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Articles of 2009

Adamek On Eve Of Playing The Field?

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Kathy Duva has gone back to the future by revisiting the tried-and-true Main Events formula for conquering the world by staying close to home. Hey, if it worked for such Main Events staples as Pernell Whitaker and Arturo Gatti, it ought to work for Tomasz Adamek, right?

Except that Adamek, the IBF cruiserweight champion who has readily consented to Part 1 of the Duva master strategy by relocating from his native Poland to Jersey City, N.J., is reluctant to adhere to the rest of the Duva-envisioned script. Oh, sure, the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. – where Adamek (37-1, 25 KOs) fights for the third consecutive time when he puts his title on the line Saturday night against Bobby Gunn (21-3-1, 18 KOs) – is a very nice venue and a neat place to hang out a while longer, but there are other boxing jurisdictions where Adamek would like to ply his trade. Pardon the pun, but you might say that Adamek and Duva, Main Events’ chief executive officer, are poles apart when it comes to how they foresee the rest of his tenure with the Totowa, N.J.-based promotional company.

“I know all about Arturo Gatti and how he was basically the house fighter in Atlantic City,” Adamek, speaking through an interpreter although his English is semi-passable, replied when I asked if he was prepared to do for the Prudential Center what Gatti did for Boardwalk Hall. “But I don’t want to be limited in that way. I am fighting in the Prudential Center now, but I have no problem with fighting in Las Vegas, in Madison Square Garden. I want to fight in those places.

“If I have to go to Las Vegas to fight Bernard Hopkins, I for sure will go to Las Vegas. I don’t want to be perceived as just a local boxer. I want to be an American star, for all of America.”

But what of the constituency Adamek seems to be building among the large and fanatically loyal Polish-American community in North Jersey and the New York metropolitan area?

“I fought in Germany, I fought in Poland, I fought in Sweden,” said the 32-year-old Adamek, who signed with Main Events in February 2008. “It was not my intention to come to America and be known as a local or regional boxer. I want to fight all over the United States. I want my name to be a household name everywhere in this country, not just in New Jersey or on the East Coast.”

The 6-1½ Adamek, who said his “natural” weight is 207 pounds, also indicated that his days at cruiserweight are numbered, that he hopes to bulk up to 215 or so and try his hand at the heavyweight division no later than the fall of 2010.

“I am naturally bigger than Eddie Chambers (the 6-1, 208¼ -pound American heavyweight who is coming off a 12-round, majority decision over 6-7, 253½-pound Ukrainian Alexander Dimitrenko),” Adamek noted. “I am sure I hit harder than Eddie Chambers. If he can beat a big man like Dimitrenko, why shouldn’t I?”

Kathy Duva, who was a publicist for Main Events when her late husband, Dan, was running the show and overseeing the hugely successful step up to heavyweight by undisputed cruiserweight champion Evander Holyfield, presumably would not object too strenuously with that part of Adamek’s plan for seizing greater control of his career. Yes, Duva has gone on record saying that the cruisers are more athletic, competitive and just plain fun to watch than those massive dancing bears who have taken over the heavyweight landscape as might dandelions and crabgrass in an ill-tended garden. But she knows, as does Adamek, that the heavyweights are where the real money is, whether the payoff is in dollars, Euros, pounds sterling, deutschmarks, krona or Polish zylotys.

What’s that old saying? There is boxing, and then there’s heavyweight boxing. If Adamek believes he can be successful doing battle with significantly taller and heavier opponents, why not give it a try? Is he any different than such former cruiserweight champions as Holyfield, Al “Ice” Cole and David Haye, who dreamed of mixing it up with the big boys and made those dreams reality? Or even Chambers, who probably could campaign very productively as a cruiser if he made some moderate adjustments to his diet and workout schedule?

“At 215 pounds, with my speed and iron chin, I absolutely have an advantage over all those big, lumbering heavyweights,” Adamek said through the interpreter, who seemed almost giddy about outlining the fighter’s blueprint for out-Holyfielding Holyfield.

But the part about taking his show on the road, about yearning for fights along the Vegas Strip or in the Garden … clearly, Adamek and Duva are going to need a sit-down to discuss their disparate strategies as how to maximize Adamek’s career success.

“We’d been having discussions about doing fights at the Prudential Center going back maybe 12 years, long before there actually was a building there,” Duva said in recalling her long-term strategy for finding exactly the right fighter to become the then-unbuilt Newark facility’s regular fistic attraction. “Once the Prudential Center was up and running, we all knew it was just a matter of time before we took fights there. We also knew we couldn’t go there with just anybody. It was going to have to be something that would work, and establishing a home base for Tomasz seemed like the perfect situation.”

To be frank, Duva’s flagging operation needed a perfect situation, and a major marquee attraction. It has been a long time since Main Events, which began in the 1970s as a mom-and-pop operation at Ice World in Totowa, went big-time with the mass signing of 1984 Olympic medalists Holyfield, Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor, Mark Breland and Tyrell Biggs. Just like that, Main Events became a player important enough to nudge perennials Don King and Bob Arum for space at boxing’s head table.

But Main Events’ golden stable of superstars began to tarnish and fade with age. Dan Duva left this world too soon, only 45 when he died of a brain tumor on Jan. 30, 1996. Newcomers under the Main Events promotional umbrella came and went, but, in some cases, the additions did not have the stature of the subtractions. One of the departees, vice president and matchmaker Carl Moretti, now vice president of operations for Top Rank, was one of the most respected administrators in boxing, a steady hand at the keel of the ship constructed in part by the bombast of patriarch Lou Duva and more extensively by the decision-making of Lou’s lawyer-son, Dan.

There was an acrimonious family split that saw Lou Duva, son Dino and daughter Donna break away from Main Events, which Dan had bequeathed in his will to Kathy and their children. Eventually, Gatti, who sold out each of his last eight appearances in Boardwalk Hall, was the only Main Events main-eventer who still mattered. But the blood-and-guts warrior retired after back-to-back beatdowns by Carlos Baldomir and Alfonso Gomez, leaving Duva’s once-thriving empire so threadbare that even full-time publicist Donald Tremblay had to be let go in a cost-cutting move.

Main Events rallied somewhat with the signing of Adamek, who had been the WBC light-heavyweight champion before he moved up to cruiserweight. Adamek was something of an unknown entity in America, but Duva saw something in him that suggested he had star potential here. Or maybe it was just a fervent hope, a prayer offered up that a Polish spark could rekindle past glories.

Adamek’s first bout under the aegis of Main Events, an eighth-round stoppage of former IBF cruiser champ O’Neil Bell in Katowice, Poland, was a concession to practicality; having a Pole fight in Poland certainly seemed the course of least resistance in terms of doing a respectable box-office. Duva next paired Adamek with Gary Gomez in the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, another fiscally prudent decision in that Chicago has a substantial Polish-American community and Main Events had done well handling the early career of Polish heavyweight AndrewGolota, at least until Golota revealed himself to be a psychological jumble of frayed nerves, insecurities and a proclivity for neck-bites and low blows.

What’s a CEO to do when the walls feel like they’re closing in? Tear a page out of the playbook from happier times, when everything on the bottom line was written in black ink. Tomasz Adamek, who grew up an ocean away, of necessity would become Newark’s boxing hometown hero and Main Events’ savior.

Adamek, who brought his wife and two daughters from Poland to live with him in Jersey City, made a profitable and aesthetically pleasing debut in the Prudential Center on Dec. 11 when he registered three knockdowns of Steve “USS” Cunningham en route to wresting Cunningham’s IBF cruiser title on a split decision. He has since added an eighth-round technical knockout of Johnathan Banks on Feb. 27, with the likely successful defense against Gunn constituting what hockey fans would call a natural hat trick.

“It’s growing with every fight,” Duva said of Adamek’s soaring popularity at the Prudential Center. “Our box office gets bigger each time. The interest from the premium cable outlets seems to be getting greater. Once you create a buzz around somebody locally, the more interesting they become, even on a national scale.”

Even Gatti, Duva noted, is not a native-born New Jersey guy. He’s from Montreal. But he sowed the seeds for his massive Jersey fan base by punching for pay in the state 30 times, including 23 times in Atlantic City, most notably those last eight bouts in which he elevated himself to the status of that town’s franchise fighter. More important, the biggest step Gatti took in becoming accepted among Jersey boxing fans was to move to Hoboken and to assume an active role in community affairs.

“It’s all happening for Tomasz very much like it did with Gatti,” Duva said. “Gatti was always exciting. He fought in Atlantic City many times before he started filling up Boardwalk Hall. But once we gave him a home and were able to keep him there, that’s when his career took off.

“When Tomasz came with us, we told him where we were going to anchor him. He was very receptive to the idea. He wanted to establish a home base in the U.S. That’s kind of been our strategy for a long time. We put many of Fernando Vargas’ fights at Mandalay Bay. We were involved with a lot of Tony Lopez’s fights in Sacramento. And we kept bringing Pernell Whitaker back to The Scope in Norfolk, Va. I remember asking my husband, `Why don’t we take Whitaker to Las Vegas?’ And Dan would say, `No, no, he needs a home.’ So wherever and whenever we could do that, we did it.

“Russell (Peltz) is our matchmaker now. He’s certainly done it for years in Philadelphia. That’s the model, that’s how you do it. And if somebody isn’t from a particular place, you make him of that particular place. But when you embark on something like this, you have to know who you can do it with, and how to do it. You can’t necessarily take a guy from Ohio and make him into a Jersey fighter.”

That is an obvious and pointed reference to Harrah’s executive Ken Condon’s quest to make WBC/WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, who is from Youngstown, Ohio, and promoted by Top Rank, into a reasonable facsimile of Gatti, a guarantor of Boardwalk Hall sellouts.

Adamek seems pleased to have established his primary residence in Jersey City. Whenever there is a Polish festival or some such social gathering in the area, he is only too glad to appear and sign autographs until he develops a case of writer’s cramp.

“To the Polish people, Tomasz is like a rock star,” Duva said. “But it’s not enough to just get out and about. You can’t fake sincerity. It has to be genuine.”

Which begs a question. If there are as many Polish partisans in North Jersey and New York as there appears to be, you’d have to figure Adamek could transfer his flag to Madison Square Garden without any appreciable loss of support. But what happens if he informs Duva he wants to fight amid the neon wonderland of Las Vegas? Cruise the Hollywood hills and mingle with the movie glitterati during a working trip to the Staples Center?

Regardless of the big bucks shelled out for the Prudential Center’s naming rights, there is no insurance policy that can indefinitely protect against a resident homeowner’s desire to see what’s on the other side of the hill. Even the now-retired Gatti has moved back to Montreal.

But it does seem to be easier to bring Poland to the United States than the other way around. Maybe that’s the key for unraveling this Gordian’s knot.

“One of my proudest moments was when one U.S. writer referred to Lennox Lewis as an `African-American,’” Duva said. “I just had to laugh. But you do have to Americanize your foreign-born fighters to some degree – even a guy like Lennox, with his clipped British accent.

“There are ways to take a foreign fighter and make him feel at home. Because America is such a melting pot, people here are very receptive to immigrants. But they have to assimilate into the community. We at Main Events have always worked very hard to make that happen.”

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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