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Articles of 2009

Dunne Loses In First Title Defense

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DUBLIN, Ireland — Six months after it had begun, the short, happy reign of Bernard Dunne ended on Saturday night, though the former WBA junior featherweight champion won't remember much about the passing of the torch.

Knocked down for the third time in the round, Dunne lay collapsed and on the brink of unconsciousness in the middle of the ring, where ringside physicians were joined by stretcher-and-oxygen bearing EMT. The sellout crowd which had provided the backdrop of a deafening, nonstop roar for not quite nine minutes of fighting had now grown eerily silent in its concern. Poonsawat Kraetingdaenggym, the author of the damage that had put the Irishman in this condition, was not celebrating his newly won championship. Rather, he was on his hands and knees, crawling through the huddle of doctors to check on Dunne's condition.

It didn't take Dunne long to recover from the damage. Waving off the stretcher, the oxygen, and the offer of a free lift to the hospital in the back of an ambulance, he got to his feet and, after spending several minutes on a corner stool, asked to borrow ring announcer Mike Goodall's microphone, and delivered a heartfelt apology to his loyal fans.

A couple of things should be pointed out here. Not one of the 15,000 Dunne fans at the O2 Arena had left at this point. And, their allegiance notwithstanding, once they had assured themselves of his safety, the Irish audience stood and applauded the new champion. Name me another country in the world where such a scene might have unfolded.

Everyone, including Dunne, knew that Poonsawat loomed a dangerous opponent coming in; but for his mandatory status, he's probably the last 122-pounder in the world Dunne and promoter Brian Peters would have chosen for a first defense, and he proved to be every bit as good as advertised.

The Thai's only loss had come in his only previous fight outside his homeland, to Ukrainian Wldimir Sidorenko, in Hamburg three years ago. There had been speculation that Poonsawat might be intimidated by the boisterous pro-Dunne atmosphere, but if anyone was adversely affected by the crowd, it was probably Dunne, who once again got too brave for his own good.

Dunne had expected Poonsawat to be the early aggressor. What he had not anticipated was a relentless, two fisted fighting machine who never stopped throwing punches and never stopped moving forward. In the face of the naked aggression, Dunne fought almost entirely in retreat.  Although he occasionally stood his ground long enough to mete out some punishment of his own, in three rounds of boxing Dunne never once took a forward step, nor did Poonsawat take a backward one.

Which is not to say that this one immediately evinced the trappings of a rout. After two rounds The Sweet Science had the fight dead even, and at least one of the judges had scored each of the first two for Dunne.

Poonsawat is 29, but given his boyish looks he'd be ID'd in almost any saloon in America. His fighting style is quite atypical for a Thai boxer, and in electing to lead the dance from the outset, he not only dictated the pace of the bout, but the quarters at which it would be waged. Dunne has in the past evinced a proclivity for cutting, but several clashes of heads left him unmarked. (Somewhat to his own surprise; a couple of times following these collisions he paused and wiped his glove against his brow to check for blood.)

Which is not to say there was not blood. By the third round Dunne was bleeding from his right ear, courtesy one Poonsawat punch, and he would shortly be bleeding from a nasty gash along his left eyebrow from another, but even then he was firing back. A few seconds before the roof caved in, in fact, Dunne had stopped running long enough to land his best punch of the night. (If he misses it, maybe they're still fighting.) This emboldened him just enough to be right there when Poonsawat landed a series of hard left hooks, the last of which sent him crashing to the floor.

Dunne arose and took an eight-count from the French referee, Jean-Louis Legland, but there was a minute and a half yet to go in a bout in which the three-knockdown rule was in effect, and Dunne was so disoriented that he tried to fight his way out of trouble — on legs that might not have supported him even if there hadn't been another guy throwing punches at him.

Officially there were two more knockdowns before Legland stopped the fight at 2:57 of the third, but the truth of the matter is Dunne was so far gone he might have gone down on both occasions even if he hadn't been hit.

It was a while before Poonsawat, who had delayed the opening bell for a few seconds because he was still praying in his corner, could bring himself to celebrate, but he will be taking Dunne's belt back to Bangkok and will have plenty of time to reflect on his good fortune.

Bernard Dunne will be doing some reflecting of his own. This result, coupled with the devastating nature of his first-round KO loss to Kiko Martinez in a European title fight three years ago, would lead some to counsel retirement, but as he tearfully addressed the audience afterward, Dunne didn't sound like a guy who was ready to pack it in yet.

“It'll take a long time to get over this,” he said. “But I will get over it.”

With his come-from behind stoppage of Ricardo Cordova last March Dunne had become the first Irishman to win a world title in Dublin in almost ninety years. Now he had become the first Irish champion in history to lose one in his first defense.

Tyson Fury, Mick Hennessy's lumbering, 6'7″ giant who won the British heavyweight title from John McDermott last month under somewhat controversial circumstances, fought for the first time in Ireland, in the co-feature of Peters' card at the O2, and paid homage to the land of his ancestors by trotting himself and his cornermen out in bright green. He was ushered into the ring for his six-rounder against Czech Tomas Mrazek with a live rendition of “The Rocky Road to Dublin” by the High Kings.

Almost as ungainly as he is large, Fury belted the smaller man all night long, but didn't knock Mrazek down until the last half minute of the fight which he won easily, more by virtue of his overwhelming size advantage than anything else.

Now 9-0, Fury is descended from Irish traveler stock, and claims a distant kinship with Limerick's Andy Lee. This would presumably make him related as well to Irleland's Prince of Pipers, Finbar Furey, and his son Martin. (Of the High Kings, who in addition to providing the big man's entrance music, performed the Irish national anthem prior to the main event.)

“His side of the family never could spell,” said Finbar Furey of Tyson Fury.

Mrazek who won high praise for not only lasting the duration, but for fighting back to the end, is now 4-23-5

Although they were of the same age and weight, Mayo's Michael Sweeney and Limerick's Jamie Power went through their entire amateur careers without ever meeting in the ring, and came to the O2 undefeated as professionals. The highly anticipated scrap got off to a rousing start when Sweeney decked Power with a big right hand in the first round.

Sweeney, who is trained by former world title challenger Sean Mannion, was pressing in the third, and appeared to have floored Power again, but referee Mickey Vann ruled that he had pushed Power down and then hit him on the top of the head, and after warning Sweeney, disallowed the knockdown. Before the round was out, Sweeney made it academic, hurting Power with a left hook and then driving him to the canvas with two right hands punctuated by a left.

Power made it to his feet, but was bleeding from a cut, probably the result of the initial hook. Vann led him back to his corner, where the ringside physician, Dr. Joe McKeever, ruled Power unfit to continue.

Sweeney remained unbeaten at 8-0-1 with the victory, while Power (whose first six wins had all come against Eastern European opposition) fell to 6-1.

Patrick Hyland, who won IBF “international” featherweight title back in July, improved to 18-0 with a sixth-round TKO of Manuel (Zorro) Sequera.

One of three fighting brothers, Hyland was originally to have faced Kenyan David Killu, who encountered passport difficulties and was replaced a few days before the fight by Manuel (Zorro) Sequera.

A 32 year-old Venezuelan, Sequera was 6-2 when he left his homeland. For the past half-dozen years he has lived in Barcelona and earned an honest living as a Professional Opponent. Including the latest setback he is 3-14-1 in Europe, which probably ought to qualify him for a Latvian passport.

Sequera put up a game showing for as long as he needed to before going down following a fusillade of body shots late in the fifth. When Hyland dropped him again at the beginning of the next round, referee Emile Teidt jumped in to say “That's enough.” This met with some displeasure from Zorro, who now won't be able to lose anywhere for the next thirty days.

Portmarnock's Oisin Fagan, who had dropped down to 130 when he lost to Hyland's brother Eddie in July, was a full-fledged welterweight for his scheduled six-round prelim against Latvian Juris Ivanovis. Always exciting, Fagan inadvertently made it more so in this one, and two minutes into the bout had taken so much unanswered punishment that he was the recipient of a standing 8-count from Vann.

Having dug himself into an early hole, Fagan quickly dug his way out, mounting a furious body attack that put Ivanovis on the floor a few seconds before the round ended. Having turned the first from an 8-10 deficit to 10-9 in his favor, he belted the Latvian all over the ring for the minute more it lasted. A right hand put Ivanovis on his backside in a neutral corner, dazed and bleeding from about the mouth. He struggled up — barely — by the count of nine, by which time Vann had stopped it anyway. Fagan is now 24-7, Ivanovis 5-20.

Irish welterweight champion Stephen Haughian had his hands full with his Estonian foe Albert Starikov, but managed to pull out a draw in their 6-round prelim when referee David Irving, the lone scorer, returned a 57-57 verdict. Starkov (13-10-1) scored the bout's only knockdown when he put Haughian on the deck in the fourth.  Haughian is now 18-1-1, with his only loss a since-avenged split decision to Italian Giammario Grassellini on the Duddy-Eastman card in Belfast two years ago.

Dublin's Anthony Fitzgerald outpointed Lithuanian Tadas Jonkus in their 4-round super middleweight prelim, with Irving scoring it 39-37 for the Irishman.  Fitzgerald is now 4-2,  Jonkus 4-4.

*   *   *

02 Arena

Dublin, Ireland

September 26, 2009

JUNIOR FEATHERWEIGHTS: Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, 122, Sakon Nakhon, Thailand TKO'd Bernard Dunne, 121 1/2, Nielstown, Ireland (3)  (WBA title)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Tyson Fury, 261 1/2, Wilmslow, England dec.  Tomas Mrazek, 222 1/2, Prague, Czech Republic (6)

CRUISERWEIGHTS: Michael Sweeney, 178, Ballinrobe, Ireland TKO'd Jamie Power, 177 1/2, Limerick, Ireland  (3)

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Anthony Fitzgerald, 164 1/2, Dublin dec.  Tadas Jonkus, 166 1/4, Klaipeda, Lithuania (4)

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Stephen Haughian, 149 1/4, Craigavon, Northern Ireland drew wit Albert Starikov, 151, Talinn, Estonia (6)

WELTERWEIGHTS: Oisin Fagan, 144, Dublin KO'd Juris Ivanovis, 144, Tukums, Latvia (2)

JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS: Patrick Hyland, 127, Dublin TKO'd Manuel Sequera, 130, Valencia, Venezuela (6)

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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