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Articles of 2009

Rocky Lockridge: I Thought It Would End Differently For Him

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This past weekend there was a sad story in the New Jersey Star-Ledger on former WBC and IBF junior lightweight champ Rocky Lockridge 44-9 (36 KOs). According to the Star-Ledger, Lockridge has been homeless for 10 years, much a result of drug and alcohol addiction on Lockridge's part for at least the past 20 years. It was also mentioned in the article that the 50 year old Lockridge suffered a stroke a few years ago and walks with the assistance of a four pronged walker.

As it is most often times you really don't know the fighters you train with on a daily basis. Unless you become friends and interact together outside of the gym with them, you have no idea who they associate with or what they do during their spare time. Which was case between myself and former two time junior lightweight champ RockyLockridge. I didn't really know him and couldn't consider or call him a friend and vice-versa. But I can adamantly say that from what I did know of Rocky, I liked him.

It was 1980 and I was fighting as an amateur middleweight. Rocky Lockridge at that time was six months away from challenging WBA featherweight champ Eusebio Pedroza for the title. Pedroza had one of the longest title reigns in featherweight history, holding the title for seven years. Rocky and I both trained at Joe Frazier's gym in North Philadelphia and were trained by George Benton. At that time I lived in Cherry Hill N.J. and I was told that Rocky split his time between Paterson andLindenwold N.J. The fighters who Lockridge hung around mostly fought under the “Tomorrow's Champions” banner and were promoted by Main Events. Rocky was very articulate when he conversed, however he was on the quiet side and seemed most comfortable around fellow stable mates JohnnyBumphus and Alex Ramos.

Whenever I think of Rocky Lockridge training, I think of how hard and fast he ran. During those years I was quite a runner myself and it was always hard for me to find a running partner. I liked to run at a very fast clip to simulate the pace of a fight and had no time for jogging and felt it was a waste of time. This was something Rocky and I shared, making us different than most fighters who usually jogged for long periods of time at a slow pace.

Right outside of Philadelphia there's the suburb of Pennsauken N.J. which is home to Cooper River Park. On the outskirts of the Park there's a 3.8 mile tar bike/running path. Rocky and I would often meet there around 7:30 am and take off. Together we would leave any other runners way behind us before we were even a mile out. Once we made our way around the course and approached the final half mile, we'd pick it up. During those years I ran with friends who ran races regularly, played college football and who boxed and wrestled. Not once did they ever get by or stay with me during that last half mile. The only exception to that was RockyLockridge . I think I may have finished ahead of him maybe three times at the most. Usually, I ended up watching his running shoes and marveling at his perfect stride and envying how he remained so loose and relaxed as he was pulling away from me. Nobody could hang with Rocky doing roadwork, nobody.

Later in the afternoon he'd be focused and do exactly what Benton asked of him during training. Rocky trained harder than any most fighters I've ever been in the gym with — with the exception of Curtis Parker andMarvis Frazier. What separated Rocky Lockridge from other name fighters on the verge of fighting for a title was he sometimes talked about what he wanted to do once he'd accomplished his goal in boxing and was through fighting. I remember him talking about taking courses in journalism and broadcasting. Which seemed appropriate for a guy like him who always had a unique perspective on whatever thought he was conveying. And according to the Star-Ledger Rocky did enroll in college for two years and studied business.

Rocky said in the Star-Ledger after each fight that he would party “two weekends,” adding that he snorted cocaine and abused alcohol, drinking whatever was around. Again, not knowing or hanging around Rocky away from the gym, there wasn't any sign of this nor were there any rumors of it flying around the gym regarding him. Which usually isn't the case. Most fighters and trainers know who the fighters are that are messing around with drugs and alcohol and it doesn't take a genius to deduct exactly who those fighters and some trainers are.

Lockridge also said that whenever he needed money he would ask the Duvas (who owned Main Events) for it and they'd always give it to him. Today, he says that was a mistake and they should've resisted him. Yeah right. Had they resisted him he would've sought another manager or promoter who he could've charmed for the money. There's one thing about world class/championship caliber fighters that most fans don't know — that is they can be some of the most charming and warm human beings around. I have no love for promoters and managers, but am well aware that fighters will con and bleed a vein supplying them money dry. A fighter with the potential of RockyLockridge along with his cerebral personality and charm would've been very hard to refute if you were the Duvas.

It says a lot that Rocky according to the article is willing to accept some of the blame pertaining to his unfortunate predicament, but that's not enough. According to the Star-Ledger Rocky's biggest payday was $200,000, that being for his fight versus Julio Cesar Chavez, which obviously isn't enough to sustain a man with a wife and two kids like RockyLockridge for the rest of his life. Rocky was an outstanding fighter. I relished watching him put the “Black Mamba” Roger Mayweather to sleep with one overhand right in 1984. That said, Rocky wasn't a truly great fighter and didn't earn the million dollar purses like Chavez or Hector Camacho did.

Like boxing, life is tough. A person also needs to have a Plan B and C. At one time I would've bet anything that Rocky Lockridge had a backup plan and would've never been homeless at age 50. Rocky was/is a smart guy and was aware of everything going on around him. He knew that the life of a world class fighter was short lived and it could end overnight via one fight. Add to that two plus decades of alcohol and drug abuse, what did he expect to happen? It wasn't like what has happened to Rocky hadn't happened to other champions and he was fully cognizant of it.

Alcohol and drugs have destroyed many strong men and women. Rocky Lockridge made that choice and when all is said and done only has himself to blame. I'm sure he was screwed out of money during his life and career. Not to mention the misfortune of having to get through a tough and underrated champion likeEusebio Pedroza along with suffering one of the worst robberies ever in a big fight versus Wilfredo Gomez in 1985. However, that's still not an excuse to snort and drink your life down the drain.

If I had to pick a fighter who I was certain would never end up in the dire straits the way he has, Rocky Lockridge would have been one of the fighters at the top of the list. He seemed to have too much going for him and had an identity other than being a world class fighter. At the same time when fighters of his stature are on top, they don't believe anything can take them down. That's part and parcel as to what enables them to be successful. But when all is said and done they're people just like everyone else and need air to breath. RockyLockridge was no different and we now know he wasn't impervious to the same temptation and poor choices that are always within striking distance of all men and women.

I feel terrible for Rocky. Lou Duva said Rocky is like a son to him. He also said he'd bring him on to train fighters if he could stay clean and sober. Yet Rocky hasn't been able to hold up to that end of the deal. So once again it all falls back on him. Like everyone else who knows him, I wish him well, but he has to help himself. I'd say a former two-time world champ could very possibly have a future and be an outstanding boxing trainer.

Maybe it's not too late and Rocky can save himself from himself?

Contact the writer at:  GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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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