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Articles of 2009

The Wise Man Weighs In: Dundee Talks Boxing

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Like any good fighter, Angelo Dundee takes the bounces as they come. It is no secret that the boxing wizard knows the game better than most. Dundee does not claim to know what boxing needs to become a mainstream sport in the United States once again, but his words are carefully calculated and considered.

'Boxing is in of need this' or 'boxing is need of that' is not the prescription Dundee thinks that fight fans need to worry about. “We need to stay away from the hypothetical questions,” Dundee said. “It is impossible to compare a fighter to another fighter. And how a fighter from the past would match up with a current champion is impossible to tell because you never meet the same guy twice.”

Taking Breaks and Taking Chances

How hard a trainer pushes his fighters is essential to any training camp, he says. When Foreman postponed the Rumble in the Jungle due to injury, Dundee kept Muhammad Ali in Zaire, but it was the fighter’s decision whether or not to keep training, not the maestro's.

Nacho Beristain, the trainer of Juan Manuel Marquez, was left with a difficult decision last month after Floyd Mayweather postponed the anticipated fight against Marquez because of an apparent rib injury. The bout was supposed to take place on July 18th, but was pushed back for two months to September 19th.

The Marquez camp had to either continue training for an additional two months–which could hurt a fighter’s peak level, a common theory that a boxer reaches a pinnacle in training that they do not want to get over–or they could have taken a break from training, and returned to camp a few weeks later.

Marquez’s people chose the latter and Dundee agrees with the strategy.

“A professional guy could handle any situation. The trainer that is working with him is not chopped liver, they know what they are doing,” Dundee said.

He compared Floyd Mayweather’s 21 month layoff to Sugar Ray Leonard’s much ballyhooed fight with Marvin Hagler in 1987, when Leonard was in supreme condition despite a three year break.

“Hey,  how did Ray Leonard layoff for so long and come back and beat Hagler? You could go half nuts trying to figure out these things,” Dundee said. “The reason there was that Ray Leonard was an athlete. He was always doing something. Baseball, basketball, tennis, whatever, but he was always was in great physical shape all he had to do was get into fistic shape. It is in the individual.

“The best story I have is about the first time I worked with Ray Leonard. ‘I said what will you have for dinner Ray?’ He said ‘A cheeseburger.” I said ‘Please eat a cheeseburger.’

“It is much to do about nothing, what works, you use. When you are a young kid, you can eat anything. But when you get older you have to switch the system. It is like having an older car; it still runs fine after a few years if you know how to handle it differently. When you have an older fighter, you have to tweak the system.”

Tune Up Fights

After a long layoff or sometimes before a big fight, boxers elect to have a tune up fight to shake off the cobwebs. The opponent chosen for that encounter is typically under qualified and has little chance for victory. Sometimes the bouts show how impressive a champion can be. However, the no name opponents sometimes turn a supposed walk in the park into a disaster. Evander Holyfield vs. Bert Cooper, Eric Morales vs. Zahir Raheem, and Zab Judah vs. Carlos Baldomir, are just a few examples. Dundee does not like the idea of a tune up. He says a fighter should minimize the risks and just go for the big honchos.

“What do you need a tune up for? You are a professional,” Dundee said. “You do your tune ups in the gym. That is what training is for, to get ready in the gym. I do not think that you gain anything from a tune up expect the activity that is all. Training gets your body used to being in the gym and in a fighting situation. It is a grind. The first guy that overcame that for me was Muhammad because he had fun in the gym. George Foreman was the same way.”

He went further to make it clear that the work done before fight night is the greatest form of preparation. “There is nothing that you could take that will supplement good training and conditioning. If you are not in shape, nothing works. There is nothing that you could drink or swallow that could supplement conditioning.”

What about heart?

“Every fighter has heart. Heart is unquestionably a misused word. You would not be a fighter if you did not have a ticker. I have never questioned a kid’s courage. They got to have it or they would not be one on one.”

Pacquiao vs. Cotto

Although Dundee has worked with some of the greatest fighters in boxing history, he will be the first to tell you that he does not own physic powers. Before Pacquiao’s last two fights against De la Hoya and Hatton, Dundee picked the Filipino to fall victim to defeat. With all things considered, the De la Hoya choice was a well calculated gamble. But Dundee caused an unexpected ruckus with his choice of Ricky Hatton over Manny Pacquiao.

Dundee read the bombardment of comments from TSS fans that hated on his Hatton choice and took it in stride.

http://www.tss.ib.tv/boxing-article/6735/angelo-dundee-talks-hbo-thrilla-doc-margacheato-pacquaio/

“You take the good and bad,” Dundee said “I enjoyed reading all of that because I respect everyone’s opinions. It was great to hear what they said. I have no problem with it. It is boxing.”

He is still debating the winner of Pacquiao vs. Cotto on November 14th. But the Hall of Fame trainer could not resist making a prediction that few would disagree with. “This is going to be tremendous. It is a match made in heaven.” Dundee said. “I am looking forward to Pacquiao/Cotto. This fight will catch your imagination because Cotto keeps coming, and this other kid Pacquiao, is so good, so slick. I think Pacquiao is the best fighter right now and this is a great fight.”

I asked the boxing legend to break down the fight, to tell us how he sees the fighters matching up? “To me, it is probably Pacquiao’s toughest fight.” Why? “Styles, Cotto never stops coming. We will see a great fight. I will probably end up going to that fight because I want to see it.

“Listen, Freddie Roach is doing a hell of a job. Every time I see Freddie, he reminds me of Eddie Futch.”

Talking Shane Mosley

Sadly, Sugar Shane is not getting the marquee fight that he deserves. If he cannot get in the ring with Pacquiao or Mayweather after destroying Margarito, then who is he going to fight? As much as I enjoy watching Andre Berto and Paul Williams throw it down, it would be a step backwards for Mosley to take on either guy and he, and the rest of the Golden Boy camp, are aware of this.

Roger Mayweather has gone on record to say his nephew Floyd’s toughest fight is the one with Shane Mosley because Mosley knows his craft better than most. He also said that Mosley will beat Pacquiao and I agree with him. Then Roger Mayweather said that a Mosley vs. Mayweather fight will not happen until Money Mayweather gets by Marquez in September and Pacquiao in May.

So when is the Mosley and Mayweather fight supposed to happen, according to Roger? When Mosley is 40 years old? Dundee and I discussed Shane Mosley’s dilemma. He thinks that Mosley will get his just due with a little patience.

“Shane Mosley will have no problems because he always makes great fights. They say all these guys are avoiding Mosley. But they will fight him. If they want to get better they will fight Shane Mosley.”

He thinks Roger Mayweather’s timeline will hold true. “Mayweather will go with the Marquez fight and then fight the winner of Pacquiao and Cotto. After that it is Shane left standing. This is all good for boxing. Let me tell you, fighters make fights. As long as the boxing fans know who the principles are, they are going to get excited. It is what we need.

“You always hear me say it Ray, it is what it is on the stool. If you have a good night then you are a winner. But if you don’t then hey, it is that simple. You got to keep bouncing.”

Does Losing A Fight Sometimes Help A Young Boxer?

Last month Vicious Victor Ortiz headlined his first marquee event in front of a hometown crowd at Staples Center in Los Angeles. He was knocked out in the sixth round of an exciting high action fight. Afterwards Ortiz seemed shaken emotionally and questioned his own desire to continue pursuing a boxing dream. Dundee thinks that a tough loss helps the young fighters that have the ambition to continue boxing and learn from their mistakes.

“Sure, it comes with maturity. All the gym work in the world is not going to supplement fights. That is where you find out what you got. How to handle a crowd, how to handle himself outside the ring, there is a lot of things that go into play when you handle a fighter.”

Dundee feels that Victor Ortiz is a special talent and this defeat is merely a stepping stone for his career, not a backwards plunge.

“How old is he again, 22? He is a kid. Give me half a dozen Victor Ortiz’ ok? Any fighter can have a horrible night. Some nights you cannot seem to do anything, you cannot help it. A lot has to do with the guy that you are fighting. Maybe he just has what it takes to beat you. I told you, the toughest profession in the world is a fighter. There ain’t nothing that you could do about it. You just have to bounce back from it. The guys that bounce back from it are great fighters.”

George Foreman vs. Evander Holyfield April 1991

Last week ESPN2 replayed one of the greatest heavyweight clashes that took place over the last twenty years. Holyfield vs. Foreman was not only an intriguing fight because of the combatants’ age differential, but also because of the intense exchanges between the two warriors in the ring. The 28 year old Holyfield was defending his heavyweight title for the first time since beating Buster Douglas, who beat you know who in Tokyo, Japan.

Many fight fans did not expect much out of Foreman on that night who at 42 years old was a sentimental favorite at best. But Angelo Dundee, Foreman’s corner man at the time, saw a glimmer in Foreman who outweighed Evander by 49 pounds on fight night.

“I do not know how Holyfield took those shots,” Dundee said. “Holyfield has amazed me his whole career. That guy is remarkable. ”

According to Dundee, Foreman was a much different fighter mentally during his comeback than he was in the 1970s when he would rely on brute force to destroy the opposition.

“You see Foreman when he came back was a better fighter. He was steadier. He used to grind you out and his condition was great. And he did it on his own. He got himself in the best physical condition that he could. When Foreman came back he had the technique. He knew how to work his body. He is a remarkable man because he knew exactly how to work. I had a great time working with him.”

We agreed that Holyfield vs. Foreman was probably one of the last great heavyweight fights.

“Yes it was, back and forth,” Dundee said. “But Riddick Bowe and Holyfield were some great fights too. Bowe was a hell of a fighter.”

I argued by saying that Bowe was only great in his time.

Dundee corrected me: “They are all great in their time.”

What Is Happening Now?

Dundee was at the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY when he heard the news about Alexis Arguello'd unfortunate passing. Dundee had a strong friendship with the three-time lightweight champion and said that he was deeply saddened by the loss. Another close friend of his and his former fighter, Yama Bahama, passed away last month as well. Dundee used to train Bahama, whose real name was William Butler, in the 1960’s and they were close friends throughout the years.

The good news is that Dundee is currently a lead member of a team that is working on a project to implement full health insurance coverage for fighters in the sport of boxing. A group called the Brotherhood of Boxing and boohooboxing.com is working with the Teamsters Union to present fighters an option to become a member of their group and get medical coverage. A membership drive is currently being held from July 15th to August 31st.

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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