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Articles of 2009

Me and Mr. Jones



“….we got a thing goin’ on…”

The first time I laid eyes on Roy Jones Jr. was on NBC’s Sportsworld. It was a Sunday afternoon twenty years ago and Jones was fighting the “Stormin’ Mormon” Ron Amundsen, a club fighter with a respectable record of 16-1-1. By the second round, my curiosity about Jones had turned to amazement. By the fourth, amazement became infatuation. I was in love with his fighting style. Amundsen tried as valiantly as the next thirty-one men Jones would face, and like those thirty-one men, he never had a chance.

The wave of public support Jones surfed after the 1988 Olympics crested early. After several professional bouts, Roy Jones was being called “the best kept secret in boxing.” His exposure to eager fans was dimming in step with the refusal of his father –also his manager, promoter, and trainer to allow his son to face a fighter who wasn’t a has-been, a never-was, or a not-as-advertised. In the summer of 1990 Jones made quick work of a “Derwin Richards” whose record of 18-1 turned out to be as fraudulent as his name. The opponent was actually Tony Waddles. His actual record was 0-2. Many began to look askew at a talent that was evidently being wasted. The executives at NBC took note and terminated his contract early. Roy Jones Sr. proved immune to the criticism. After all, Jones was barely 21 years old in 1990 and the objective was to groom him for greatness, not throw him to the lions. Big Roy pointed to Andrew Maynard –a gold medalist from the 1988 Olympics who turned professional, was managed by Sugar Ray Leonard, and was as hot as Jones. But Maynard was rushed. A few weeks before Jones fought the fraud, Andrew Maynard got knocked out by Bobby Czyz. His career never recovered.

The Percy Harris bout was Jones’ first appearance on HBO –and his second without his father as manager. In fifteen seconds Jones landed an overhand right that sent Harris, a ranked contender, down in sections. Harris spent four rounds about as upright as a man atop a raft on a stormy sea. It was over before the fifth. Charley Burley, perhaps the greatest of history’s uncrowned champions had died only weeks before at the age of 75… or had he? Jones’ blazing, feinting, springing, blasting unorthodoxy was so eerily similar to Burley’s style I thought voodoo was afoot.

Six months later Jones stepped into the ring against Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins.

Hopkins was a twenty-eight year old middleweight and already a full-blown technician. He was far more aggressive then than now, though he was shy about engaging Jones, perhaps realizing that Jones’ had a penchant for pole axing rambunctious opponents. Hopkins made the mistake of standing off and boxing Jones instead of neutralizing his speed with aggression. He may as well have been trying to catch a hornet with chopsticks. He lost 116-112 on all three official cards. Hopkins would not lose again for a dozen years but this loss had much to do with his obscurity for the next decade. He toiled and boiled in the shadow of his conqueror. The experience wasn’t without benefits because Hopkins realized that being a technician without a strategy was akin to an engineer without a blueprint. That knowledge, conspicuously absent in his most important fight, is still serving him well in middle age. Jones stayed busy, made a trinket defense against Thomas Tate and then stepped up for the most serious challenge of his career.

James “Lights Out” Toney (44-0-2) was boxing’s angriest super middleweight, a thug with a hair-trigger temper and an eating disorder that would eventually see him swell-up to Pillsbury proportions as a heavyweight. A complicated study, he also had a master’s degree in the Sweet Science, with a slipping and sliding style sophisticated enough to check even the veteran Mike McCallum. Launched into stardom by a left hook that put stars in the eyes of Michael Nunn and took the stars out of the eyes of Nunn’s Hollywood backers, Toney was coming off a career-best performance against former light heavyweight champion Prince Charles Williams. This high-risk challenge was a tune-up for Toney. It didn’t matter. Jones had an easy night. By moving away from Toney’s right, leading with left hooks instead of jabs, and destroying his timing, Jones made Toney look like Charlie Brown. The gulf on the scorecards was wider than it was in the Hopkins fight.

With this win, Roy Jones Jr. was crowned king of boxing and I won a gentleman’s bet.

“…we both know that it’s wrong…”

King Roy became known as “Reluctant Roy” in the mid 1990s. It wasn’t undeserved. In 1992, Roy was in a rush to make up for lost time. In 1995 he changed his mind. According to a source whose reliability is a mystery, Jones demanded $3 million to fight Michael Nunn, who would earn a paltry $125,000. Avoiding real challenges became even less disguised.

Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins, and Frankie Liles were all active super middleweights circa 1994-1996. Like Jones, they had titles. Benn was a titlist from 1992 until March 1996, Steve Collins took Chris Eubanks’ title in March 1995 and held it until he retired in 1997; Frankie Liles had his title from August 1994 until 1999. The Ring rated them and Jones in the top five during that two year window. Jones was at his peak at 168, had a belt, and yet never sought to unify the title. He was the superstar, he called the shots, but he didn't fight them. Not one of them. Armed with an HBO contract that guaranteed millions regardless of whom he fought, Jones fought an assortment of secondary contenders and municipal workers.

Collins and Liles were both trained by Freddie Roach. Roach tried to set up fights with Jones but his calls were not returned. After Collins turned thirty-years old, he became twice the fighter he was, grew a goatee and dubbed himself the “Celtic Warrior.” Dangerous enough to defeat Eubank and Benn twice by the end of 1996, he had a shillelagh with Jones’ name on it. When Jones cruised to a stoppage of a 39-year old moonlighting police officer, Collins defiantly climbed into the ring. As Larry Merchant was interviewing Jones, Collins said “I’m here, Roy.” Merchant ignored Collins but apologized to the HBO audience for the sorry fight. “I always thought Jones was chinny,” Collins told Boxing Monthly, “From the way he fought, Jones himself knew, if he got caught flush, he’d go, and shied away from certain scenarios in the ring.”

Some critics will tell you that Jones had already revealed a pattern of avoidance, that the early termination of his contract with NBC was merely the opening act to a career where maximum gain would be sought for minimum risk. They overlook the fact that Jones heard this criticism before, fired his father, and soon afterwards faced down two all-time greats in Hopkins and Toney. Yet the question remains, why didn’t Jones face the iron at super middleweight after 1994?

The answer is found in the aftermath of the Nigel Benn-Gerald McClellan war on February 25, 1995. This bout happened only four months after Jones-Toney and ended in tragedy. McClellan slipped into a coma and emerged from it blind, almost completely deaf, brain damaged, and in a wheelchair. Jones and McClellan were amateur rivals (McClellan holds a Golden Gloves victory over Jones) and Jones shared a bond with him that only ring rivals can understand. He will not visit McClellan until he retires, though he has donated generously to the McClellan trust fund. Jones was haunted by what happened for years. He became less willing to hurt anyone and less willing to get hurt himself. “I don’t need to [visit Gerald]. It would make me quit boxing,” he once said. Glory began to taste too much like blood so he began to distract himself with safer pursuits like rap music and basketball. “If I fought like I was looking for a place in history,” Jones said in an interview with Esquire in 2003, “it would ruin me as a person.”

His entry into the light heavyweight ranks was not the stuff of legend. His first challenger was Mike McCallum who was three weeks shy of his 40th birthday. His next bout was against Montell Griffin. Eddie Futch, the 10-1 underdog’s chief second, had done his homework –probably in the same yellowing notebook where he deconstructed the undefeated Ali on behalf of Joe Frazier and Ken Norton and the undefeated Evander Holyfield on behalf of Riddick Bowe. Like Stevie Collins, Futch saw clues to Jones’s psychology in his style that suggested an unusual fear of getting hit, so he instructed Griffin to feint and bull him. Jones was not comfortable, ended up losing by disqualification, and old Eddie Futch ruined another perfect record.

Boxing aficionados still talk about the body shot that caved in Virgil Hill’s ribs. What is less remembered is the fact that Jones refused to fight Hill as late as 1996. Hill lost his belts to the undefeated Dariusz Michalczewski in 1997 and suddenly Jones signed …to fight the loser. Michalczewski was the linear light heavyweight champion from the moment his hand was raised in victory over Hill, but instead of fighting him to assert dominance Jones was content to scavenge his vacated trinket belts.

Then the ghost of Bob Fitzsimmons, a middleweight champion who ascended to the heavyweight throne, blew a trumpet across a century and all doubt turned to dust. Roy Jones Jr. completely dominated John Ruiz despite being outweighed by thirty pounds. The heavyweight titlist charged Jones in the first round, and a shoot-out at the end of it saw Ruiz clinching Jones after the smaller man landed the bigger shots. He charged less in the next three rounds, and after a flush right made his knees knock, Ruiz, like Hopkins and Toney, fought Jones as if Jones was King Kong.

Antonio Tarver was no Fay Wray but he rained down shots like the air force. When Tarver became a number one-ranked contender in the light heavyweight division, Jones’ manager, Murad Muhammad wrote a letter questioning Tarver’s credentials to be number one. Read between the lines. Jones didn't want to face Tarver –and didn't for three years. There is a pattern here that raises an eyebrow. Jones allegedly priced himself way out of a Michael Nunn fight. He didn't fight fellow super middleweight titlist Frankie Liles although he held close wins over him in the amateurs. Then he tried to block Tarver, a fellow Floridian, from challenging him for the title in the light heavyweight division. Now ask yourself what these three had in common: All three were tall southpaws with skill.

The first bout with Tarver was competitive, and I saw no controversy in Jones’ winning. Tarver did. During the pre-fight instructions of the rematch, Tarver lobbed an unforgettable shot across the bow: “I got a question –you got any excuses tonight, Roy?” The lanky southpaw would leave room for none after a left hand rendered superman semi-conscious and the fight was stopped in the second round. Mortality beckoned closer in his next fight. Glen Johnson went straight at Jones with hooks and malevolence, never allowing the stylist to dictate the pace. In the ninth round, a horizontal Jones looked like he was dead.

By then, my infatuation with Roy Jones had long since ended. Nine years stood as a gulf between the great victories over James Toney and John Ruiz, and those weren’t nearly enough to justify the dim-bulb comparisons between Jones and Sugar Ray Robinson tossed around by myopic commentators. Ruiz, I believed at the time, was just a plumper cherry picked from a tree in the meadow of Jones’ casual career and once Jones was finally tested by two skilled and gritty fighters, he was ruthlessly exposed. Roy Jones a warrior? I perished the thought.

“…but it’s much too strong to let it go now…”

I was wrong. Roy Jones is a warrior. He began to prove it the moment he fought and survived Antonio Tarver in their third argument. Most civilians get bit by a dog once and get the jitters around a Pekinese –not Jones; he was knocked out twice and returned seeking to avenge one of them at thirty-six years old. That’s courage.

The embers of my dormant feelings glowed.

This champion’s comeback is more impressive when you look closer. Roy was never a technician despite the common error of many analysts who claim otherwise. Jones was however among the greatest pure athletes to ever grace the ring. He had timing, rhythm, flash, and demon speed backed up by shocking power. His leaping left hook needed no microphone to pick up the THWAP. But there’s a cost to such gifts: athletes like Jones typically have shorter primes than technicians; the latter of which are less dependent on the powers of youth. Amazingly, Jones hasn’t even made any substantive changes to his style. He’s a step or three slower but still showboating, still shooting from the hip, and yet had enough left to drop Joe Calzaghe in the first round. And just in case anyone is left who believes that he fears punchers, he thoroughly tamed Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy –with his hands down.

Next up is Danny “The Green Machine” Green, a cruiserweight.

Jones has an illuminating message for Green: “I’ve got something to prove.” Indeed. Old Jones is raging against the dying of the light. He is on redemption’s path, rebuking critics (like me) who accused him of avoiding dangerous fighters during his prime …and perhaps, just perhaps, performing private penance for doing exactly that. As the conclusion of his career draws near, I’ll be watching –an old fan, a new fan, a critic with baited breath.

We gotta be extra careful

that we don’t build our hopes up to high

because he’s got his own obligations

and so, and so, do I

…Me and Mr. Jones…

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva



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



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 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



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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