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Articles of 2009

If Michelangelo Had Been A Boxing Manager

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He'd be the first to tell you he made his share of mistakes in the 64 years he spent on this earth, but rescuing Peter McNeeley that night in Vegas wasn't one of them.

For most boxing fans the enduring image of Vinnie Vecchione remains the night in August of 1995 when he climbed through the ropes at the MGM and deliberately forced Mills Lane to disqualify McNeeley just 89 seconds into his fight against Mike Tyson. The seemingly precipitate haste of his intercession was widely criticized elsewhere, and to those who didn't know better it created the impression that the fight had been a prearranged charade.

It was, but only in the sense that the scenario he had anticipated had materialized before Vecchione's eyes.

The night before the fight Vinnie had confided his intentions in me. “People are saying Tyson might kill Pete, and he probably could, but I'm not going to let that happen,” he said. “Believe me, if I see he's in any danger I'm going to stop the fight before he gets hurt.”

Vinnie knew how outgunned he was. He knew his heavyweight wasn't on Tyson's level, and that the only chance he had lay in the element of surprise.

“Pete is going to charge out of the corner and crash right into Tyson, and maybe we'll get lucky,” he said.

When McNeeley did exactly that, Tyson was indeed startled.

“You came right after me, White Boy,” he smiled wryly when he spoke to McNeeley afterward. “You were trying to knock me out!”

In most newspapers the next day Vecchione was widely criticized for having abetted a scam:  Not only had the paying customers been defrauded and a pay-per-view audience that had shelled out $49.95 a whack had been ripped off, but McNeeley had collected almost $10,000 a second for his participation.

Personally, I thought Vinnie deserved to be named Manager of the Year. And at least one respected scribe, Bob Lipsyte of the New York Times, agreed.

“I would fight Tyson myself if Vecchione would manage me,” wrote Lipsyte. “He did the right thing. If, as St. Cus D'Amato often said, the first obligation of a manager is to make sure his boy doesn't get hurt… That's the moral bottom line in boxing.”

The Ring magazine did join the Boston Herald in making Vinnie the Manager of the Year for 1995. The BWAA gave the award to Roy Jones' management team of Fred and Stanley Levin. The Brothers Levin had also done a commendable job on behalf of their client that year, but you'd have to admit they had a bit more to work with.

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Vinnie was a boxing guy through and through, a Runyonesque character who looked as if he'd modeled his image on that of Joe Palooka's manager Knobby Walsh. It was as if he had been born in that white cap he wore into the ring when he saved McNeeley, and for all I know he slept in it too; I don't think I ever saw him without it.  The other constant was the stubby remains of a cigar he kept clinched between his teeth. You never saw him light up a new cigar, and I always wondered whether Vinnie had found a good deal somewhere on half-smoked stogies.

He didn't like to fly on airplanes because it always required some fairly complicated explanations when the metal detector went off. For most of his adult life he carried around a bullet slug in his shoulder, a souvenir of a shooting he described as “a case of mistaken identity.”

Sports Illustrated described him as a “former mobster,” and Vinnie never tried to discourage that notion. “I used to be in organized crime,” he once told me, as if a guy could resign, or be expelled from, the mafia. He never elaborated but it was my impression that any criminal activities in his earlier incarnation weren't very organized at all, and must have been at the club-fight level of the hoodlum world.

He learned the business side of boxing at the footsteps of the legendary promoter Subway Sam Silverman, and 40 years ago he was operating a gym in Brockton. One day a kid who'd never even put on a pair of gloves walked in. He sat around for three days and nobody said a word to him, so the kid finally got up and walked across the street to another gym, this one run by Goody and Pat Petronelli, who turned out to be more welcoming and took the kid on.

Not bothering to say hello to Marvin Hagler that day may have been one of the more costly miscalculations of Vecchione's life.

In those days the star of Vecchione's gym was a Massachusetts middleweight named Paul Poirier. Poirier was unbeaten, 18-0, when Vinnie signed him for a fight in Italy. The execution of the contract more or less coincided with Poirier's religious conversion; when he joined the Seventh-Day Adventists he took a vow not to fight again. Rather than welsh on the contract, Vinnie flew to Italy and, under Poirier's name, lasted three rounds before he was stopped by a guy named Ennio Cometti.  Years later Poirier decided to make a comeback, and it took him a dozen years to convince people he hadn't lost to Cometti and to get that “L” expunged from his record. [Box.rec now lists two Paul Poiriers. The first was 31-3, and retired for good after his 1993 loss to Larry Holmes. The other Paul Poirier (0-1) was actually Vinnie.]

But he understood how the game was played, and when he spotted a raw amateur named Peter McNeeley, Vinnie could have been Michelangelo eying a slab of marble. It was a chance to create his masterpiece.

By then he had migrated to Cliff Phippen's South Shore Boxing Club in Whitman, Mass., not far from Medfield where McNeeley had grown up. The boxer's father Tom had played football at Michigan State before turning to a boxing career. The high point ofMcNeeley pere's career had come when he earned $40,000 in a title fight against Floyd Patterson. McNeeley knocked the champion down once. Patterson knocked Tommy down eleven times before Jersey Joe Walcott stopped the fight at 2:51 of the fourth.

The creation of McNeeley's resume was indeed a work of art. His first five opponents had never won a fight. In fact, up until the time he fought Tyson he fought 13winless opponents, a couple of them twice. Eight of these were guys who never did beat anybody; they finished with an aggregate record of 0-49-1. Five others (including John Basil Jackson twice) wound up 11-179-4. He fought Jimmy (Lurch) Harrison three times in the space of six months in 1992. Lurch was 6-28-4 when this rivalry commenced, 6-31-4 when it ended, and 6-35-5 by the time the Commonwealth of Massachusetts took his boxing license away. The only mistake along the way came when Vinnie matched Peter against Stanley Wright, a 6'10″ former basketball player, for the New England heavyweight title in Boston. McNeeley got cut and was bleeding so copiously that the referee stopped the fight.

Not long afterward Vinnie and Peter presented themselves at the offices of Don King and signed a promotional contract, and shortly after that miraculous things began to happen. McNeeley was still fighting bums, but every time he'd knock one of them out he'd move up another notch in the ratings.

This process took a few years, but Vinnie's timetable knew only one limit: The date of Tyson's release from the Indiana Youth Center, where he was serving out his rape sentence.

Vinnie was a promoter without peer. He never actually held a promoter's license, but he always knew somebody who did, and he staged shows at the Whitman Armory and Plymouth Memorial Hall and at the racetrack in Foxboro or the dog track in Revere, while he continued to chisel away on his work-in-progress.  By then he had reached out for some help. Al Braverman seemed to have an endless supply of beatable victims, and Beau Williford, the Louisianan who aligned himself with Vecchione in the early 1990s, was on speaking terms with more bad heavyweights than any man in the country. When Beau wasn't bringing them up to New England to lose to McNeeley, he was bringing McNeeley to places like Louisville and Raleigh and Fort Smith to beat them.

Boxing audiences can be notoriously gullible, but sometimes Vinnie seemed to be underestimating even their collective intelligence. I'd look up the record of the latest bum he'd lined up for the Hurricane and ask him “Vinnie, are you sure this guy even has a f—— pulse?”

“Shhh.” He'd whisper, holding a finger to his lips, and slyly wink.

The relationship with King even brought the promoter to New England for a nationally televised card. Julian Jackson vs. Augusto Cardamone and Orlin Norris-Adolpho Washington were the fights Showtime was willing to put on television. On the undercard, Francois Botha fought Brian Sargent, while Williford had disinterred Danny Wofford for McNeeley. The corpulent Wofford was 15-41-2 when he faced McNeeley at the Worcester Auditorium, and he didn't last a round. Beginning with the McNeeley fight, he would lose 61 of his last 63 fights.

The high point of the Worcester card occurred not in the ring but at the weigh-in the day before, when Botha made some disparaging remark about McNeeley, the Hurricane bitch-slapped the White Buffalo in front of a room full of people, and many were thinking “even if he can't fight, the kid's got some stones.”

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The Tyson fight let the rest of the world in on Vecchione's dirty little secret, which is that the WBC's third-ranked heavyweight could barely fight at all, but Vinnie even managed to turn that to his advantage, negotiating a lucrative deal for a nationally-televised commercial in which McNeeley got knocked out by a slice of pizza. There were periodic comeback attempts, whenever Vinnie could get McNeeley back into the gym for a few weeks, and there were also a few side trips to jail and to rehab. (In the most famous of these latter, somebody at Hazelden assigned the comedian Chris Farley to be McNeeley's roommate.) In 1999 the Hurricane was knocked out in back-to-back fights by Brian Nielsen and Butterbean Esch. Vinnie could only sigh.

A year after the Tyson fight Vinnie had another chance to cash in. Cliff Phippen's brother Danny had been built, on the McNeeley pattern, into an 18-0 junior middleweight. An undefeated fighter can be like a company ripe for a hostile takeover. In this case, Sugar Ray Leonard, who hadn't fought since losing to Terry Norris four years earlier, was plotting another comeback and looking for a tuneup against a soft touch with a deceptively good record. Danny Phippen seemed to fit that description, and in the summer of 1996 Leonard dispatched his matchmaker and boxing advisor, J.D. Brown, to Boston to have a look for himself. If the fight came off, Danny stood to make more for one fight against Leonard than he had in his other 18 put together, and Vinnie's end for brokering the deal would have been his biggest payday in the year since Tyson-McNeeley.

J.D. and I spent the early evening at my son's Little League game before driving down to the Whitman Armory for that night's card, where Phippen was fighting the main event. By the time we got there Vinnie and Cliff Phippen were a pair of nervous wrecks. Danny had gone AWOL and was nowhere to be found. His fight was eventually scrapped. He turned up, days later, in a local crack house, and was packed off to rehab. He didn't fight for another year. J.D. Brown flew back to Washington, and Leonard decided to go straight to the Hector Camacho fight without a tuneup. Fighting on a bum leg, he was stopped in five.

“Christ,” said Vinnie. “Danny coulda beat Leonard in that one.”

Vinnie didn't completely lose interest in boxing after that, but the Leonard-Phippin flirtation was his last dalliance with the big time. He periodically rang up to excitedly tell me about his latest club show. Invariably they sounded as if they had been calculated to lose money.

When he heard I was ill, Vinnie was one of the first to ring up, and called periodically to ask about my health. Every time he called he unfailingly asked about my son, whom he'd known since he was a small boy attending McNeeley fights in Foxboro and Whitman. Vinnie had a soft spot for kids, and that was in part because his own son, Vinnie Boy, was handicapped and had been institutionalized for virtually his entire life. It was an enormous emotional burden as well as a financial one for his father.

Our last conversation was a couple of months ago. After the usual pleasantries he cut straight to the chase. Judy, his lady of many years, was suffering from cancer. The medical bills were piling up and neither of them had insurance. He was looking to make some quick but substantial cash, and it had dawned on him: “Why don't I write a book?”

I carefully explained the realities of the publishing world, circa 2009, particularly when it came to boxing books, and provided a reasonably accurate representation of what he might realistically expect as an advance in the unlikely event he actually did manage to interest a publisher. Even in the best case it would have represented a small fraction of what he was hoping to get, and as far as I know that was the end of the book idea.

Even in his anguish I don't think it had ever occurred to him that Judy might outlive him, but this past Thursday he suffered a heart attack and now he's gone.  Tomorrow evening his friends will gather at a funeral home in Braintree to say goodbye, and I'll be there too. He was an original, a boxing character, but most of all, Vinnie was my friend.

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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