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Articles of 2009

Mia's Life Wasn't Always So Beautiful

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Mia St. John might have become another Salma Hayek or Jennifer Lopez, a lovely Latina presence on the silver screen, had she not made a snap decision to score knockouts instead of merely being one.

Beset by a score of personal demons that she is only now willing to discuss, St. John – who recently had been released from a hospital, where she was being treated for obsessive-compulsive disorder – was in her early 20s and juggling acting, auditions and amateur Tae Kwon Do tournaments when she again arrived late for her acting class after it overlapped with her Tae Kwon Do training session.

In her new fitness book, The Knockout Workout, St. John writes of the challenge posed by her exasperated acting coach.

“Do you want to be a fighter or an actor?” the instructor of aspiring thespians asked.

“Without taking even a moment to rationalize, I let my heart speak for me. `I want to be a fighter,’ I said and walked out,” St. John reveals.

Now that her boxing career is winding down – she is 45-10-2, with 18 victories inside the distance, but with five losses in her seven most recent bouts – St. John, who turns 42 on Wednesday, is willing to bare even more than she did during that notorious 11-page Playboy  pictorial that certified her as the fight game’s most bodacious babe.

“As you get older, your reflexes slow down,” St. John said in a moment of quiet reflection during the Philadelphia stop of her book-signing tour last week. “But boxers still think they have it. You’re, like, `If I change this or that, I can still do it.’

“I’m at a point where I’m starting to really wonder if I can still do it, or if I’m just fooling myself. But if I did have to end it now, I can look back and say I fought the best. I eventually became a good boxer. I wasn’t the best, but I fought the best.”

But if St. John draws any satisfaction from having shared a ring with Christy Martin (against whom she was surprisingly competitive in losing a unanimous, 10-round decision in 2002), Jelena Mrdjenovich, Holly Holm, Jessica Rakoczy and Jaime Clampitt, it pales in comparison to having conquered her most formidable opponent: Her own inner doubts.

Even as she rose to prominence as the eye-candy lead-in to several of Oscar De La Hoya’s pay-per-view bouts in the mid-to-late 1990s, a heady period during which she was marketed by Top Rank founder Bob Arum with another sideshow attraction, Butterbean, as the pugilistic equivalent of Beauty and the Beast, St. John kept hidden the shame of a past marked by a drunkard father and the psychological scars inflicted upon her by white classmates who taunted her about her Mexican-American heritage, as well as her ongoing battle with alcoholism and bulimia.

“I didn’t come out with any of that until I reached my 40s,” St. John said. “I kept it very well hidden. No one knew except for the people in my most immediate circle. Bob didn’t know. Don King (her first promoter) didn’t know. I really wasn’t ready then to talk about it.”

All of which makes The Knockout Workout  more than just another tome aimed at getting America’s couch potatoes, particularly females, off the sofa and into a health-and-fitness program. Every celebrity with buns of steel and six-pack abs has authored such books, but St. John’s latest literary effort has the distinction of taking us on a tour through her hellish childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, while noting that the first step for women with self-esteem issues is to realize that they are empowered to change their lives.

“It’s something I’m always going to have to deal with,” she said of the bulimia and alcoholism that lurk in the shadows, a food- or drink-fueled binge away from again raising their ugly heads. “And that’s OK. We’re always growing, always evolving as human beings.

“What a lot of people, particularly women who can’t keep unwanted weight off, don’t realize is that it’s not about the food. It’s about how you feel on the inside. Unless you come to grips with that and learn how to love yourself for exactly who you are, you’ve never going to stop the cycle of overeating.”

Toward that end, before St. John, a divorced mother of two, lays out the physical aspects of her workout regimen, she advises women that they must first confront these causes that can lead to their consoling themselves with too much or the wrong kinds of food.

***Bad relationships.

***The stress of motherhood.

***A busy career and home life.

***A dysfunctional work environment.

Not that I’m the person to advise St. John on what to write or how to write it, but my take on The Knockout Workout is that its most compelling material is condensed within the first couple of chapters, when she goes public with a life that took too many wrong turns before it got back on course.

She tells that she had a “love-hate relationship with food and with her body,” brought on by the insecurity of living with an alcoholic father who was “an angry and oftentimes violent drunk.”

“We had glimpses of the man I knew my father could have been, if not for the demon that possessed him –which is how I chose to look at it,” St. John continues. “Unfortunately, those glimpses were few and far between, so my sister and I often hoped that he wouldn’t come home at all.”

To take the edge off the hurt she was feeling, St. John notes that “at 10 years old, I found solace in the same addiction that consumed my father: alcohol. I now knew why my father had drunk so much. Alcohol allowed me to escape.”

So, too, did an uncontrollable urge to scarf down everything edible she could put her hands on. Of course, bingeing had to be followed by purging. Induced vomiting is the release valve of bulimics.

“At age 13, I became obsessed with my weight,” she writes. “For every pound I lost, I felt as if I had deposited one more dollar in the bank. The skinnier I became, the better I felt about myself. Weight was the only thing I could control. By simply focusing on my weight and the caloric content of every known food, I could escape everything that was a mess in my life.

“I had so many reasons to self-destruct: my father’s unpredictable and explosive behavior, kids hurling racial insults at me and worse, calling me fat. I started to blame and resent my mother for being Mexican. I drank every day, all day, and not surprisingly was flunking my classes. Then, as if to torture myself further, I began to binge and purge. I ate whatever food I desired and then purged it by taking laxatives, throwing up, or even overexercising.”

So despondent was St. John that for a while, after her graduation from high school, she was temporarily homeless. It’s almost a miracle she pulled herself together long enough to get married (to soap-opera actor Kristoff St. John), bear him two children and to graduate from Cal State-Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in, of all things, psychology.

Marriage and motherhood, however, did not wash clean the stains of St. John’s haunted past. She divorced and once contemplated suicide. She was found huddled in a bathroom by her ex-husband, who took her to a hospital, helped get her cleaned up and urged her to enter treatment for the obsessive-compulsive disorder that constantly was tugging at her sleeve.

Finally sober and having gained a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, she sent a photo and resume to Don King in 1997. King signed her to a promotional contract, putting her on the path that eventually would lead to her current celebrity status.

But it was King’s archrival, Arum, who recognized that St. John was potentially a bigger draw than she had been as an unadorned female fighter with nice but hardly awe-inspiring boxing skills.

“Arum understood how important it was for me to be seen as a strong Mexican-American woman,” St. John writes of her second promoter, whose operation heavily tilts toward Hispanic audiences. “Arum knew who I was as a Latina, and he understood the importance of boxing as a Mexican sport.”

He also had eyes in his head, and those eyes immediately recognized that St. John was a hottie who would appeal to the same lascivious spectators that greet every between-rounds strut by a curvaceous ring girl with whistles and wolf howls. If sex sells – and it does; just ask any advertising executive on Madison Avenue – then why not package St. John as a jabbing, hooking object of lust?

Thus began St. John’s strange but well-paying journey as a regular presence on De La Hoya cards, the “Golden Boy,” of course, having his own base of lovestruck ladies who swooned over his matinee-idol good looks. Mia and Oscar were the Barbie and Ken of boxing, Chicano division, with Butterbean, the 340-pound heavyweight novelty act, tossed in for comic relief.

“He told me what he planned to do when he signed me,” St. John said of Arum’s vision of what she would bring to the table, so to speak. “Arum’s a very savvy businessman. When he took me from King, I was wearing all black. No makeup. When I went with Arum, all of a sudden I’m in pink and wearing makeup. And my name went from Mia St. John to Mia Rosales St. John, which included my name prior to getting married.”

St. John was judiciously matched, which is to say Top Rank sought out the same level of non-challenging opponents as it did for Butterbean, who was depicted as the sort of paunchy Everyman to whom beer-chugging slackers could relate.

One of Top Rank’s matchmakers, Ron Katz, was cut loose when he figured he had found another guaranteed loser in Mitchell Rose, who brought a 1-6-1 record into a Dec. 15, 1995, fight with the “King of the Four-Rounders” in Madison Square Garden. Too bad for Katz that Rose, a former New York Golden Gloves champion, got serious about the sport long enough to score a second-round stoppage of the well-bruised Butterbean.

“I only made a few fights for `The Bean,’ and I didn’t fare so well on one of them,” Katz said a few years later. “Let’s just say he is placed with very carefully picked opponents. I’m not saying the guys `The Bean’ fights don’t try. They’re just not very good, but then neither is `The Bean.’”

The same sort of creative matchmaking was employed in building St. John’s record.

Lucia Rijker, who was maybe the best woman fighter in the world when she was terminated by Top Rank and her gig as the company’s female face turned over to St. John, understood the economic reality of the switch.

“People sell what people buy,” she said. “If people don’t buy what people sell, it won’t be sold for long. When Bob sells Mia, it’s obvious someone is buying. They like the product, for some reason. But it has nothing to do with boxing. It’s entertainment.”

Arum wasn’t about to disagree. He had a good thing going with St. John and Butterbean, even if it was gimmicky, and you don’t change a winning formula.

“I learned long ago I could load up a card with good fighters that would bring me no additional business,” Arum said at the height of the St. John/Butterbean alliance. “That said, if my main event is a piece of crap, none of this would mean much. But the presence of Mia and Butterbean made a great event even more interesting.

“We’re not selling (St. John) as the world’s greatest female fighter. She’s an athletic, sexy-looking dame. We’re not deluding anybody here.”

Nor was St. John deluding herself. Full disclosure: Once, when interviewing her for an item in a notes column I was writing, my eyes drifted downward into the rather spectacular cleavage exposed by the halter top she was wearing. I looked up and noticed she had noticed that I had been noticing.

“Uh, sorry about that,” I said, embarrassed.

“It’s all right,” she replied, almost resignedly. “Everybody does it.”

And now?

“I don’t blame them,” she said of the Top Rank promotional machine that hyped her most visible attributes. “I knew how they were marketing me. I was what you’d call a willing victim. I gave in to it.”

When Playboy put St. John on its cover, “The Knockout” more or less gained parity with Martin, who could only claim to being the sole woman to make the cover of Sports Illustrated. Different strokes for different folks.

Eventually, of course, the Top Rank gravy train stopped chugging for both St. John and Butterbean. There were no hard feelings on St. John’s part; when something is over, it’s best to recognize that and move on.

“I always disliked it,” St. John said of her being regarded as sort of a tag-team partner with the excessively fleshy Butterbean. “I just wanted to fight. But I went along with it until it ran its course. I grew tired of it, Arum grew tired of it. I don’t know, maybe even Butterbean grew tired of it. You have to know when it’s time to step away from something.”

St. John recast herself as a serious boxer, taking on opponents who were more than capable of fighting back. She took her lumps without complaint, and in her most recent outing, a points loss to Brooke Dierdorff on April 4, she was head-butted several times, incurring a gash that required stitches. The ending was controversial in that the referee did not penalize or disqualify Dierdorff, but even if the decision had been overturned or changed to a no-contest, there is no undoing a cut that results in a scar. It’s doubtful that anyone, even St. John’s most persistent critics, would want that fabulous face to begin taking on a Jake La Motta configuration at this late date.

So maybe St. John never makes it to Canastota, N.Y., and the International Boxing Hall of Fame except as a tourist. Maybe she hasn’t won over all of those who doubted her grit, and she probably never will. But boxing gave her a platform to reach out and touch the masses with her true story and her charitable foundation.

She continues to cite De La Hoya as a beacon of what boxing is capable of doing, and not just because of what he accomplished with padded gloves on his fists. He built youth centers and charter schools, giving back to society in ways that transcend a stiff punch to the jaw. See, it’s not what you do to become rich and famous that matters; it’s what you do once you have attained those things that can transform a mere athlete or entertainer into a humanitarian.

“I’ve had a great career which allowed me to do so many things – my books, my DVDs,” St. John said. “I was able to start my foundation for Latinas in the United States and in Mexico.

“To me, what I did outside the ring meant so much more to me than what I did inside the ring. The boxing was a means to an end.”

Having come from where she was to where she is now, you just have to figure that St. John has to like what she sees whenever she looks in the mirror. On someone like her, even a scar can look gorgeous.

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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