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Articles of 2009

Fireworks And Falling Giants

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“Nothing so challenges the American spirit as tackling the biggest job on earth.”

~ Lyndon B. Johnson, 1941

The Fourth of July marks the 233rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The elegant signatures on parchment by an unruly combination of American colonists provoked the giant that was Great Britain; and the world was never the same. The giant appeared eight days later when a fleet of warships sailed up the Verrazano Narrows in New York “like a forest of pine trees with their branches trimmed.”

“We must all hang together,” quipped Benjamin Franklin, “or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” The patriots not only hung together, they implemented an unorthodox and by some measures, an absurd strategy to score a technical knockout.

The Fourth of July also marks the 90th anniversary of Jack Dempsey’s destruction of another superior force, in heavyweight champion Jess Willard. There was nothing elegant about it. Dempsey had already made short work of rather large fighters that today could satisfy the definition of “super heavyweight” in Fred Fulton and Carl Morris, but Willard was something else. Known as the “Pottawatomie Giant”, Willard was 6’6 ½ and 245 pounds.

Gunboat Smith, a banger who stood 6’2, also fought Willard. He told Peter Heller that early on, he threw a good shot at Willard and “his hair wiggled a little bit. That’s all. I said ‘Holy Jesus, that was my best punch, no detours, right from the floor, right on his chin.’” Smith decided to move around him and box him from a safe distance. In the tenth round, a frustrated Willard said “come on out here and fight, you big bum.”

“Big bum?” Smith laughed, “I’m hiding behind his goddamned leg!”

Jack Dempsey was smaller than Gunboat Smith. At only 6’1 and 180 pounds he looked like a wee lad next to the champion, so he was listed at 187 to make it look better. A patriotic American with Cherokee blood in him, Dempsey turned the theory of strategic retreat on its head. General George Washington lost battles as a matter of course but kept in mind his ultimate objective, which was essentially to take the Redcoats into deep water and drown them. He made it a war of attrition and non-engagement where the hometown advantage would help the army -and thus the sacred cause- to survive long enough to win. It was a revolution won by military conservatism. The twenty-four year old Dempsey was offended by the very concept of patience. His style of fighting called to mind a drowning man in a whirlpool.

Willard’s fight plan against this challenger was no different than that employed by the current heavyweight champion newly recognized by The Ring: keep the smaller man at the end of his long jab, and douse him with a right cross now and then to keep him honest. That long left jab and waiting strategy baffled even the great Jack Johnson when Willard became the White Hope Realized. Willard was also throwing right uppercuts in training camp, albeit not at any sparring partners for fear of hurting them. (Like Wladimir Klitschko, Jess was a gentleman.) Dempsey fought out of a semi-crouch and Jess planned to catch that hanging jaw and launch it to the moon. It was no secret that Willard had killed Bull Young with a gargantuan right uppercut in 1913. Some claimed it broke his neck. The giant wasn’t an active champion however, having only defended his title once since the win over Jack Johnson. He was even making a go in the entertainment industry. The New York Times carried ads in the sports section for “The Challenge of Chance” which was playing in movie houses in the summer of 1919. In his role as a heroic ranch foreman, Willard would swing his mighty arms and upwards of twenty assailants would “tumble down like tenpins.”

Dempsey’s sparring partners included Big Bill Tate who was of comparable size to Jess and the middleweight Jamaica Kid. Dempsey knocked Tate cold on June 24 and was chasing Jamaica Kid out of the ring. There was talk of his being “too fine” –that he had peaked too early and had to be restrained from overtraining.

Forget the “Long Count Fight”. The killer in a semi-crouch that was Dempsey had fear and death on his mind in Toledo. He wasn’t civilized. By the time he lost to Gene Tunney, he had long since brushed off the muck of the back alley and was extending his pinky in tea rooms with celebrities.

Forget the stories about Dempsey loading his glove with an iron bolt or using plaster of Paris against Jess Willard. Both fighters inspected each other’s wrapped hands in the ring before the gloves went on, and the gloves went on under supervision. Dempsey’s blow was described by a contemporary as about equal to the “kick of an army mule in a tantrum.” It’s as simple as that. Over half of Dempsey’s wins up to that point came by knockout in one or two rounds and the gloves used on that hot afternoon were only five ounces. Interestingly, the ring was not the regulation twenty-four square foot ring but only twenty square feet to accommodate extra press rows. When Dempsey was informed of this change he snapped, “you can make it fifteen square for all I care.”

Fifty years after the fact Dempsey was interviewed by the Toledo Blade: “I took one look at Jess and said to myself ‘you’re not fighting for the title, you’re fighting for your life.’” With that attitude, Dempsey came snorting out of his corner to engage the giant. Willard threw a one-two that did no damage, then a jab that was slipped. The two clinched and Dempsey can be seen on the film with his open gloves on the crease of Willard’s arms to guard against uppercuts. The referee broke them and Dempsey, itching to unload his artillery, gallops in behind a vicious right to the body, followed by a left hook to the head, a right, and a finishing left hook that sent Willard down for the first time in his eight year career. Willard later said that he “didn’t recover” from that left hook until about an hour after he left the ring.

There were six more knockdowns in round one and the star-spangled beat down continued until a bloody towel sailed into the ring. The giant had surrendered before round four and Dempsey was king.
…..
America’s birthday is imminent, but the prospect of an American heavyweight champion is not. The superpower on the throne comes out of Eastern Europe in the form of Wladimir Klitschko. He is the same size as Jess Willard, with a similar conservative fighting style and a nonviolent disposition. Nevertheless, since 2006 he has dominated freedom-loving Chris Byrd, Calvin Brock, Ray Austin, Lamon Brewster, Tony Thompson, and Hasim Rahman, stopping them all.

Only Brewster had success against Wlad, and only in their first fight where he was losing right up to the moment he landed a left hook, right cross, left hook combination that turned Wlad’s legs to lokshyna.

Since then, Wladimir Klitschko’s fights have been glorified sparring sessions. He is typically fought from the wrong range by second-rate guys that have no answers for the jab, who are content to allow him to play tyrant and dictate everything that goes on. American heavyweights, once hailed the world for fire-breathing ferocity, seem to be ailing from acute testosterone deficiency. They get an opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to become a heavyweight champion, and then spend rounds passively looking for proof that they are outgunned by Wlad. Boxing fans watch reruns of masochism evolving into surrender.

Whatever happened to the motto “don’t tread on me”?

American heavyweights are indeed outgunned –no less than the citizen-soldiers at Breeds Hill or Saratoga. No less than Jack Dempsey. But neither those patriots nor the Manassa Mauler behaved as if their downfall was written in the heavens. No. They rewrote the script: shake your fist at the giant and blast away until you stand on his collapsed frame, and then watch your reputation ascend to the stars.

Klitschko may seem like an empire unto himself but he is no more unbeatable than Jess Willard was ninety years ago.

Trainer Manny Steward, the Kronk guru who has trained over two dozen champions in a career spanning over thirty years, develops ring technicians. Klitschko, despite what some commentators will have you believe, is not a technician in the strict sense of the word. Steward has given him simple strategies which he follows to the letter but he has not progressed as a technician. He does a few things well, but where is the counterpunching skill, infighting, combination punching, body punching, or serious defensive techniques? Wlad has a jab that is sometimes pawing but that can also be of the Liston, lamp post type. He has a hard right and a devastating left hook. His defense is limited to clinches and retreats: That’s more or less the extent of his repertoire. It is certainly true that he hasn’t had a compelling need to demonstrate other skills, but is that proof positive that his repertoire is any more extensive than we’ve seen? Unlikely. Boxers cannot hide what and who they are. What you see is the naked truth. Klitschko has a few tools in his tool box that he uses very well. It’s his size that presents such problems.

More importantly than what’s under the hood is the psychology of who’s driving. Wlad has been stopped three times. Ross Purrity, Corrie Sanders, and Lamon Brewster fought him aggressively and were able to bounce shots off of his head until something inside Wlad broke. When dealing with sustained aggression, Wlad seems to panic. When hurt, Wlad has been prone to come apart.

Lamon Brewster did several things in his first meeting with Klitschko that mirrored what Jack Dempsey did against Willard. He bobbed and weaved, slipped the jab, applied pressure, closed the distance quickly when Wlad was in retreat, and punched in combination. Wlad didn’t punch himself out as claimed –he was taken completely out of his comfort zone and overwhelmed. It was anxiety that exhausted him. Unfortunately for the man known as “Relentless”, the second time he fought Wlad he looked like he was standing in line at a bakery waiting for cherry pies –and he got dozens of them in the form of left jabs.

That part of the script can be rewritten too. “Once in a while,” Jess Willard admitted after the Dempsey fight, “I felt my head clearing and instinctively stuck out my long left which had served so well in previous fights. When I saw my opponent slipping easily past that protection, I realized that unless I landed a lucky blow, I was sure to lose.”

Giants tend to develop a fairly simple, sedated style that is built around physical control of their opponent. Like the Jess jab, the Wlad jab is the primary instrument of oppression. A nervous jabbing contest may ensue that the smaller man can never win, and once lulled by the hypnotic “tit-for-tat”, Wlad will suddenly commit to a right, and then it’s “tit-for-splat”. Most of the hooks Wlad throws are sweeping hooks to force his man to stay in front of him. When the opponent gets too close for comfort, Wlad clinches and leans on him. It’s all about control. He’s hoping to wear the opponent out or convince him that it is futile to resist domination. Trainers take note: Wlad is not dangerous when his opponent is. He doesn’t punch when he is being punched. This is not only a glimpse into an elemental weakness; it is a key to victory.

Wlad is cautious to a fault. He fights like a man carrying a priceless vase across a mine field, only the vase is his chin and the mine field has been a meadow. The key is to take the control away from him by detonating fireworks under his nose. The key is to fight him like John Paul Jones would. With his ship shattered and sinking under the superior firepower of the British frigate Serapis and his crew decimated, Jones was asked by the British captain if he would surrender. Jones hollered “I have not yet begun to fight!” One of his grenades flew into the main deck battery of the larger ship, ignited the casks of gunpowder, and the Serapis soon surrendered to the Americans.

Jack Dempsey’s grenades were no less deliberately launched than those of John Paul Jones. He fought with the savagery of a strategist. The film confirms that the only time he was at Willard’s preferred range was when he was passing through to the inside –to the main deck battery if you will. Dempsey was either outside of Willard’s reach or inside of his reach, he never stayed where Willard could hit him and he couldn’t hit Willard. To get close, he would get low and shoot in behind hard, slashing punches that forced the larger man on the defensive. This allowed Dempsey to take momentary advantage and exploit it with combinations. An off-balance giant is a vulnerable giant. Importantly, Dempsey punched with maximum leverage. He had disdain for anything less:

“I blasted him into helplessness by using my exploding fast-moving body-weight against him.”

He blasted him into helplessness and upheld the great American tradition of beating the odds.
…..
The Ring Ratings’ sixth ranked heavyweight contender has said that he would like to be the Mexican Jack Johnson. But Jack Johnson didn’t overcome Jess Willard, Jack Dempsey did. Cristobal Arreola needs to get in serious shape and then someone needs to show him precisely how Dempsey felled that giant ninety years ago.

Arreola was born in East LA. He has the bombs and he has the belligerence.

Does he have the patriotism?
……..
Springs Toledo can be reached at scalinatella@hotmail.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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