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Articles of 2007

Big Fight Aftermath: Avila Journal

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We drove into Las Vegas around 3 p.m. on Thursday and headed straight for the MGM Grand to get whiff of the atmosphere. It was clear and sunny in California but cool and gray when we arrived in the desert gambling Mecca.

As soon as we walked into the lobby area of the hotel where a boxing ring is erected, there were Brits everywhere just mulling around. Toward the bar area by the elevators were even more Englishmen drinking away and looking at anyone who headed into the darker liquor buying area. Right near the entrance were a few boxing people like Joe Chavez the cut man and several British fighters on their way to the weigh in I guess.

This is boxing at it’s best with thousands willing to travel over 6,000 miles to see their guy in Las Vegas fight the Pound for Pound best.

The media room was located in the same place as usual near the entrance of the MGM Garden Arena where the Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton fight is going to take place in about two days. We obtain our media credentials and head toward the pressroom. The place was packed with media especially the British press.

About 16 radio stations line the west and north side of the giant media room where elite boxers like Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya are talking about the upcoming fight.

I picked up the bout sheets for Friday and Saturday’s fight I noticed that both nights had more than eight fights on each day. That means an early start time especially for Friday’s fights with the man fight involving a rematch between Enrique Ornelas and Bronco McKart in a middleweight showdown. The fight is televised by Telefutura so that means a 4:30 p.m. start.

Golden Boy Promotions invited me to a dinner later that night. I’ve been to a few of these types of dinners and I’m not the type who talks a lot so I leave early. But on this occasion I invited a friend who lives in Las Vegas a female fighter named Elena “Baby Doll” Reid, who is the undisputed flyweight champion of the world. She has always wanted to meet Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley.

The dinner is held in one of the studios below the MGM Garden Arena with most of the newspaper boxing writers on hand like Chuck Johnson of USA Today, Steve Spring and Lance Pugmire of the L.A. Times, Tim Smith of New York Daily News, George Willis of New York Post and a few low-rungs like me. One by one the Golden Boy fighters begin arriving into the host area where drinks are passed out. Holding court is PR extraordinaire Bill Caplan, his daughter Debbie Caplan. Monica Sears and Nicole Becerra of Golden Boy are also there greeting the writers to the affair.

Elena Reid and myself stand in a corner and watch the people arrive. As De La Hoya arrives a group of writers descend on him like flies to a bright light. After about 20 minutes the writers begin to filter out. Next comes Shane Mosley who arrives with his wife Jin.

Elena Reid finally meets Oscar and Shane and they talk about boxing. Both male champions comment on how she doesn’t look like a fighter let alone a world champion. She adds that she’s now going to enter MMA and they’re both amazed. She’s very spunky.

During the dinner Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer discusses the reasons they made the dinner and asked that all the professional fighters in the room stand up. Up goes De La Hoya, Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez and Elena Reid.

Elena Reid?

I tell you she’s spunky.

After the dinner more than a few people approach Elena to ask about her pro career. It’s kind of a tragic truth that though many people like women’s boxing, few promoters are willing to put the money to stage a show. Reid has been fighting for eight years and hasn’t made more than $70,000 total despite 27 pro bouts. Plus she’s a world champion.

Bernard Hopkins drops by to say hello and shares a few stories of his life. He talks about getting in a fistfight about two weeks before his big bout with Oscar De La Hoya. The Philadelphia boxer said he contracted this guy who stands about 6-7 and weighs 400 pounds to do some work on his home. The guy tries to jack him and Hopkins and the giant come to blows. Hopkins smacks him with one of his patented right hands and the big galoot falls forward right on Hopkins. He can’t get up. He’s fretting because the guy is so big that he feels he might be in trouble when the guy regains consciousness. After struggling Hopkins finally gets the lug off him. But it was a close call he says.

Caplan laughs because he can’t believe this all happened just before the biggest moneymaking fight of Hopkins’s career.

“I’m from the streets,” said Hopkins.

Friday

We arrive around noon so we can get some free grub. The place is packed with journalists. Just walking from the parking lot to the media center takes about 20 minutes. Inside the media room there are boxing people flooding every crevice but outside the room there are literally thousands of people.

As we sat munching on a few desserts a regular-looking guy dressed in a grayish blue pullover shirt, jeans and tennis shoes and not wearing socks is being guided by p.r. specialist Debbie Caplan. We take a closer look at the almost anonymous guy and he sure looks like Joe Calzaghe. He’s led to one of the radio booths for an interview. No one notices but myself and two others in this room filled with more than 100 journalists. Then after his interview he turns to face the giant room and all bedlam breaks loose.

“It’s Joe Calzaghe,” shouts one British writer.

About 50 people gather around him asking questions and then Bernard Hopkins lopes over to get a look. While he’s there he mugs Calzaghe and begins telling him about his future. Both fighters stand toe-to-toe and don’t move an

We continue eating and looking at the British journalists jumping on each other’s back to talk to Calzaghe.

Around 2:30 p.m. we head to the weigh-in. Once we walk into the arena we hear and see thousands of mostly British fans singing songs about their hero Rick Hatton. It’s a pretty amazing scene. This is what boxing is all about.

During introductions the crowd cheers loudly for Shane Mosley who bows graciously to the fans. Then Juan Manuel Marquez is introduced and the crowd applauds politely. Oscar De La Hoya is introduced and the crowd cheers loudly once again. Marco Antonio Barrera is announced and the crowd cheers loud for Hatton’s buddy. Then Hopkins is announced and boos cascade from the deepest regions of the arena. He eggs on the boos. Then Joe Calzaghe is announced and the crowd roars its loudest and begins singing a “Joe Calzaghe song” in unison. It’s pretty awe-inspiring. Hopkins motions with a throat cutting gesture and Calzaghe responds back. The crowd is delirious.

After the weigh-ins we walk to the convention center area where a large fight card called “The U.K. vs. the world” is going to take place. About 1,000 maybe 1,500 people show up in a spacious place. I’m sitting about 10 rows back so that I can get some electricity for my laptop. It never comes.

The fights are entertaining and feature mostly British fighters against so-so American or Mexican fighters.

A group of Brits walk into my row, I’m the only guy sitting in it, and ask if they can join me. I say of course and make room for them. We casually talk about the fights going on. Later one of the p.r. people comes by and says to the guy sitting next to me “are you OK Mr. Hatton.”

I do a double take. Sure enough it’s Ricky Hatton’s pop.

We’re watching Karl Dargan one of the American boxers but it looks like he’s trying too hard. He wins but it easy a smooth drive for the former amateur standout making his pro debut.

Mr. Hatton knows boxing and comments here and there. He especially looks at Scotland’s Craig McEwan and says the young middleweight doesn’t sit on his punches. “He would have taken the guy out with that one,” Hatton says. “Or maybe not. The other fellow looks durable.”

Hatton and his friends comment on Freddie Roach’s great training ability. The British from Manchester or very congenial fellows with a lot of class. Just like Ricky Hatton.

After the fight cards we met some old boxing friends Steve and Michele Harpst and joined some other of our boxing crew Big Joe Miranda of Fightnews and famous cornerman Tony Rivera. We go to eat but Tony has to go somewhere else. While eating we see the circus pass by as people from everywhere walk pass our table.

It was a long, long day.

Saturday

We arrive back at the MGM for a press conference with Miguel Cotto and Top Rank’s Bob Arum. It’s Arum’s birthday. Everybody cheers the promoter who is now 76.

Cotto is in a cheerful mood and everybody gets a chance to talk with him. In private I ask him if he had any tricks up his sleeve when he fought Shane Mosley. He said he only resorted back to his earlier days when he boxed more and slugged less. Plus he had two other back up plans. He added that he needed the back up plans.

The great Puerto Rican world champion would love a match with Oscar De La Hoya and so would Arum, but both know it’s Oscar’s last hurrah and he deserves a much easier match if that’s possible.

Cotto also says that “Floyd Mayweather would never fight me. He knows who the real world champion is.”

Arum says that if Mayweather won’t fight Cotto why not Shane Mosley?

“I would love to see Mayweather fight Shane Mosley and he’s not even my fighter,” Arum said.

The fights began at 3:15 and several young fighters make their mark including Danny Garcia and Daniel Jacobs. Matthew Hatton wins a tough one too in his welterweight title. I met the younger Hatton days earlier and he’s a good guy. He’s also pretty hilarious.

During the singing of the U.S. National anthem the crowd boos loudly throughout as Tyrese sings. But through the boos I can hear many in the audience begin to sing. I’ve seldom heard the audience sing the National Anthem before a fight. It goes to show that boxing brings Americans together.

Floyd Mayweather then proceeds to beat up Hatton with the help of referee Joe Cortez. Not that he needed any help, but Cortez was giving it to him anyway in my estimation. Mayweather was elbowing and roughhousing like Hatton was expected to do. Cortez put the shackles on the wrong guy.

After filing a story for the Riverside Press-Enterprise and another to www.TheSweetScience.com on deadline, I’m ready to head home. It’s around midnight but I still have to pick up my sister. By the time I’m headed toward California it’s 1 a.m.. We reach our destination around 4 a.m.

Other notes

Super middleweight world champion Joe Calzaghe has agreed to meet light heavyweight world champion Bernard Hopkins and was present at the fight in Las Vegas last Saturday. While there both Calzaghe and Hopkins pressed noses while attempting to intimidate each other. “No way he beats me” said Hopkins loudly inside the media center at the MGM Grand. Calzaghe merely laughed. “I never knew I had so many supporters among Ricky Hatton fans,” said Calzaghe who was cheered in song by the many British fans in Las Vegas. The fight between Calzaghe and Hopkins is scheduled for Las Vegas or New York City.

Former 2000 U.S. Olympian Jose Navarro of Los Angeles will meet WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Fernando Montiel on Feb. 16 in Las Vegas. The fight will be the semi-main event under the Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor middleweight championship fight. Navarro has been out-pointed in three previous world title bids and hopes this will be the lucky fight. Montiel fights out of Los Mochis, Mexico.

Ulises Solis (25-1-2, 19 KOs) defends his IBF junior flyweight title against Filipino Bert “Ninja” Batawang (50-6, 34 KOs) at Guadalajara, Mexico on Saturday Dec. 15. The fight will not be televised. Solis is a marked man. It’s the second consecutive time he defends his title against a Filipino. In his last fight he barely escaped with a win against Filipino Rodel Mayol by eighth round knockout.

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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