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Articles of 2009

Predictions Galore

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PACQUIAO VS. COTTO-WHO ARE YOU PICKING?

Athletes, Celebrities, Boxers and Writers Predict Who Will Win the November 14 Showdown

LAS VEGAS (November 9, 2009) – BIG George Foreman leads the list of boxers, professional athletes, celebrities and the esteemed press core who all have opinions about the outcome of FIREPOWER: MANNY PACQUIAO and MIGUEL COTTO. The championship bout takes place on Saturday November 14 at MGM Grand Garden Arena and will be produced and distributed live on HBO Pay-Per-View®, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

In just five days the pound-for-pound king Pacquiao and three-time world champion Cotto meet in the ring in one of the most talked about match-ups in recent boxing history. Some of the most well-known fighters, celebrities, athletes and writers are abuzz with talk of Saturday's evenly matched battle.

From Foreman to P. Diddy, Trump to Hopkins, below please find the predictions of these famous personalities as they answer the question “Pacquiao vs. Cotto-Who will win and why?”

THE BOXERS ARE PICKIN'…

“I think there would have been a good opportunity for Pacquiao to win if he faced Cotto before he fought Clottey, but now Cotto is thinking defense. I think Cotto is going to pull out a decision, and now because of the terrible beating he took against Margarito, he knows he can't get into a knockdown drag out brawl. He's going to be smarter, and I think Cotto wins in a 12 round decision.

“Pacquiao has been riding high and has beaten some of the best in the world. And it leaves you kind of complacent when you're winning. And even if you don't want it to, sometimes you can't get up for a big fight. And that's a plus for Cotto.

I think it's an excellent fight. But when you're riding high you think you're going to walk through your opponent. You get overconfident. People in your camp tell you you're going to win. And you have your spies in camp, telling you about the other guy. When I faced Ali, Frazier and Norton both had beaten Ali, and I had knocked them out pretty easily. So when I faced Ali, I had that confidence, and you think I surely can beat this guy. So I know the feeling, and I think that will happen to Pacquiao.”

– George Foreman, Former Two-Time Heavyweight World Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, and Entrepreneur.

“I pick Manny Pacquiao by knockout.  I think he will knock him out in 7 or 8.  Manny just has too much for Cotto.”

– Mike Tyson, Former Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World

“Pacquiao is going to chop Cotto up. Out of respect, Cotto will get some rounds, but Manny is the Bruce Lee of boxing. His basketball and martial arts background give him that speed and agility. You can't tell where his shots are coming from. Unlike Rocky, Bruce Lee was a real dude and so is Manny.

– Bernard Hopkins, Former Two-Division World Champion and Future Boxing Hall of Famer

“I think Manny Pacquiao is going to be too quick for Cotto.  I was ringside when Cotto fought Clottey.  He seemed to struggle a bit in that fight and it is hard to say what he will do against a faster, quicker Pacquiao.  I know people say Cotto is the bigger guy but I still think Pacquiao beats him in a decision.”

– Joe Calzaghe, Former Undefeated Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Champion

“Manny Pacquiao, he's the best, he's on top right now!”

– Chad Dawson, Current IBF Light Heavyweight Champion

“It's going to be an interesting fight, and I think Pacquiao better take it very seriously! I think Cotto will win because he's a little bit bigger and is a real welterweight. His power may be enough to overcome Pacquiao's speed. I think Cotto wins in a decision.”

– “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Current WBA Welterweight Champion

“If Cotto stays busy, he'll win a decision! I think that Cotto will win the fight, but I thinks it's gonna be a good fight!”

– Winky Wright, Former Undisputed Light Middleweight Champion, Current Middleweight Contender

“Manny is a big puncher and a good boxer, but he has never faced a natural welterweight like Miguel. Cotto is the most dangerous fight of Pacquiao's career. On the night of the fight, Pacquiao will still not be a full welterweight. And Cotto is very strong. As the fight plays out, around rounds 7, 8, 9, that's when Cotto starts taking over. I think Cotto will win be decision, but he might even get a knockout. With all of my heart I think Miguel Cotto will win.”

– Tito Trinidad, Former Three-Division World Champion and Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year

“I'm a Puerto Rican like Cotto, but I like Pacquiao because he has fought better guys, like De La Hoya. I see him having no problem against Cotto. Cotto is not a smart fighter, he boxes, and he's shown his colors already. He can be beat. So can Pacquiao, but I like Pacquiao. He has an unorthodox style, with punches coming from all over. Cotto tries to box. I see Pacquiao possibly stopping him. Pacquiao's on a roll, he has the confidence, and he has the boxing momentum. I see him winning.”

– Hector Camacho, Former WBC and WBO Three-Division Champion

“Pacquiao is a good boxer and Cotto is a fighter. I'm going to give the edge to Cotto, and not just because he's Puerto Rican, but because of the way he fights. He always comes to fight, he's always in shape. Cotto is going to have the edge. I see him winning by decision, but I do think he can knock Pacquiao out if the chance arrives.”

– Carlos Ortiz, Former Three-Time World Champion and International Boxing Hall of Famer

THE ATHLETES ARE PICKIN'…

“I think Pacquiao will win in 12 rounds, but if there is a knock out I think it will happen in the 9th. Pacquiao is too quick for Cotto.”

– Terrell Suggs, Three-Time Pro-Bowl Linebacker/Defensive End, Baltimore Ravens

“I'd like to see Pacquiao win because then he'd get to fight Mayweather, and THAT's a fight I really want to see!”

– Vernon Davis, Tight End, San Francisco 49'ers

“I think Pacquiao will win with a knock out in the 8th round. He is the best pound for pound fighter right now and he will be too much for Cotto to handle.”

– Brandon Marshall, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos

“I think its going to be a great fight, but I think Cotto's got the edge because Pacquio leaves himself open too much. So I'm going with Cotto in a decision”

– Kellen Winslow Jr., Tight End, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

“It should be one of the best fights of the year between two incredible boxers.  Cotto's size advantage could help him early on – if it does go the distance, I think Pacquiao's technique and experience will be tough to beat.  But, I say Cotto wins at the end of the day.”       

– Kris Jenkins, Four-Time Pro Bowl Defensive-Tackle, New York Jets

“Manny's quickness on his feet and landing punches will help to win on a knock out.”

– Justin Morneau, Three-Time All-Star, 2006 AL MVP, 2008 Home Run Derby Champion, First Baseman, Minnesota Twins

“Manny. He's quick and that might be too much for Cotto to handle.”

– Justin Verlander, Two-Time All-Star, 2006 AL Rookie of the Year, Pitcher, Detroit Tigers

“If Cotto can slow the fight, hit Pac with lead rights, he will be good. I believe Pac will have too much activity, and cuts will play a role in a Pac victory”

– Lee Evans, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills

“Cotto will be the last one standing!”

– Brian Roberts, Two-Time All-Star, Second Baseman, Baltimore Orioles

“Miguel Cotto will end Manny's domination with hard jabs and will knock him out in the later rounds to end Pac-Mans reign.”

– Gordon Beckham, 2009 Sporting News AL Rookie of the Year, Third Baseman, Chicago White Sox

“Pacquiao….I think he is on a roll right now and he doesn't get enough credit for the power he brings so I think he wins by decision.”

–  Calvin Pace, Linebacker, New York Jets

THE CELEBRITIES ARE PICKIN'…

“Pacquiao and Cotto are two of the best welterweights out there.  While both fighters possess tremendous punching power and heart, I believe that the speed of Pacquiao will earn him the WBO welterweight belt.  If Pacquiao is victorious, Mayweather would be the next fight that I and all fans would want to see.”

– Donald Trump, Chairman and CEO of The Trump Organization

“If Cotto reconnects the way he was three years ago, he may give Pacquiao a problem”

– Sean “P.Diddy” Combs, Hip-Hop Artist, Actor and Entrepreneur

“Pacquiao is my guy, we've hung out before. He's the kind of guy you'd want with you if a bar fight broke out, I will be there to support him!”
– Tyrese Gibson, Actor starring in Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

“Manny Pacquiao's nickname is 'The Mexicutioner.' He's beaten more Latinos than the police. Pacquiao…unanimous decision.”

– George Lopez, Comedian, Actor, and Host of Lopez Tonight!

“I'm sorry, the Filipino's going to win!”

– Mark Consuelos, Television Personality and Former ­All My Children star

“Both have no quit. Basically it's Pacman's speed and angles vs Cotto's powerful body shots and boxing skills. Two things to watch, if Cotto's cut above eye opens. And does Cotto's new trainer get him fighting sharper than he did against Clottey? This one will go down with the classics. If Cotto's on he wins, if not Pacman.”

– John Leguizamo, Emmy-Award Winning Actor from Moulin Rouge, Ice Age, Collateral Damage and Assault on Precinct 13.

“I've seen plenty of people talk about standing in front of Pacquaio, but those people always seem to not make it through too well.  Cotto will be the same.  Pacquiao in a walk.  Knock out in the fifth or sixth.”

– Carrot Top, Comedian

“I'm going to have to go with Pacquiao. I saw his last fight and he's just out of control!”

-Sam Trammell, Actor in hit series True Blood

“Pacman wins cause Pacman fights. If Pacman loses, then the Philippines won't have no lights!”

– Andre Royo, Actor appearing in television series The Wire

THE WRITERS ARE PICKIN'…

“This is a fight of speed and accuracy for Pacquiao, against the body punching of Cotto. Vegas has always been Pacquiao's home, and the Evel Knievelof boxing will leap over another opponent to come away with the win. Pacquiao also has a secret ingredient called Freddie Roach, who's battle plans bring tears to the eyes of Robert E Lee. Cotto is a gutsy and gritty fighter, but I think Pacquiao stops him on cuts, and wins in the 8th round.”

– Burt Sugar, boxing writer and historian

“Manny Pacquiao, because his strength and speed has not been lost as he has gone up in weight. Cotto gets hit too much because he's just not quick enough to defend himself against someone as lightning-quick as Pacquiao.”

– Bob Velin, USA Today

“I initially picked Pacquiao, but I did a flip flop on this one. For a guy that started at 106, you have to figure he's going to climb up one division too high at one point. Cotto is not an Oscar at the end of the line, and he's not Ricky Hatton. He's one of the top five or six in the world, and he's a natural welterweight. I'm picking Cotto by decision. His strength is going to be too much. Pacquiao keeps surprising me, but this may be the fight where he goes up one weight class too many.”

– Bernard Fernandez, Philadelphia Daily News

“Pacquiao by a knockout. His left is a laser and Cotto is fairly easy to hit with straight shots.”

– Gordon Marino, Wall Street Journal

“Pacquiao has enjoyed a meteoric rise by beating on offensive oriented fighters (David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton) but Cotto will be the first true counterpuncher he has faced since Juan Manuel Marquez. Cotto has the speed and skill to deflect Pacquiao's heaviest shots and the power in both hands to return a few of his own. Expect a back-and-forth, uber competitive fight that is worth every dollar of the Pay Per View price-but expect Cotto to emerge with the decision.”

– Chris Mannix, Sports Illustrated

“I am having an incredibly hard time picking this fight. I find myself going back and forth – which is, of course, the sign of an excellent matchup. The big factors are going to be whether Cotto can cope with Pacquiao's speed, and whether Pacquiao can deal with Cotto's strength. I can see a scenario in which either man wins; but I still can't escape the feeling that Cotto is a little diminished after his fight with Antonio Margarito. I wouldn't be shocked at all to see him win, but for now, I think Pacquiao's speed and sheer volume of punches will prove too much, and Pacquiao will win by clear decision.”

– Kieran Mulvaney, Reuters

“Pacquiao's extraordinarily fast and Cotto has slowed down since the Margarito fight. If I were convinced Cotto was going to be the same guy he was before he fought Margarito, I'd take him. But I think he's slowed because of the damage he took in that fight and, as a result, I expect Manny to move in and out, hitting Cotto and sliding out of danger. I expect a great fight but I expect Manny to win a decision.”

– Kevin Iole, Yahoo.com

“Cotto in a decision. He is the first legitimate welterweight that Pacquiao has faced who is in his prime rather than a blown up junior welterweight or a fighter who is no longer in the prime of his career.”

– Tim Smith, New York Daily News

“I like Pacquiao to stop Cotto in the 10th round of what should be a tremendous fight. Pac-Man's speed will eventually get through Cotto's skillful defense, but not before Manny is forced to answer his toughest challenge yet. Pacquiao's gloves will be punishing enough with only his fist inside. Mayweather might want to book the winner quickly because fans just might like to see a sequel to this.”

– Jim Slater, Agence France Presse

“This figures to be Pacquiao's toughest test yet. Cotto is big, strong and tough. He also showed great resolve in beating Joshua Clottey in June. However, Pacquiao is at the top of his game and despite the apparent distractions during his training camp in the Philippines, he can overcome that and use his speed, power and quickness to stop Cotto. Plus, there's the motivation of a potential mega payday with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the spring if Pacquiao wins. So he figures to be ready to give his best performance inside the ring. It will be a close fight, a tough fight with Cotto having his moments of brilliance, especially early on. But Pacquiao will weather the early storm and should eventually pull it out, earning a split decision.”

– Steve Carp, Las Vegas Review-Journal

“Pacquiao has proven his greatness. But even the great ones get beat and tonight Pac Man gets beat. Miguel Cotto is a strong, tough world-class welterweight who will wear down Pacquiao over the course of a very good fight. Cotto can handle speed — as he did when he beat Sugar Shane Mosley. But Pacquiao won't be able to handle this welterweight's strength and power. Cotto wins by 11th-round TKO.”

– Bobby Cassidy, Newsday

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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