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Articles of 2009

Will Dan Goossen Finally Lay That Golden Egg?

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Trying to analyze the up-and-down career of promoter Dan Goossen presents a challenge to those whose only recourse is to draw analogies … lots and lots of analogies.

To some, Goossen is like the hyperventilating Wall Street speculator dealing in sow-belly and frozen orange juice futures. He has made and lost fortunes, but, regardless of whether he is flush or busted at any given moment, you know he’ll be back on the floor of boxing’s stock exchange again, trading like crazy in the hope of making that really big score.

To others, Goossen is like the common cockroach, which survived the Ice Age while mighty dinosaurs perished from the earth. Not the most appealing of images, but then maybe there is a nobility in any creature’s refusal to be eradicated.

Not surprisingly, Goossen rejects the cockroach analogy. Then again, he doesn’t exactly equate himself with a dinosaur, reserving that designation for septuagenarian competitors Don King and Bob Arum.

“I’d prefer a parallel to the Buffalo Bills,” said Goossen, 59, referring to the 1990s AFC powerhouse that advanced to four consecutive Super Bowls at the conclusions of the 1990 through ’93 seasons, only to come up short each time in the NFL’s ultimate game. “They were always there, always close to the top, but never won the big one.”

During the America Presents stage of his meandering journey down boxing’s side roads and grand boulevards, Goossen often was depicted as the New York Yankees, spending millions on free agents and hotshot rookies as if he were a replication of deep-pocketed George Steinbrenner. But not only did America Presents miss wide right, as kicker Scott Norwood did in the closing seconds of a 20-19 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV, Goossen’s dreams of empire fell apart like a house of cards when it was discovered that he and partner Mat Tinley actually were a small-market franchise, overextending themselves on money from Tinley’s billionaire, cable-magnate uncle, Bill Daniels, the executors of whose estate turned off the cash spigot when Daniels passed away, after a long illness, on March 7, 2000, at the age of 79.

The Denver-based Daniels was a generous philanthropist, contributing to any number of charities in addition to indulging nephew Mat’s boxing jones, but he made no provisions in his will for his largess toward Tinley to extend beyond his own life span. When the bills began blowing in like a November blizzard over the Rocky Mountains, Goossen voluntarily bailed or was forced out later in 2000, depending on whose version of the story you choose to believe. Whatever the circumstances, America Presents ceased operations the following year when Tinley no longer could pay the freight and his stable of quality but disgruntled fighters began to drift away like the lyrics from that Dobie Gray song.

Tinley hasn’t been heard from since, but Goossen is still around, still making waves as president of Goossen Tutor Promotions. He is like the proverbial cat – See? Another analogy! – that, when tossed high in the air, somehow manages to land on its feet, or paws as the case might be.

If everything falls just right, as it almost did for his initial start-up operation, Ten Goose Boxing, and then for America Presents, the big Irish-American lug with the hearty laugh and gregarious nature could scoot up the charts as rapidly as did the latest Beatles song in the magical spring of 1964. It’d be like Scott Norwood nailing that field goal and being carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders while peering into the camera and proclaiming, “I’m going to Disney World!”

Consider the possibilities:

—Chubby, bomb-throwing Chris Arreola (27-0, 24 KOs), a Goossen Tutor fighter, has at least a puncher’s chance to dethrone WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko (37-2, 36 KOs) in their Sept. 26 title bout at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

—Undersized but fast-handed Eddie Chambers (35-1, 18 KOs), who is co-promoted by Goossen Tutor (along with Rob Murray Jr.) and is coming off an impressive majority decision over previously undefeated Russian Alexander Dimitrenko in Berlin, just might be quick and elusive enough to shock IBF/WBO heavyweight titlist Wladimir Klitschko (53-3, 47) in a fight whose date and time has yet to be determined, although signs point to a Dec. 12 meeting in Germany.

Should Arreola and Chambers hit their respective lotteries, as Buster Douglas did against Mike Tyson in 1990 – and let’s not forget that all five of the defeats incurred by the Klitschko brothers came on stoppages – Goossen immediately becomes the heavyweight division’s premier power broker. He could have his new champions chart separate courses or pit them for the mostly undisputed title, although some allowances would have to be made for the WBA belt held by 7-foot Russian oaf Nikolai Valuev.

Oh, and don’t forget 41-year-old James Toney (71-6-3, 43 KOs), a world champion as a middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight, and Manuel Quezada (28-4, 18 KOs), who is rated No. 4 by the WBC. They’re heavyweights in the mix who both scrap under the Goossen Tutor promotional banner and could be factors at some point.

Goossen also holds paper on such quality fighters as middleweight Paul “The Punisher” Williams (37-1, 27 KOs) and super middleweight Andre Ward (19-0, 12 KOs), each of whom could gain admittance to the exclusive superstars club.

“We’re always knocking at the door,” Goossen said. “We’ve always been there, going back to the early days. We’ve been steady and consistent in building talent. I’m very proud of what we’ve done as a team throughout the years.”

So what happens if the dominoes begin to tumble and Goossen finds finally finds himself The Man?

“(The possibility of such success) won’t change me, but in the future please call me Mr. Goossen,” he said, laughingly, of the way the jigsaw puzzle is being fitted together. “Quite frankly, I haven’t thought too much about what might happen, but with victories – which I believe Chris and Eddie both can achieve – we would be in a very advantageous position. But I’ve been around too long to anticipate anything.”

Goossen has been on the cusp before. Ten Goose, the Sherman Oaks, Calif., mom-and-pop operation – actually more of a sibling act, as Goossen has seven brothers and two sisters who all pitched in to varying degrees – began modestly in the early 1980s in Sherman Oaks, Calif., with a backyard ring and several promising young prospects on which the fledgling company could build.

Foremost among them was Michael Nunn, a supremely gifted middleweight from Davenport, Iowa, who the Goossens saw as their express lane right to the big time. And Nunn, who did win the IBF middleweight title by beating Frank Tate in 1988 and held it through five defenses, might have completed the trip all the way up the mountain had he not began listening to other voices. The Goossens had Terry Norris for a while, too, and heavyweight knockout artist David Tua. But the breakthrough to boxing’s inner sanctum never quite happened.

“We thought we had our superstar when we signed Nunn in ’84,” Goossen recalled. “He beat Frank Tate (for the IBF 160-pound crown) in ’88 and we began to think we had the future of boxing, which Nunn probably should have been, but his career went south when he began hanging out with the wrong people, people who gave him bad advice and drove a wedge between him and us.

“The list goes on and on. We could have hit the jackpot with Tua vs. Lennox Lewis, but didn’t. With Terry Norris when we had him. We had a lot of really good fighters, like the Ruelas brothers (Gabriel and Rafael, both of whom went on to win world titles).  But we never quite got all the way there.”

After Ten Goose’s goslings flew off in different directions, Dan caught on with Arum’s Top Rank operation, where he remained until he resigned in 1996 to become president of America Presents, whose founder and CEO, Tinley, figured he could spend his way to instant success with Uncle Bill footing much of the bill.

The piece d’resistance was when America Presents signed the United States’ only gold medalist at the Atlanta Olympics, Philadelphia’s David Reid, to a five-year contract that included a $1.5 million signing bonus. It was reported that, if Reid met all the provisions in his contract, he would earn as much as $14.4 million over the life of the deal, and potentially much more than that.

“He’s the best amateur to come out of the American Olympic program since Sugar Ray Leonard,” Tinley said at the time of the signing. “He’s good speed, talent and power.”

But Arum, whose five-year, $7 million offer to Reid didn’t come close to America Present’s package, questioned whether his new competitors were being financially prudent.

“The figures I’m hearing are insane,” Arum harrumphed when he lost out on Reid. “(America Presents) is going way, way out on a limb with this contract. It’s like these people don’t know the business.”

Reid fared reasonably well in the short term. He received an impressive $200,000 for his pro debut, a four-rounder against Sam Calderon that was televised by HBO on the undercard of the first pairing of Roy Jones Jr. and Montell Griffin and, after winning his first seven bouts, three of which were on HBO, Reid signed a multifight deal with the premium-cable giant on Feb. 4, 1998, that might have made him a multimillionaire had he fulfilled the promise Goossen and Tinley believed he had.

But a recurring ailment, a drooping left eyelid, stamped Reid as a medical risk, which might have prompted his handlers to move him more quickly than was advisable. Although Reid won the WBA super welterweight championship by outpointing Laurent Boudouani on March 6, 1999, and successfully defended the title twice, he was hammered unmercifully in his March 3, 2000, defense against Felix Trinidad, going to the canvas four times although he somehow managed to last all 12 rounds.

Reid won his next three bouts, albeit against third-tier opponents, before prematurely flaming out, as had Nunn, on a ninth-round TKO to journeyman Sam Hill on Nov. 11, 2001, in that noted boxing hotbed of Elizabeth, Ind.

“David Reid just woke up one day and was finished,” said former WBA lightweight champion Sean O’Grady, then a boxing analyst for Fox Sports Net.

And so, too, for all practical purposes, was America Presents. The company had expanded too fast, signing as many high-upside prospects and big names as it could, as if they were trading cards to be hoarded. Just when it was thought that there were no more headline-grabbing splashes for Goossen and Tinley to make, they signed Mike Tyson, who was coming off four months in jail for assaulting two middle-aged motorists in a chain-reaction fender-bender, to a megabucks contract.

“He’s still the most exciting fighter in the world today,” Goossen reasoned. “He’s still the most dangerous fighter in the world today. If you were to build a heavyweight from scratch, you’d build Mike Tyson.”

In 1985, maybe. But not in September 1999. This Tyson took large advances against future purses and, not surprisingly, declined to pay them back. America Presents’ investment in the rusted, disinterested Iron Mike was akin to throwing mounds of money into a bottomless pit.

It also didn’t help the situation that Goossen, falsely presuming that the gravy train of his new gig would keep on chugging, developed a fondness for five-star hotels, fine cuisine and chartered jets. At the time of his departure from the America Presents, most of the company’s fighters and employees had received checks that didn’t clear, or were promised and never delivered.

But while old fighters, like old soldiers, might fade away, promoters always seem to survive to fight another day. The America Presents debacle had scarcely been laid to rest when another money man, construction magnate Ronald Tutor, stepped forward with the capital for Goossen to launch another project.

“I grew up with Dan and the Goossens,” Tutor said. “We’ve very close friends.”

And, indeed, this time around the mistakes of the past seem to have been eliminated. Goossen is going back to his roots as it were, forsaking the flashy, high-risk moves for the steadier, incremental progress of a day laborer building something to last.

“We went after too many, too soon, too fast,” Goossen said of his America Presents misadventure. “I’ve always been one to build from the ground up and not try to buy your way to the top. I think it’s the wrong formula for success. That’s the way the New York Yankees do it. They always have the highest payroll in baseball by far, but how long as it been since they’ve won the World Series?

“I tried to tell Mat that maybe we ought to, you know, slow down, but when things took off we just sort of let it snowball. Maybe it shouldn’t have happened the way that it did, but what’s done is done.”

Ironically, Toney is the Goossen reclamation project that represents a link not only to the past, but maybe to the future.

Nunn had only recently left Ten Goose when he took on the mostly unknown Toney on May 10, 1991, in Davenport. Goossen was on hand, in a minor-league baseball stadium, for what figured to be another perfunctory victory by Nunn over another 20-1 underdog.

The script was followed for a while, Nunn winning handily on points, until Toney lived up to his “Lights Out” nickname by chilling the champion with a perfectly timed left hook in the 11th round.

“I’d be lying if I thought James, at that point, would go on to become a legendary fighter and a first-ballot lock for the (International Boxing) Hall of Fame,” Goossen said. “I did know he was a good, young fighter because back then Nunn was a tough man to beat. But James proved he had staying power, didn’t he? He just refused to go away.”

Like the common cockroach and, it now appears, Dan Goossen.

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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