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Articles of 2007

Pocket Rocket McCullough Still Fired Up

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Rarely has a crossroads fight involved participants at such precarious stages of their careers. While some observers have labelled Saturday’s Kiko Martinez-Wayne McCullough matchup as a showdown between an irresistible force and an immovable object, some see it as an unproven prospect versus a faded ex-champ.

By emerging from obscurity to annex the European 122-pound title in just 86 seconds from the highly-touted Bernard Dunne, the 21-year-old Martinez lived up to his moniker “La Sensación”.

The crushing hooks that crashed into Dunne’s exposed chin have become a hit on YouTube, while newspaper reports of the bout liked the Spaniard to a miniature Mike Tyson.

Yet if anyone has the credentials to withstand thunderous blows, it’s McCullough. Despite standing toe-to-toe with some fearsome punchers, the Irishman has never been floored and earned recognition from The Ring as owner of boxing’s best chin.

But to merit such acknowledgement a fighter must take a myriad of blows to the head. Many would argue that McCullough has absorbed too many.

In his last outing, 27 months ago, the “Pocket Rocket” endured ten rounds of unremitting exchanges with the then-premier super bantamweight Oscar Larios, before McCullough’s trainer for the fight, Freddie Roach, asked the referee to save his fighter from further punishment.

In the aftermath, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended McCullough for six months, while Roach, an ex-fighter who suffers from trauma-induced Parkinson’s disease, publicly stated that the Irishman should retire.

“I don’t think he should fight anymore,” said the esteemed trainer. “I definitely don't want to see Wayne end up like me [with Parkinson’s]. I don’t see him doing well in the future and I told him it’s time to retire. I just worry about what might happen.”

The boxing community may not be fully supportive of McCullough’s fistic ambitions, but throughout his 37-year life the Las Vegas resident has never relied on encouragement from the masses.

Even though he was a Protestant from the notorious Shankill area of Belfast, McCullough had no reservations about carrying the Irish Tricolour when representing Ireland at the 1988 Olympics.

“I was fighting for Ireland first and foremost,” says the silver medalist from the 1992 Games. “And the way I saw it was ‘if I fight under the flag I should be happy to carry it.’  If I was to say ‘no’ what kind of coverage would I have gotten? I am a sportsman, not a politician.”

McCullough originally planned on starting his professional career in Belfast, but a lucrative offer from American promoter Mat Tinley and the opportunity to train under the celebrated tutelage of Eddie Futch lured the 22-year-old to the neon of Las Vegas. The scorching desert heat and synthetic surroundings didn’t deter the self-effacing Irishman, and after rattling off twelve undemanding victories he was matched with the respected 51-bout veteran Victor Rabanales.

McCullough was given a severe test by the rugged Mexican, but the novice dug deep to record a unanimous decision victory in a frenetic contest.

“That fight against Victor Rabanales was just so tough,” recalls McCullough. “It’s the earliest win that means the most to me, simply because he had so much more experience than me. It was definitely a learning fight and I had to think on my feet.”

The win was enough to garner McCullough a shot at a world championship, but it would come in the form of a daunting challenge against the leading bantamweight titlist Yasuei Yakushiji, in Nagoya, Japan. But McCullough was undeterred by the exigent task and produced an almost flawless performance of non-stop punching and relentless aggression to win a split decision and the veritable respect of the Japanese crowd.

The prospect of an easy defence of his WBC title in Dublin against the limited Jose Luis Bueno convinced McCullough to grind his body down to the 118-pound limit, even though he knew it was no longer his natural fighting weight. The anticipated straightforward showcase never transpired, and the weakened McCullough was forced into an arduous battle, with some observers deeming him lucky to retain his belt on a split points verdict.

McCullough was so exhausted that he was rushed to the hospital immediately after the bout.

“I do not remember anything until the next day,” he admits. “I won the fight yet my face was busted up. I was in the hospital after the fight and Bono from U2 held my hand for thirty minutes and I don’t remember it.”

McCullough’s days as a champion ended after that night in Dublin. He moved up to the 122-pound division, but was narrowly defeated by the future Hall of Fame entrant Daniel Zaragoza in one of the most exciting fights of 1997.

Problems with Tinley began to materialize after a rematch with Zaragoza could not be arranged and McCullough’s in-ring appearances became an irregular occurrence.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Spain, Real Madrid were proving themselves to be the leading football club in Europe, and their lessons in dominance were being watched by a young man in Alicante.

“I have always loved watching Madrid,” Kiko Martinez would tell the Belfast Telegraph.

And a decade later he would follow the team’s example and capture a European crown of his own. But football was not his only inspiration.

“Mike Tyson was my big hero,” he said. “I admired Sugar Ray Leonard but Tyson was fantastic. I loved watching him fight and I have modeled my style on him. He was very exciting and he hit very hard, just like me.”

Kiko then set out on a mission to emulate the fighting style of “Iron Mike”. Blessed with the same stocky build as his idol, Martinez was able to intimidate his amateur opponents with his thick neck, wide shoulders and killer instinct.

While Martinez was developing an interest in the sweet science, McCullough was enduring spells of inactivity. Ironically, that predicament ultimately made him a more attractive opponent to the bigger name fighters and subsequent title challenges against Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales came about in the late nineties.

While the two marquee fighters had built up fearsome reputations and a combined 64-0 (56) record, the Irishman was merely regarded as a recognisable name whose light fists would pose little trouble to the undefeated champions.

Yet McCullough showed no respect for his opponents’ reputes and attacked without inhibition. Whereas Hamed opted to retreat for much of the twelve round contest, Morales stood his ground, but later admitted he contemplated quitting, such was the Irishman’s resiliency.

After lasting the distance with the Mexican, McCullough received recognition as one of the toughest fighters in the sport, but his resolve was severely shaken when his licence was revoked after a routine MRI scan for the Brirish Boxing Board of Control [BBBC] showed a cyst on his skull before a planned homecoming bout in Belfast.

It was a day that would ingrain itself on McCullough’s memory.

“For six months I lived in October 18, 2000,” he reveals. “I was here but I wasn’t here.

“I was told [by the promoter Billy Murray] that one more punch to the head could kill me. I actually thought I was going to die because of the way it had been said. I thought if I took a knock to the head at all, by just banging it against a door or whatever, that would be it.”

After undergoing a rigorous series of tests, McCullough was eventually cleared to compete again by the BBBC, but his ultimate reward was a brutal 12-round beating by the potent fists of Scott Harrison in 2003. The featherweight titlist appeared to be at least two weight classes bigger than McCullough, and he administered a pounding to match.

“When I weighed in for the Harrison fight, I thought ‘we’re around the same size’,” says McCullough. “Then we got in the ring and he was huge, like a welterweight.”

Even though his ear had swelled grotesquely, McCullough managed to hear the final bell, but the referee was given numerous opportunities to stop the one-sided fight. Consequently, the beaten fighter was forced to spend a night in a Glasgow hospital, but his desire for combat would not be quenched and he remarkably summoned the will to engage Oscar Larios in two vigorous encounters.

But since the second fight on July 16 2005, McCullough, 27-6 (18), has been inactive, waiting for another chance at glory.

Conversely, Martinez has powered his way to the European title, swatting aside seemingly overmatched opposition to build a 17-0 (14) record.  And even though the Spaniard was expected to struggle with Dunne in front of a partisan Irish crowd in Dublin, Martinez blitzed his way to victory, while demonstrating chilling power.

Now he wants to cement his standing as world-class prospect. And he has no objections about fighting in front of a pro-McCullough gathering at the Kings Hall in Belfast.

“I will be the first man to knock out McCullough,” he claims. “I give him respect but I expect to stop him. Fighting away from home is what I like very much. I get a real buzz from the fact that the crowd are against me. I prefer fighting away from Spain.”

But why would a rusty McCullough want to step back into the ring against such a formidable opponent, especially considering Martinez’ European title will not be on the line? McCullough has plenty of external interests such as reporting for The Ring magazine, training a crop of upcoming fighters and acting as an ambassador for the UFC.

Are financial constraints forcing him to once again lace up the gloves?

“People are saying that I’m just back fighting for the money, but I’m not,” he retorts. “If I beat Martinez then I can go on to fight for a world title maybe against Israel Vasquez next year.

“And I’m not rusty. Boxers develop ring rust by not training and staying away from the gym for long periods of time. I’ve been training for two years twice a day. I’m feeling in great shape.”

“Martinez hasn’t got the experience I have,” he adds. “When he beat Dunne he caught him cold and caught him around the temple. That can happen to anyone. I had 17 wins and I was world champion and had 13 knockouts but did that make me a big puncher? I know that it didn’t, so you can’t just go with his record.”

McCullough can take heart from the fact that Martinez’ knockout streak loses some of its lustre when it’s noted that, excluding Dunne, his previous five opponents had 70 losses between them.

Moreover, how will the relative neophyte react if his punches bounce off the concrete jaw of McCullough? Then again, can the Irishman’s punch resistance possibly be as stout as it once was?

Ultimately, the victor will likely need to possess a quality that is often cited in English soccer; unfavored teams that aim to remain in the top division are said to need great “bouncebackability”.

And if that word ever makes it into the English dictionary, a picture of Wayne McCullough would make a fitting explanation.

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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