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Articles of 2009

What Time Is It? No Longer Macho Time

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Among the many things I can’t believe is the Pet Rock fad of the 1970s and how CEOs of failed corporations can walk away with eight- and even nine-figure bonuses while tens of thousands of those corporations’ employees are being laid off and/or having their pensions slashed. Many of those fortunate enough to remain in the work force are being required to accept deep pay cuts and reduced health benefits.

Also on the list of things I can’t believe is that Hector “Macho” Camacho, who turns 47 on May 24, is still gainfully employed as a professional prizefighter, or that his most recent bout was offered as a pay-per-view attraction.

Like the dandelions and crabgrass that irritatingly pop up on our lawns every spring, it seems the Macho Man, even in severe career decline, is impossible to eradicate. You can arrest him, suspend him and evict him, but like those pesky weeds now shooting up in America’s flower beds, he inevitably makes another appearance when you least expect it.

Or maybe we should expect it. Boxing’s senior practicioners never really die, metaphorically speaking, especially with a lack of fresh, exciting talent coming along to speed their demise. They just fade away very, very slowly, like the old soldier in Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s farewell address at West Point. Oh, sure, 44-year-old Bernard Hopkins still has the goods to rank among boxing’s pound-for-pound elite, but do we really need the continual recycling of Camacho? Of Evander Holyfield? Of Ray Mercer? Right now in a theater near you, there is even a documentary in which Mike Tyson, no longer an active fighter but as omnipresent as smog in Los Angeles, recites his thoughts as to why he is like he is.

If you want nearly two hours of convoluted logic, “Tyson” is as far out as anything seen on the big screen since 1967’s “The Trip” starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, pre-“Easy Rider,” as a couple of drug-addled hippies in a celluloid LSD haze.

In case you missed it – and I’m guessing you probably did – Camacho (79-5-3, 38 KOs) and 37-year-old Yory Boy Campas (92-14-1, 74 KOs) fought to an eight-round draw Saturday night in Orlando, Fla., in a PPV fight that ran opposite the HBO Championship Boxing offering of IBF light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson against former 175-pound titlist Antonio Tarver.  Dawson won a clear-cut decision over Tarver, 40, in a marginally improved version of their first clash, on Oct. 11, which was televised by Showtime.

At first blush, fight fans who hold out hope of higher standards in their flagging sport might wonder why Dawson-Tarver II received the exposure that it did. By all accounts, ticket sales at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas were tepid at best and probably worse than that. Fewer than a thousand face-value tickets were said to have been purchased, and any seats that were filled beyond that scrawny number were probably occupied by fannies that gained entrance via a whopping discount or on freebies. It wouldn’t be the first time a boxing promoter (Gary Shaw in this instance) has papered the house for aesthetic purposes.

At least there are quasi-legitimate reasons for why Dawson-Tarver II, a rematch hardly anyone was clamoring for, came about. First and foremost, there was a rematch clause in the original contract that mandated that Tarver, then the IBF and IBO 175-pound champ, get first dibs at “Bad Chad” if he lost. It can be argued that rematch clauses are one of the more insidious causes for the erosion in boxing’s popularity, along with too many alphabet titles, too many weight classes, the near-total absence of free, over-the-air TV dates, the forced granting of options would-be challengers are obliged to sign over for a shot at some promoters’ champions and, of course, the insanity of an organization like the WBA reasoning that the public will accept “super,”  “regular” and “interim” titlists in the same weight class.

But HBO, which has rejected bouts that, in theory, were at least as appealing as Dawson-Tarver II, went along with the Rematch We All Could Have Done Without. The pay-cable giant’s boxing operation has always showcased its stable of actual or would-be superstars, the idea being that fans will settle for big names if they can’t always get big fights. But the retirements of Oscar De La Hoya and Arturo Gatti, the deterioration of Roy Jones Jr. and the inevitable aging of Hopkins have seen many of the old reliables ushered out or nearly so, opening the door for Manny Pacquiao and, maybe, Dawson to step up and partially fill the void. Pac-Man is the real deal, of course, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. is returning to action, and none too soon by HBO’s reckoning. But the HBO roster is still a bit thin. Kelly Pavlik was exposed by Hopkins, Shane Mosley is still pretty good but not getting any younger, and Antonio Margarito, who had finally made it onto HBO’s radar, got caught with loaded hand wraps and is as radioactive to fight fans as Mark McGwire is to Baseball Hall of Fame voters.

The movers and shakers at HBO – Sports Division president Ross Greenburg, senior vice president Kery Davis and PPV chief Mark Taffet – don’t always guess right. Remember when we were told that Prince Naseem Hamed would be what Pacquiao eventually proved himself to be? Remember the hype attached to the rapid rise and equally rapid fall of massive heavyweight Michael Grant? When you really get down to it, the suits at HBO are like general managers in baseball who hope to draft wisely, but, if that phenom of a prospect doesn’t quite pan out, there’s always the New York Yankees way: Throw money at the most attractive free agent.

Sometimes it works out for the Yankees and HBO, sometimes it doesn’t. Lefthanded pitcher CC Sabathia could become the next Whitey Ford (the Steinbrenners are hoping he will) or the next Carl Pavano (they’re praying he won’t), and good luck if pricey free-agent first baseman Mark Texeteira, he of the eight-year, $180-million contract, doesn’t start hitting soon.

Dawson apparently has been identified as a growth property by HBO, but he comes wrapped in a Yankee-like conundrum. Even if he’s as talented as some believe, he has yet to demonstrate he’s a ratings-grabber or ever will evolve into one. Maybe Dawson is, as HBO color commentator Max Kellerman mused, a B-plus fighter in a C weight class, which is to say a star but not a potential superstar.

However HBO’s gamble on Dawson pays off, or not, this much is sure: Dawson-Tarver II was a barn-burner when compared to the curious pairing of no-longer-prime-time players Camacho and Campas in Orlando. Once upon a time, this would have been an interesting matchup of boxer (Camacho) and puncher (Campas), but a Niagara’s worth of water has flowed under the bridge since the Puerto Rican cutie and Mexican banger were at the top of their games. Camacho always utilitzed clutch-and-grab tactics as a component of his arsenal of tricks, but he once was a truly gifted fighter who compensated for his lack of pop with charisma, outlandish outfits and penchant for notoriety. Campas was never quite as accomplished, but he was a lunchbox type of fighter who always had that big punch to fall back on if nothing else was working.

That someone reasoned that John Q. Public was ready to lay down some of those dwindling dollars for Camacho and Campas to get it on defies rationality, but there you have it. Promoter Diane Lee Fischer struck a deal with the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City to stage the show, and there was some mild interest in it despite the fact that the two headliners were a combined 84 years of age, Campas had lost four of his previous five bouts and Camacho had fought only once in 46 months. But, in a seashore town where reunions of Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Fabian still draw nostalgic crowds, apparently there were enough fans who remembered Camacho’s most recent A.C. appearance, in which he sent the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard into permanent retirement with a fifth-round stoppage on March 1, 1997, to merit another comeback.

What’s more, vastly popular Hall of Fame trainer Angelo Dundee, a longtime acquaintance of Camacho, had consented to work the Macho Man’s corner. To gain maximum benefit from Dundee being in town, a “roast” of the 87-year-old icon was scheduled for the Friday night preceding the fight. A slew of boxing notables had committed to feting Dundee, and there was possibility The Greatest himself, Muhammad Ali, would jet in to honor his longtime trainer.

But, although Camacho passed his physical, that fact did not satisfy the curiosity of Aaron Davis, the former Kansas boxing commissioner who in November 2008 replaced Larry Hazzard Sr. as head of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. Davis wanted to see with his own eyes whether Camacho had anything left in his tank. And what he observed during a March 1 sparring session at the Atlantic City Police Athletic League gym apparently convinced Davis that Camacho was running on empty.

“I didn’t feel his skills were up to the level they needed to be for him to be competitive,” said Davis, who was more inclined to approve of what he had seen of Campas in the gym. “He sparred maybe seven rounds against two guys (locals Shamone Alvarez and Patrick Perez), and at no point of any round did he take control. He showed nothing, and this is a fighter with a reputation for being elusive, smart and quick.”

Davis informed Fischer and Camacho that Camacho would not be allowed to fight in Jersey, but that Fischer could stage the remainder of the card  if she so chose. She elected not to do so.

So, is this the end of Camacho down the shore? Will he go the way of the diving horse at the Steel Pier?

“Camacho can apply again,” Davis said. “I’m not going to say he can never fight in New Jersey again. But he would have to go through the same procedure he did this time, and I or one of my deputy commissioners would have to see him spar again. Just passing a physical is not sufficient.”

Davis’ unilateral decision is reminiscent of then-New York boxing commissioner Ron Scott Stevens’ pulling the license of four-time former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield after ’Vander turned in a subpar performance in losing a 12-round decision to Larry Donald on Nov. 13, 2004, in Madison Square Garden. Hazzard also wielded his authority like a cudgel, once proclaiming that Meldrick Taylor couldn’t fight again in New Jersey because his skills had eroded to a dangerously low level.

A reasonable guess is that Camacho wouldn’t put himself up for a similar inspection in the Garden State, given the humiliation of being turned away, but then this guy is pretty much is resistant to the concept of being embarrassed. Hey, he once was pulled over by a cop in Florida for “doing the wild thing” in a convertible with the top down while being straddled by a pretty female passenger as he attempted to drive down a rural road. Talk about your moving violations.

Camacho downplayed that incident, as he did his arrest by cops in Gulfport, Miss., in January 2004 allegedly for attempting to burglarize an electronics store. He said he merely was trying to retrieve his own computer, which was in the store for repairs.

For years boxing’s paparazzi and gossip-mongerers jumped on Camacho’s misdeeds with relish because he was still relevant in the ring. Camacho, in turn, welcomed the publicity, even when it seemingly was negative, because he is a natural showoff and narcissist. Who can forget the time in Reno when, at a dead-of-night weigh-in, he came in a few ounces overweight and decided to remove his only article of clothing, his underwear. “Now you womens look away if you don’t wanna see,” a smiling Camacho said as he stood in the altogether, without benefit of a towel held up in front of him, for any womens to see.

Now he is turned away from Atlantic City like a hobo, and his quick shift to Orlando didn’t elicit a stampede on the box office. His behavior still leans to the outrageous, but he no longer is relevant in the ring.

I’m not sure how anyone else feels about it, but I think it makes me sad. After all, we’ve already seen that Hector Camacho Jr. is no substitute for the original.

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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