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Articles of 2009

Twelve Years Ago, A Crying Shame

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If you follow boxing long enough, you’re apt to see more than your share of strange sights. No. 1 on my all-time list of Ripley’s Believe It or Not moments came on Nov. 6, 1993, the night that “Fan Man,” the nom de guerre of a publicity-craving individual named James Miller, decided to grab his 15 minutes of fame by arriving by powered paraglider into the ring for the second bout between WBA/IBF heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield. Miller circled high above the outdoor stadium at Caesars Palace for nearly 10 minutes before deciding to drop in on the fight in the seventh round. His chute became tangled in the overhead lights, causing Miller to land on the top strand of the ropes, after which he tumbled awkwardly into a group of spectators and security guards.

Holyfield, who appeared to be running on empty, took advantage of the 20-minute break in the action to recharge his batteries and rally for a majority-decision victory. That was too bad for Bowe, whose pregnant wife, Judy, fainted in reaction to the ruckus going on around her. It also speaks volumes about the jinxed life of the unfortunate Mr. Miller (who committed suicide in 2002) that, with thousands of spectators in attendance, the ringside seats he toppled into were filled by Minister Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam security guards, who were none too pleased to have some unidentified white guy arrive in their midst from out of the sky. “Fan Man” was beaten unconscious by big, burly dudes brandishing walkie-talkies as makeshift clubs.

“It was a heavyweight fight,” Miller said afterward, “and I was the only guy who got knocked out.”

But the race for second place to “Fan Man’s” shenanigans boils down to the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield “Bite Fight” of June 28, 1997, and the Feb. 7, 1997, rematch at the Las Vegas Hilton between Lennox Lewis and the man who had upset him 28½ months earlier, Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall, for the vacant WBC heavyweight title.

The 12th anniversary of Lewis-McCall II came and went a few days ago, a fact I probably would not have picked up on if I hadn’t happened to rummage around in my voluminous files and come across the tearsheet of the story I authored for the  Philadelphia Daily News about the bizarre ending to a most bizarre evening of boxing.

McCall, who admits to first experimenting with drugs at the age of 13, had a history of strange and disturbing behavior in and out of the ring. Only six weeks prior to the rematch with Lewis, he picked up a 20-foot Christmas tree in the lobby of a Nashville hotel and hurled it in a drunken rage. So apprehensive was Dino Duva, Lewis’ American co-promoter, that he pleaded with McCall’s promoter, Don King, to replace McCall with a challenger for Lewis who at least was more emotionally stable.

But McCall passed a drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission prior to the bout, which was allowed to proceed in the expectation – well, at least in the hope – that everything would come off without a hitch. As it turned out, such optimism proved unfounded.

McCall, whose behavior was eccentric under the best of circumstances, appeared to suffer some sort of episode during the fight. His demeanor became increasingly erratic and he was making little or no effort to defend himself when referee Mills Lane finally stepped in and awarded Lewis a technical-knockout win 55 seconds into the fifth round.

“It was almost as if he wanted to get knocked out,” Lane said. “He didn’t put up any semblance of defending himself so I figured, that’s enough. Something’s wrong. I thought to myself, `This boy needs medical help.’”

Not only did McCall spend the last two-plus rounds wandering around the ring, his arms at his sides, muttering to himself, but on several occasions he was observed with tears tricking down his cheeks.

If there’s no crying in baseball, as Tom Hanks once famously observed in the 1992 movie, “A League of Their Own,” there sure as heck isn’t supposed to be any in boxing – at least while the fight is going on.

“In the third round, he got in close and then seemed frustrated, and then he just backed off and put his arms down,” Lane said in recounting his own perplexed reaction to what he was seeing. “I thought he was playing possum, but then I saw his lips quiver and I thought, `My God, is he crying?’”

George Benton, who served as McCall’s lead trainer that night, didn’t know what to tell his man once he returned to the corner, which turned out to be a chore in and of itself. McCall used up precious seconds of the one-minute rest period after both the third and the fourth rounds before plopping down on his stool, the second such delay ending only when Lane took him by his arm and guided him. Twice Lane felt obliged to ask McCall if he even wanted to continue.

“I gotta fight, gotta fight,” McCall replied even as he declined to engage Lewis, who was more than a little flummoxed himself by all the strange goings-on.

The immediate aftermath was nearly was unusual as what had transpired in the ring, with talk arising that all or part of McCall’s $3.1 million purse would be withheld or attached by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. King and McCall’s manager, Jimmy Adams, moved swiftly to retain a Las Vegas-based psychiatrist to determine if the fighter had really gone off his rocker (the shrink concluded that, while McCall had indeed experienced some sort of freak-out, he was not in fact insane), and almost everyone weighed in on a fight like no other.

“Lewis was in there with a lunatic,” yelped Benton, who didn’t know what to say to get McCall to snap out of whatever trance he had entered. “He was talking incoherently, and he’d been doing that all week. It started a long time ago and I think it caught up with him.”

McCall, in his dressing room, depicted himself as someone powerless to control unseen forces that were determined to see him fail.

“Y’all got what you wanted,” he proclaimed to no one in particular. “I hope you’re happy. Now they can put me in prison.”

This was hardly what you might expect of someone who had laid the first loss of Lewis’ career on him with one of the sweetest one-punch knockouts you’ll ever see. When McCall’s perfectly timed counter right hand exploded on Lewis’ jaw in the second round on Sept. 24, 1994, in London’s Wembley Arena, it brought him possession of Lewis’ WBC heavyweight championship belt and a new-found respect for a Chicago journeyman who perhaps was best known to that point as maybe the toughest and most resilient of Mike Tyson’s many sparring partners.

McCall’s shocking upset of Lewis also underscored just how important it is to formulate the right plan, and for a focused and determined fighter to execute that plan to perfection.

Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward was sought out by King to work with McCall and harness the talent that many boxing insiders knew was there, but was being frittered away through all the nuttiness. Steward initially was hesitant because of his high personal regard for Lewis, although to that point he hadn’t actually been involved with him.

“I was a big fan of Lennox since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics,” Steward told me. “I trained (eventual gold medalist) Tyrell Biggs when he beat Lennox in ’84. Tyrell, who was from Philadelphia, was living and training in Detroit then, training with Tony Tucker.

“But even though we beat Lennox (who took gold in the super-heavyweight division at the 1988 Seoul Olympics) in ’84, I liked him a lot. You could see the potential he had. He was this big kid with a lot of power and a lot of natural talent that hadn’t been refined.”

For all his warm and fuzzy feelings for Lewis, however, Steward felt he had technical problems that were not being addressed by his trainer at the time, Pepe Correa. And those technical problems, Steward concluded, could be exploited by McCall, provided he laid off the booze and the drugs long enough to do what needed to be done.

“Lennox had a habit that when he jabbed, he put his right hand all the way across his face, almost to the left side of his jaw,” Steward said. “Then, when he threw a right hand, it took him a little bit longer to bring it back and re-set to throw it again.

“He also had a slow, lazy jab, which he didn’t really snap off. It was used more to measure where his opponent was before he threw that big right hand. When I had McCall, we based our strategy on trying to catch Lennox when he threw the right hand. Lennox had been destroying everybody with that big right, but the flaw was there for everybody to see. I don’t know why nobody else picked up on it, or was unable to take advantage of it if they did see it.”

Once McCall went to camp with Steward, the heretofore wild child allowed himself to accept a measure of discipline for perhaps the first, and last time, in his career.

“Oliver was totally loyal to me when we trained. I never had any problems with him,” Steward said. “He finally had some stability, and that’s because I put the time in with him. That was the difference. Every day I cooked for him. He came to my house and we talked about boxing and about life. I babied him.”

Steward also revamped McCall from a free-swinging slugger into a different sort of fighter than anyone had seen before. Certainly, Lewis didn’t expect to mix it up with that much of a new and improved McCall on fight night.

“Oliver wore white shoes for that fight,” Steward said. “He was more like a Sugar Ray Leonard. He had never fought that way before. I trained him for speed. He moved better, he punched crisper.”

And he waited for just the right moment to exploit the chink in Lewis’ armor, which he did when Lewis went to throw that huge right hand in the second round. But McCall’s right got there first.

“First thing I told Oliver when I started to work with him was, `Lennox is a better fighter than you. He’s bigger and stronger. He has a better amateur background. Really, he has a better everything. But he has a weakness, and I will train you to beat him by taking advantage of that weakness.”

To his credit, Lewis learned from his mistakes. He let Correa go and went shopping for the best trainer available, believing that that person was the man who had just helped a lesser fighter, McCall, defeat him.

Steward jumped at the opportunity to work with Lewis, even though he had prepped Briggs to beat him in the 1984 Olympics and then McCall to take him out as a pro a decade later.

“I still thought Lennox was the best heavyweight in the world, or at least he could be,” Steward said. “And when I did begin to work with him, I set out to eliminate the flaws I had seen in his before.

“I knew he needed a snappier jab. He needed better balance and conditioning, and to not be overly aggressive. He also needed top sparring partners because you adjust to the level of your competition, and I knew he did not have the right sparring partners when he was getting ready to fight Oliver the first time.”

It was a vastly different Lewis who entered the ring at the Las Vegas Hilton on Feb. 7, 1997, and, unfortunately, a vastly different McCall. For whatever reason, the Chicago native was over-anxious and mentally unprepared to replicate his watershed conquest of Lewis.

“He obviously was trying to deal with a situation he couldn’t handle,” Steward said of McCall. “I really think he had some sort of nervous breakdown that night. His corner people were yelling at him, calling him crazy and stupid, but it had just the opposite effect of what they were trying to do. He just went deeper into his shell instead of coming out of it.”

Steward also was having fighter-control issues. Try as he might, he couldn’t quite prod Lewis – who still might have been remembering the way he had previously been dispatched by McCall – into turning it loose. The Englishman was wary of McCall’s strange behavior, believing it was an act to lure him in for another putaway shot.

“Lennox was still very suspicious, cautions and confused,” Steward said. “He didn’t commit as fully as he could have, or should have.”

Since they last squared off, Lewis and McCall have gone their separate ways. Lewis retired after defeating Vitali Klitschko on cuts on June 21, 2003, and will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., on June 14.

McCall has continued to have his ups and downs both in and out of the ring. He has been through four rehabs, spent time in a mental institution and been restrained with a stun gun by Nashville police after having trespassed in a public housing development. For all his troubles, though, the father of seven remains at least a fringe contender at age 44, his 51-9 record including 36 victories inside the distance. In his most recent ring appearance, he was outpointed over 12 rounds by Juan Carlos Gomez on Oct. 19, 2007, in Berlin, Germany. To this day, he maintains that his mondo bizarre act was just that, an act, and that he was ready to again drill Lewis had not Lane decided that enough was enough.

Sounds almost crazy enough to be believable.

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

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Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

Ten Boxing Wishes For 2010

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As 2009 comes to a close, one reflects on what went well and what went wrong during the year in boxing. There were many highlights. Pacquiao vs. Cotto and Showtime’s Super Six tournament were part of the best that boxing had to offer. But there were some low points too therefore the industry has some work to do in order to keep generating fans. Here are some suggestions for 2010:

10. Better pay per view cards

Paying 40 to 50 bucks to watch the main event gets old real quick. Why do we have to sit through a horrible under-card to get to the main course? It’s like being fed spam appetizers before the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems that the pay per view promoters just don’t get it. Are they watching what they put on or do they only watch the “big fight” as everyone else is slowly being conditioned to do so?

9. Time to make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight

Okay, I understand he’s the son of one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. But he’s had 42 fights against low to mid level competition and has never managed to look spectacular. It’s time to throw the 23 year old out of the nest to see if he can fly. My suggestion is a fight against Sergio Mora or maybe even Yuri Foreman. Neither of these guys can punch. They may outbox Junior but they won’t totally humiliate him.

8. No more ridiculous Pay Per View mismatches

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez should’ve never been made. It was a ridiculous fight when it was announced and it was more ridiculous when it took place. Unable to bring Manny Pacquiao to the bargaining table for a third match against Juan Manuel Marquez, someone figured that pairing up the 135 pound champion against a natural 147 pounder like Mayweather would be a great idea. The pay per view generated over a million buys but the fact that millions of people were treated to an incredibly boring mismatch is what’s truly worrisome. I can guarantee you one thing about this card. The sport of boxing lost fans once the show was over and done with. Talk about short term thinking.

7. Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola shows up for a fight in amazing shape

It was painful to see Chris Arreola take a beating from the Ukrainian giant, Vitali Klitscho. The champion certainly earned his “Dr. Ironfist” moniker as he plowed his powerful shots into the former #1 WBC heavyweight contender’s face. He reddened and bloodied the young Mexican American with an assortment of weapons and foot movement seldom seen on a six foot seven inch heavyweight. Arreola was brave and unrelenting in battle. He never stopped coming forward and took chances when he could. His work in the ring at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t the problem. Where Arreola let himself down was outside the ring. His unwillingness to condition himself into a finely tuned athlete cost him certain immortality as the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican descent. Arreola has the heart and skills but it was his mental fortitude that broke down. Anyone who’s followed the Riverside fighter knows that his best weight is somewhere in the 230 pound range. It certainly isn’t at the 252 pounds he registered on the scale at the Staples Center.  Those fifteen to twenty extra pounds might have made all the difference in the world. Maybe he would’ve been a little quicker, maybe he could’ve sustained a faster pace in order to tire out the champion. In his most recent fight against Brian Minto, Arreola weighed in at a career high 263. It looks like “The Nightmare” isn’t willing to change for anyone. At this pace, the only nightmares he’ll be providing will be to the management of Hometown Buffets all across Riverside.  Just kidding “Nightmare”!

6. More respect for the lighter weights

Real boxing fans know that the most exciting fighters in the sport are usually found toiling in weight divisions south of 154 pounds. Pacquiao, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez, Juan Ma Lopez, Vic Darchinyan, Rafael Marquez and countless others have been the real driving force behind this sport. It’s those great fighters that have made boxing fanatics out of casual fans. The heavyweights may get all the money and glory but it’s the little guys who make the sport shine and it’s time they received greater compensation. It’s dismaying to think that a mediocre heavyweight can make three or four times as much as the great Rafael Marquez.

5. An American Heavyweight champion

Speaking of heavyweights, two Americans tried and failed at dethroning Vitali Klitschko this year. Both Kevin Johnson and Chris Arreola did their best to wrestle the belt away from “Dr. Klitschko” but came up short since they were easily outclassed. What happened to the great American Heavyweight? Where’s our new Joe Frazier or Ali? Even a new Gerry Cooney or a Ken Norton would do at this point. I’ve got a feeling that the only way we’re going to see an American champion is if Klitschko retires. My money is on Arreola. Although undisciplined and rough outside the ring, he’s got tons (no pun intended) of natural talent. He’s without a doubt the most talented American heavyweight on the scene.

4. More ShoBox

The Showtime Cable network gave us the best boxing on TV for the price of a cable television subscription. Their ShoBox series has been a proven hit for Senior VP of Sports Programming Ken Hershman. The concept is simple yet brilliant. Match up two up and comers with great records and let’s see what happens. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many have passed the ShoBox test and went on to bigger and better things. Others have been exposed as having padded records and eventually their careers stall and take a dive.

3. More safety in Mexico so I can attend a show without a gun battle breaking out

Having lived near the Tijuana border all my life I’m dismayed at the war zone that the city has evolved into. Every day there are reports of shootings fueled by the drug war trade. Believe it or not, there was a time when Tijuana was safe and most wouldn’t have thought twice about crossing the border for some seafood and nightlife. No more. Having covered several boxing cards on Revolucion Avenue many years ago, I got a taste of just how important the sport is to Mexican fans. It’s also important to me but not that important. For now I’ll stick to covering shows at the Pechanga Casino and in the less dangerous city of L.A. I never thought I’d say that.

2. Pac Man vs. Mayweather

This is the fight everyone wants to see. Seeing how Mayweather dominated Pac Man’s arch enemy, Juan Manuel Marquez, you have to wonder if the Filipino can handle Lil’ Floyd’s speed and size. One thing is for sure, betting against Pacquiao doesn’t usually work out for me. It never has. There’s no future in it. So if the fight gets done it’s Pacquiao by TKO in ten.

1. And finally

One final wish is reserved for all the readers of TheSweetScience.com I wish you all a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the site. It’s very much appreciated.

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Articles of 2009

A Very Special New Year's Day Column

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It has been just over four months since Nick Charles, the play-by-play announcer for Shobox: The New Generation, was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer and forced to take a medical hiatus from the monthly show that has aired since 2001.

Since then he has undergone grueling chemotherapy treatments that have resulted in him losing all of his hair as he forces himself to live as normal of a life as possible. Through sheer force of will, as well as the strength and support that he receives from his wonderfully loving family and his strong Christian faith, the 63-year-old Charles has managed to keep his weight up while not falling prey to the always lingering threats of depression, cynicism and negativity.

If one was unaware that he was battling such an insidious disease, you’d never know from talking on the phone to him that he has been to hell and back. He has lost none of the inspiring energy that has endeared him to members of the boxing community and legions of worldwide viewers.

“I’m doing great,” Charles said during a telephone conversation on December 30th. “I’ve been off the chemo for a month, and the doctors have told me that I’m 80 percent in remission. I’m going to see them again in three months. It may come back, but if it takes one year, or two years, or however long, I’m going to make the most of the good time.”

As physically and emotionally wrenching as the grim diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been, even for someone as perpetually positive as Charles, the longtime announcer said a lot of good things have come from it.

Having been married three times, Charles is the father of four children: Jason, 38, Melissa, 34, Charlotte, 22, and Giovanna, 3 ½.

While Charles is not big on regrets, he is the first to admit that he wasn’t always there for his older children. For many years he traveled the world as a CNN correspondent, often putting the demands of his career above all else, including those closest to him. Nowhere was the strain more evident than in his relationship with Melissa.

Having been divorced from Melissa’s mother since 1977, Charles said his relationship with that daughter has been especially “hot and cold, all of our lives.”

His illness has enabled them to forge a relationship that has been “based on a massive amount of forgiveness and understanding.”

“This has had a tremendous healing effect on both of us,” said Charles. “My illness has had a fortifying effect on a lot of things, the most important of which is my relationships with my family.”

That also includes his first wife, with whom he has had an often acrimonious relationship over the past three decades.

“It took a long time for the scab to become a scar, but we had lunch one day and it was so great to once again see the gentle, soft sides of each other,” he explained. “The whole divorce process creates a hardness that doesn’t always go away.”

Charles is also the grandfather to three children, some of whom are about the same age as his youngest daughter. He jokes that he has a “nuclear 21st century family” because of the similar ages of two generations of children. One of the hardest things for him has been the realization that he can’t always play with them in manner in which he would like.

“The hemoglobin is the fuel in your tank, so when it’s low you can’t will yourself to do things no matter how much you want to,” said Charles. “You can’t just sleep it off or work through it. I don’t want the kids to wonder why I can’t play in the backyard with them, or kick a soccer ball, or throw them in the air.”

Particularly difficult is when Giovanna reminds her father of how handsome he is, but then innocently asks him what happened to his hair, eyebrows and lashes.

“You try to keep things on a need to know basis, which is not easy when dealing with curious kids,” said Charles.

While Charles might look like the kind of guy that things have often come easy to, the reality is that his beginnings were far from auspicious. But, he says, his often challenging Chicago childhood blessed him with the steely resolve that has helped him so much during the arduous journey he is now on.

“I had it pretty rough growing up,” he explained. “I remember the lights and the heat being shut off and eating mustard sandwiches. I went to work at 13 and always had insecurities about the future. But I always expected and saw the best in people, so when I got sick, never once did I say 'Why me?”

Since taking a leave of absence from Shobox, the outpouring of support from the boxing community has warmed Charles’s heart. For a guy that is battling for his life, he actually considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by so much goodness in both his personal and professional lives.

“I always hear that boxing people are ruthless, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Charles. “I’ve probably received about 1,000 e-mails, and people are always following in sending their best wishes. From the relatively unknown people in boxing to many of the more famous people, there has been an outpouring of true affection.”

Charles said that the Top Rank organization has been exceedingly kind and gracious. He was touched beyond description when he learned that officials in Oklahoma got special permission to have a seamstress sew “Keep Fighting Nick” onto their sleeves. He chokes up when talking about cut man Stitch Duran giving up an endorsement opportunity so he could put Charles’s name on his outfit. He never tires of hearing shout-outs from fighters on television.

Charles has always been a people person with an inordinate faith in the goodness of his fellow man. Battling this illness has only made his already strong faith in humanity even stronger.

“Adversity is a great teacher, and it really teaches you who your genuine friends are,” said Charles. “I have a lot of friends.”

He also has a remarkable wife, Cory, a CNN producer to whom he has been married for 11 years. She is the daughter of an electrician, a self-made woman who exudes all of the warmth of her native Brooklyn. She has reinforced her husband’s spiritual base by her love, optimism and strength of character.

“If I get down, she reminds me to not get too caught up,” said Charles. “I believe in eternity, and that has put me pretty much at peace.”

More than anything else, Charles wants to get himself back behind a microphone sooner rather than later, and hopefully on Shobox. He is the first to admit that viewers “don’t watch the series to see Nick Charles,” but he is proud of the fact that he was “part of the identity” of such a popular show.

“And people love comeback stories,” added Charles. “That’s the message I’m getting from the people out there.”

In boxing the word “champion” is often overused because it pertains only to winning belts and receiving worldwide recognition for being the best at your craft. The reality is that life’s real champions have other qualities, such as the innate ability to treat people well and always make them feel better about themselves, especially when the recipients of the goodwill are in no position to give them anything back.

By that standard of measure, Charles is as much, if not more of a champion than all of the boxers he has covered during the nine years that Shobox has been on the air.

I know I speak for scores of others when I say, “Happy New Year, Champ. We hope that you are the comeback story of the year in 2010.”

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