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Articles of 2009

George Foreman: Possible Trainer, Definite Manager

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Last night George “Monk” Foreman III (1-0) made his pro boxing debut, scoring a first round knockout over Clyde Weaver (0-2). As is the case with all fighters there's not much to be learned from a quick stoppage in their debut. However, one of the corner men for the fight was George Foreman – the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Along with working the corner for his son's fight, Big George is also his manager and trainer. As we all know boxing history is littered with the sons of past champions and greats trying to emulate their father's ring success.

I can't imagine the pressure it must be carrying the Foreman name into the ring. Think of the monumental attention the fighter who is the first to defeat George “Monk” Foreman III will get. I remember fighting as an amateur in the late seventies with Joe Frazier's son, Marvis Frazier. Every time he fought the buzz before the fight was centered on Marvis and who he was fighting. His opponents always thought by beating him they'd make an instant name for themselves. If it were the finals of either the Golden Gloves or an AAU tournament most assumed that his father the former heavyweight champ would be there – thus giving his opponents even more incentive.

By all accounts “Monk” Foreman was put through the grist-mill as was Marvis Frazier by their fathers before they were even allowed to think about becoming a fighter. To test his son's desire and will, Foreman Sr. worked Monk hard in their gym after he passed a test of running 10 miles unannounced.  Marvis Frazier had to shadowbox and do floor work for six straight months before he was allowed to box for the first time; the difference being Marvis was 15 when he started, Monk is 26. Marvis compiled a 56-2 amateur record and was the National Golden Gloves and AAU heavyweight champ. Getting amateur experience is something Monk Foreman won't pursue. According to his father they couldn't get any amateur fights for him because every potential opponent withdrew when they realized who they were fighting. Foreman Sr. felt once there was a paycheck involved there'd be plenty of fights for them to make. Oh how right he is!

Having another Foreman fighting in the heavyweight division will provide boxing fans with the hope of reincarnating the memories of former champ George Foreman. They'll be looking for the heavy-handed one punch power from his son. That said, I'm here to tell you not to. George Foreman was probably the strongest and most powerful heavyweight champ in history. In reality he was an arm puncher and seldom connected with full weight or got good leverage on his power shots. It just so happened to be that George was a physical freak of nature. He didn't need to land clean to hurt an opponent; he scored a lot of knockouts and stoppage wins by just grazing them on the chin.

As it is the case with all past champs when one of their sons starts boxing it's assumed the son will possess the same physical gifts as the father. I've read and seen during an interview where George said Monk is faster than he was and moves and uses his legs more. He also added that Monk is heavy-handed. Could be, he is 6'5″ 240 and I've heard that he was a pretty good athlete, not that that makes him a fighter. In fact I did a cable TV show with George's younger brother, Roy, in Atlantic City circa 1997. I remember Roy saying from time to time that his nephews were good athletes, but their father didn't want them to ever think about boxing for a living. Well, that was years ago and now George “Monk” Foreman III is 1-0.

Here's what we know beyond all doubt: talent isn't hereditary.

There's no guarantee that the latest Foreman can emulate anything close to the success his father had. However, if the Foreman gene pool doesn't extend to being a great fighter this time, he will be greatly aided by the name. Having his father train him isn't a given to be a plus, but it can help him in the early stages of his career. The version of George Foreman who fought during the late sixties and early seventies was an over-anxious wrecking machine in the ring. But the second time around during the eighties and nineties it was obvious that Foreman picked up and learned a lot about fighting and was more of a thinking fighter – in order to compensate for his physical limitations.

I believe Monk will benefit from the experience and wisdom his father picked up during the years 1987 through 1997. Therefore I think there's a good chance that George Sr. has the potential to be a good trainer for his son, at least in the early going. On top of that, if it turns out the son has real potential, I think George is smart enough to bring in a topnotch trainer to teach him things that he may want to but knows he can't.

I also believe Foreman Sr. has a high boxing aptitude and is cognizant that he can't teach his son to fight anywhere close to the way he did during any stage of his career. I'm not saying that's what happened with Marvis Frazier. What I am saying is Marvis was a very good boxer with quick hands and moved well in the ring. Under his original trainers George Benton and Val Colbert, Marvis beat a lot of bigger fighters in the amateurs and in the gym by using his own style fighting in and out. The tendency to attack was always there, but it was more under control and measured. In my opinion once his father took over, Marvis looked for the knockout a lot more instead of setting it up.

With only one fight under his belt there's a lot to unfold down the road regarding Monk Foreman the professional fighter. It'll be interesting to see how George Foreman the trainer and cornerman pans out. I know there are pluses that come with George Foreman managing him and working his corner, one of them being Foreman really knows and understands how the business side of boxing operates and works. He is probably only surpassed by Bernard Hopkins as a fighter when it comes to negotiating the terms of a fight. When Don King publicly states that he gets out of Dodge when he sees that he'll be sitting down with George Foreman to try and come to an agreement for a fight, that's says something about Foreman at the bargaining table. It’s something that can only help and benefit Monk.

Another plus having George Foreman with you before and during the fight is simply the fact that he is George Foreman. All fighters are worried and scared in one way or another especially early in their career before they go into the ring. Having George Foreman telling you how nervous and scared your opponent is and how there's no way he's Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis in disguise, so everything will work out, is a big plus. When I fought in a few tournaments along with Marvis Frazier, I usually fought first because I was a middleweight. When word got out that Joe Frazier was back in the dressing room working with him before the fight, some guys wondered if Joe was gonna show up in place of Marvis.

Over the years I often think about what a huge advantage Mike Tyson had fighting as an amateur and having Cus D'Amato, Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres in his dressing room to help calm him down before he fought and convince him that his opponent was sweating more bullets than he was, thus enabling Mike to come out fighting at the onset.

It's priceless having a fighter of note with you before you fight. I remember having guys like Randall “Tex” Cobb, Tim Witherspoon and Dwight Muhammad Qawi sit with me before I fought – boosting my confidence and help with the pre-fight jitters. Having a fighter like George Foreman working with you and giving you confidence makes you realize it's just another fighter in the other dressing room. There's no magic or secret tricks going on in the dressing room of your opponent that'll help him beat you. Because if there were, George would know of it and you've already been taught a few little things that the other guy can't know because there's only one George Foreman and he's in your dressing room.

Obviously, George Foreman can't fight for his son, Monk, but just by him being there and who he is will give him a confidence boost that he couldn't get anywhere else. And that's a big thing for a fighter at the start of his career.

George Foreman is unknown as a trainer, but we already know he's a great manager. Above all else he'll be a tremendously calming influence for his son in the upcoming months and bouts at a time when he'll need it most.

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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