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Articles of 2009

The Hall Of Fame Beckons, And Lewis Still Contemplates Comeback



Lennox Lewis has never been to Canastota, N.Y., the picturesque central New York hamlet that is the home of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. But the three-time former heavyweight champion, who’ll be there this weekend to formally join the ring legends he lists as his heroes, has expected to make the trip ever since the IBHOF opened its doors for the first induction ceremony in 1990.

In fact, Lewis has been marking time to Sunday’s stamp of immortality since Feb. 6, 2004, the day he announced his retirement as an active boxer and the clock on the mandatory five-year waiting period for enshrinement began to tick.

Asked if he always knew he would become a Hall of Famer, Lewis doesn’t bother with a bunch of aw-shucks false modesty. He earned his ticket to Canastota, he believes, an assertion that even his occasional critics would be foolish to dispute. But beyond that, the British-born, Canadian-reared son of Jamaican immigrants believes his name should be included whenever talk turns to those holding membership in an even more exclusive club, the one reserved not just for mere Hall of Famers — the heavyweight section of which includes the perhaps marginal likes of Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson — but for the very best of the best. If you want to get into one of those Willie, Mickey and the Duke-type debates about who rates higher in heavyweight boxing history, Jack Johnson or Joe Louis or Rocky Marciano or Muhammad Ali, please make sure that Lennox Lewis at least draws a mention.

“It’s not even me saying that,” Lewis told me in a telephone call from Jamaica, where he was enjoying the tropical breezes and clear, blue waters of his ancestral roots before heading north. “It’s the public, the fans. People tell me I’m on that list, that I deserve to be on it.”

As far back as 2000, when Lewis was sequestered in his Pocono Mountains training camp preparing for a title defense against Frans Botha that ended in an emphatic, second-round technical knockout of the overmatched White Buffalo, his trainer, Emanuel Steward, noted that the big Briton was not so much fighting contemporary opponents as the standards established by his esteemed predecessors.

“He’ll beat everybody they put in front of him, but the challenge is for him to become all that he can be,” Steward said of Lewis. “Right now he’s fighting more for his place in boxing history than any particular opponent.”

Like Larry Holmes, who had the unenviable task of trying to fill the massive footprints left by his immediate predecessor, the charismatic Ali, Lewis was someone many American fight fans could appreciate only through the perspective of time and distance. He was a jumble of Jamaican, British and Canadian influences, which made it difficult for him to be categorized as belonging to any particular nationality. He spoke in measured, scholarly tones, with an accent that vaguely suggested cast membership in Masterpiece Theater  rather than a lead role in the trash-talking demolition derby of the ring, which led to the stereotype being reinforced through those HBO commercials that depicted him as a tea-sipping, chess-playing intellectual instead of a merchant of menace.

Most of all, though, he was perhaps unfairly depicted as being a somewhat lesser presence than the blunt instrument that was Mike Tyson or the overachieving Everyman that was Evander Holyfield, a bulked-up former light-heavyweight who did not enjoy the benefit of having come packaged in a 6-5, 245-pound body. We were enthralled by the pure violence emanating from the snarling Tyson, and captivated by Holyfield’s warrior spirit that enabled him to conquer larger, more physically imposing men. Lewis, on the other hand, was seen as colorless, occasionally tentative and, oh, yeah, possessed of a crystal chin that was shattered by overhand rights delivered by Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman.

But Lewis chipped away at the biases and prejudices until he stood alone as the finest heavyweight of his era. During his 14-year professional boxing career, the 1988 super heavyweight gold medalist at the Seoul Olympics posted a 41-2-1 record, with 32 victories inside the distance, that included defeats of, among others, Razor Ruddock, Tommy Morrison, Golota, Michael Grant, Ray Mercer, David Tua and Tyson. He was 1-0-1 in his two bouts with Holyfield, and he avenged his only two losses with emphatic putaways of McCall and Rahman.

The only big name of his era whom Lewis did not meet and defeat was Riddick Bowe, but then Bowe was trounced by Lewis in the title bout of the Seoul Olympics. Maybe that’s why Bowe and his manager, Rock Newman, managed to steer clear of Lewis in the pro ranks even as they hurled invectives in his direction.

Bowe has announced another comeback, at age 41, and Lewis said one of his few regrets is that he didn’t get the opportunity to reprise his Olympic success against “Big Daddy” for major bucks.

“Even now, a fight between us would be interesting,” Lewis said. “I admit to thinking that maybe I should come back and take care of that unfinished business. But it could never happen. My skill level is vastly superior to his. It always was. I would have beaten him bad back then, and I would beat him bad now.

“Rock Newman knew Bowe couldn’t beat me. Bowe knew. Or maybe they didn’t know and just made a poor career decision.

“I could never figure out why they couldn’t find a way to make a fight between me and Bowe. If a man beats you in the Olympics, you should want to come back in the pros and show it was a fluke. You should want to settle the score, to get your revenge. You need to get back on the horse again. I got back on the horse against McCall and Rahman. Bowe didn’t even attempt to get back on the horse against me.”

Lewis decided to permanently dismount when he was 38, following his sixth-round TKO, on cuts, of Vitali Klitschko on June 21, 2003. Klitschko, a late replacement for Lewis’ originally scheduled opponent, Kirk Johnson, had his moments until ring physicians determined that the crimson seepage from the multiple gashes around his eyes was too severe for the Ukrainian to continue.

It was the realization that he was continuing to fight for those multimillion-dollar purses, rather than for love of the sport or to enhance his already-assured legacy, that prompted Lewis to step away, despite a clamor for him to get it on again with Vitali Klitscho.

Of suggestions he was ducking a rematch with the older of boxing’s Klitscho brothers, Lewis dismisses the notion as ridiculous.

“He definitely was losing ground,” Lewis said upon announcing his retirement. “He had shot his load. I felt I would definitely have knocked him out in the next couple of rounds.

“He kept saying he got stopped on a cut. Will you please tell him I’m the one who created the cut? In fact, not one cut, but five cuts around his eyes. I didn’t hug him to give him the cuts. I punched him.”

In a perfect world, Lewis now acknowledges that he should have stepped away following his eighth-round knockout of Tyson on June 8, 2002, in Memphis. That would have been a fitting sendoff, and against the man who, even more than Bowe, Lewis had marked at the top of his to-do list. Tyson is the guy who chewed a chunk out of Lewis’ left thigh during a New York press conference that turned ugly. He’s the one who went on television and vowed to eat Lewis’ unborn children.

“I’m getting rid of the last misfit in boxing,” Lewis had said of his quest to prove, once and for all, that he was a better, more complete fighter than Tyson, or at least the rusted remnants of what once had been Iron Mike.

“I had been trying to get out for a while, but I couldn’t, not without Mike Tyson on my resume,” Lewis continued. “If I hadn’t fought him, everyone would have wondered how it would have turned out between us. I needed to finish that part of my history.”

Despite the gnawing suspicion that the Tyson takedown was exactly the right moment for him to exit the arena, there were more millions to be earned with his fists even though his passion for boxing had ebbed. He had become, against his better judgment, just another mercenary in a business that devours those who stay too long in the pursuit of another payday, no matter how lucrative that payday might be.

“If you can’t give 110 percent and have the same kind of hunger and drive that you had at the beginning, you shouldn’t really step back into the ring,” Lewis said. “A lot of people don’t have the hunger, they’re just doing it for the money. Money isn’t everything.”

Lewis said he is content in retirement. He is the father of two children, both born after Tyson had vowed to munch his offspring for lunch, and they’re as much or more a source of his joy than anything he achieved inside the ropes. He is able to keep his hand in boxing as a color commentator for HBO, and each morning brings the satisfaction of knowing that he no longer has to push his body in preparation for the next fight, because there is no longer a need for a next fight. He is financially secure, even in this troubled economy, free and clear of the chasms into which most if not all of the fortunes amassed by Tyson and Holyfield plunged.

“It’s great,” he said of the life of a retired gentleman boxer. “I’m glad I went out on top. I’m still in the sport, doing the commentating for HBO. And nobody wants to beat me up anymore.

“I’m just happy raising my family and setting new goals for myself. Life shouldn’t end for anyone when one part of it ends. Boxing is what I did, it isn’t necessarily who I am. Not completely, anyway.”

It’s difficult to fault Lewis for his decision to step away and stay away. He was a child when he watched his all-time favorite fighter, Ali, shock the seemingly invincible George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” on Oct. 30, 1974. Even then, Lewis had an idea that his role model should have quit right then, when his legend was at its apex. And, if not then, surely after Ali had survived Joe Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manila” on Oct. 1, 1975, the rubber match of their incomparable trilogy.

But Ali lingered for six more years and 10 bouts, paying a terrible price for staying too long at the fair. Lewis now admits he ignored the lesson he should have learned from Ali by not quitting boxing after his thumping of Tyson. Vitali Klitschko provided the proof he needed that a fighter should only fight on as long as his heart is in it.

“I probably had a couple of more good fights left in me, but I didn’t see the point,” Lewis said. “But I just didn’t see the point in going on any longer.

“I mean, look at Evander. He’s doing it for money. I don’t care what he says, he’s doing it just for money. And money can’t be the only reason for doing what fighters do. Getting in the ring should also be about proving something to yourself. It should be about personal pride and making your mark.

“Fighters who retire, they come back because they have nothing else to do and they go back to doing what they know. They come back for money. I feel sorry that some of them find themselves in that situation.

“If you’re in your 40s, and you’ve made as much money as Evander did, you shouldn’t need to fight anymore. You shouldn’t want to fight anymore. You need to know when to step away and let the young guys take over. There has to be life after boxing.”

Lewis never said that his era was the golden age of heavyweight boxing. Of his prime, he noted that the level of competition had already fallen a notch from when Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, Jerry Quarry and Earnie Shavers represented a figurative high-water mark.

“The movie they released a couple of years ago,  When We Were Kings, brought that whole era back into focus,” Lewis said in 2000. “The top guys today would not have survived with the likes of Ali, Foreman, Frazier and Norton. We’ll never see their likes again, certainly not anyone like Ali.”

Now, as a boxing commentator, Lewis is obliged to admit that, beyond Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, there is a steep falloff from even a decade ago to a group of contenders that would have been no more than pretenders when he was fighting. Putting a pretty dress on a hog doesn’t necessarily transform Miss Piggy into, say, Jessica Alba.

Author Thomas Hauser once observed that in Ali-Frazier III, the combatants were fighting for much more than the heavyweight championship of the world; they were fighting for the heavyweight championship of each other. With that in mind, Lewis believes that, blood ties aside, the Klitschko brothers should engage in a unification showdown that would determine not only who is the finest heavyweight on the planet, but the best in the family.

“They’re good,” Lewis said of the Klitschkos. “If I was their mother, I probably would wish the same thing (that the brothers keep their vow never to fight each other). But this isn’t tennis.

“Boxing needs someone to be the definitive No. 1. I think one or the other should step aside, or they should fight each other.”

Lewis stepped aside five-plus years ago. Now he’s stepping forward, joining the company of the larger-than-life figures he admired then and still does. That is reason enough to come to Canastota, and to join the inner circle of heavyweights who have lifted themselves, and boxing, to a higher level.

“It’s an amazing honor to be inducted alongside your childhood heroes,” Lewis said. “It’s a feeling you really can’t explain. I’m very happy to be among the great men that came before me.”

And how does he imagine he would fare against those great men, prime on prime?

“I don’t cross eras,” he said. “Oh, I guess I have imagined what it would be like for me to fight them. But they had their time and I had mine. I really try to leave it at that.”

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva



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



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 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



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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