez can survive he’s headed to a confrontation with Pacquiao or perhaps the winner between Joan Guzman and Humberto Soto. No easy matches in sight for Marquez. Yet it seems he doesn’t want it any other way. That’s a real warrior. But age is a factor for the 130-pound division titleholder. If he does get a rematch with Pacquiao, has he improved as much as Pacman? That was a different version than the fighter he drew with in 2004.

5. Joe Calzaghe (43-0, 32 KOs) – The Welsh fighter has successfully defended his super middleweight title 20 consecutive times but some of the opponents were guys most boxing fans have never heard about. After beating Jeff Lacy the world finally saw what the British press was clamoring about and discovered the thinking man’s fighter. Calzaghe faces a daunting test against Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler on Nov. 3.  It’s the toughest test of his career. Kessler is a true boxer-puncher with speed. The winner is in line to fight Hopkins and earn a hefty payday in the U.S. Expect Calzaghe to be at his best with the world finally watching.

6. Ricky Hatton (43-0, 31 KOs) – The amiable Hatton revisits the U.S. where he faces his toughest test against Floyd Mayweather on Dec. 8, in Las Vegas. Still undefeated, Hatton is moving up to welterweight once again to test the heavier weight division and to make a pretty handsome sum of money. The Hitman has made many new friends in the U.S. with his dogged style and take-no-prisoners approach. Don’t expect Hatton to be timid inside the ring with Mayweather. That’s why his fans are willing to cross the Atlantic Ocean to cheer him on and raise havoc. Hatton has remained undefeated for 10 years despite his devil-may-care style. You got to give him his props.

7. Israel Vazquez (42-4, 31 KOs) – After losing the first firefight against fellow Mexico City fighter Rafael Marquez, only a few thought he had a chance in the rematch. He thought otherwise and proved it by knocking out Marquez a few months later. Vazquez continues to surprise fans with his ability to survive knockdowns and come back roaring. He’s severely under-rated despite a combination of speed, power and strength. In the beginning of his career more than a few boxing writers dubbed Vazquez a journeyman type of fighter. Now he’s one of the best fighters in the sport with knockout victories over Jhonny Gonzalez, Oscar Larios and Marquez. He’s also one of the nicest guys in the boxing.

8. Kelly Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs) – The gunslinger from Youngstown, Ohio fought his way out of the west with his reliable brand of two-handed firepower. This kid can hit. For years only fans west of the Mississippi River were able to witness his impressive victories over a murderer’s row of fighters like Fulgencio Zuniga, Jose Luis Zertuche and Edison Miranda. You can add Jermain Taylor to that list now. Pavlik earned his way to the top with a blue collar style of fighting that brings back visions of the middleweights who would rather win by their own justice than rely on judges. He’s not the fastest, he’s not the strongest, but his punches equalize whatever deficits he has. So far he’s mostly fought guys that walk toward him, let’s see what happens when he meets the slick movers and defensive-minded middleweights.  It’s going to be enjoyable to watch Pavlik.

9. Winky Wright (51-4-1, 25 KOs) – The Florida boxer lost against Bernard Hopkins but that’s not embarrassment. Wright still has the tools to beat several fighters on this list if they are willing to accept a challenge. He’s like a puzzle that’s difficult for anyone that’s not a boxing master. Wright has problems getting fights because nobody wants to be his foil. After he decimated Felix Trinidad and humbled Jermain Taylor, you won’t find too many fighters from junior middleweight to light heavyweight willing to tangle with the Winkster. The Floridian from D.C. would love to fight Oscar De La Hoya. That would be a good match. Right now everything hinges on Mayweather’s match against Hatton. If Hatton wins then he gets De La Hoya who said he’s going to fight in May and September. Maybe Wright can fit in his schedule.

10. Juan Diaz (33-0, 17 KOs) – The Texas cyclone is calling out Manny Pacquiao he’s that confident. His attacking style reminds many of the great Henry Armstrong who fought during the Depression era to the 1940s. Juan Diaz is the 21st century version and has grabbed three of the four major lightweight titles. Forget the Ring magazine champion Joel Casamayor, he had his chance and refused to take it against Juan or Julio Diaz. The Baby Bull is the absolute true lightweight champion of the world. If a fight against Pacman can’t be made than there are a host of other fighters willing to step up including Michael Katsidis, WBC titleholder David Diaz and Casamayor if Diaz feels like giving him a second chance. The biggest money-maker would definitely be the Baby Bull versus Pacman. That would be a memorable fight.

11. Shane Mosley (44-4, 37 KOs) – Just when people began writing off Sugar Shane Mosley as a second tier fighter he comes roaring back with convincing victories against Fernando Vargas and Luis Collazo. Now he faces Puerto Rico’s undefeated Miguel Cotto for the WBA welterweight title at Madison Square Garden. Writers are describing it as an experienced veteran in Mosley against a young lion Cotto. But from what the Pomona speedster has shown in his last two fights is that lightning quickness and ability to adapt in the middle of a fight. If he beats Cotto then there are several mega fights waiting to happen for Sugar Shane. He’s been among the elite fighters for seven years now.

12. Joan Guzman (27-0, 17 KOs) – The Dominican dandy has a boxer-punching style that utilizes his speed and power to maximum perfection. He’s still undefeated and running out of time to prove his talent. At 31, he faces an extremely tough test next month against Mexico’s Humberto Soto. Once again Guzman faces a guy who may not be known to the casual boxing fan, but Soto is one monster opponent who can end it for Guzman. Some people say Guzman’s victories over Javier Jauregui and Jorge Barrios doesn’t merit being mentioned on this list. I say otherwise, those guys he beat he beat easily. And that’s not easy to do. Guzman could fight Pacquiao but needs to beat Soto first to gain that recognition. A very skillful fighter indeed.

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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