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Articles of 2009

ANDRE WARD: I'm Ready For War

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MIKKEL KESSLER AND ANDRE WARD

NATIONAL CONFERENCE CALL QUOTES

Both Fighters and Promoters Dan Goossen and Kalle Sauerland Predict a War Come Nov. 21 in Oakland

WHO:              WBA Super Middleweight Champion Mikkel “Viking Warrior” Kessler

Unbeaten 2004 Olympic Games Gold Medalist Andre “S.O.G.’’ Ward

Goossen Tutor Promotions President Dan Goossen

Sauerland Event and Kessler Promoter Kalle Sauerland

OAKLAND, Calif., (Nov. 10, 2009) — Quotes from Tuesday’s national conference call hyping the first Super Six World Boxing Classic in the United States on Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast). The matchup between World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight champion Mikkel “Viking Warrior” Kessler and hometown undefeated hero Andre “S.O.G” Ward is a scheduled 12-rounder and will be for Kessler’s WBA 168-pound title and is a first-round matchup in Group Stage 1.

MIKKEL KESSLER
“It’s nice to be over here in the States. I don’t think I’ve ever been in better shape. I’ve done a lot of sparring, good sparring and I’m ready to come over here and fight. I have no injuries or anything. Everything’s been great.

“I’ve been here for two weeks now and everything is going good. The climate and time change is very good. Of course it took me three or four days to get used to it but as I said before, my condition has never been better. I just sparred eight rounds today and it was one of the best eight rounds of my life. I’m looking forward to Ward and I’m looking forward to war.

About fighting away from home in the first round:

“I told my promoter before that I don’t care where I fight. I’m used to fighting outside of Denmark. Of course you always want your home field. I wanted to fight in Denmark but maybe next time hopefully. A fight is a fight and a ring is a ring. It doesn’t mean anything to me where it is. Obviously if it’s a decision you have one more point if it’s your home field. But I’m not that kind of boxer. I’m the kind of fighter who makes his points through the rounds. I’ve tried it three or four times before and I know how it is. I’m not afraid of that.

“I made my travel schedule before the other fights. I know when (Jermain) Taylor and (Andre) Dirrell arrived (in Europe) and it wasn’t long enough. You have to be there at least three weeks before so you can adapt to the time change.

“It feels good to be the favorite (in the six-man tournament). As a fighter you always want to be the underdog and to go in there with no one believing in you. I’m happy that people have seen my skills as a fighter and that I can show them that I am the champ.

“I don’t think about knockouts (in regard to the Super Six format). If it’s there, it’s there. But I have to think about it one fight at a time and I think guys will go in there looking for the knockout if they need the extra point to get into the semifinals so I think that’ll be very interesting. But right now I have to only think about the win.”

Are you looking forward to showcasing your skills in front of an American audience?

“Yes, of course. I’m going to show them how my boxing style is. I’m ready for that, to show the American fans how I fight. It’s difficult for me being a Danish guy to get known in the U.S. So here’s my big chance for it.”

What did you learn from the whole Calzaghe experience?

“I fought my heart out. I learned a lot from the experience. It was my first loss and I thought, ‘Oh, no. Everything’s over now.’ But it has only made me stronger.”

Did you learn any lessons from watching the first two fights of the tournament?

“Of course I saw the fights but I can’t use any of it in my next fight because I’m not fighting those opponents. I’m going to fight another guy. I’m going to take it like all my other fights and I’m not thinking about the tournament, only this fight.

“Every fight I fight like it’s my last fight. That’s the way I see it and why I get better and better for each fight. I’m very excited to fight Ward in his hometown. I think it’s going to be a great fight.”

ANDRE WARD
“I’m mentally and physically prepared. I just can’t wait. I’m 11 days away and I’m counting my fingers every single day because I’m ready for war.

“I’m just approaching this with great anticipation. It’s something you dream about. The best words I can give you are I’m very impatient and I’m ready to fight. I’ve haven’t been training for this for five or six weeks. I’ve been training for this for most of my life. I’ve been doing this since I was 9 years old and I’m 25 now so it’s time. It’s just time to go after this world championship. I don’t think my road up to this point has been slow. I don’t know what the barometer is or who sets the standard but one thing you have to keep in mind is that some of the gold medalists like Sugar Ray Leonard who did it in three years and guys like that, they fought without head gear. So the acclimation process to the pros was a lot easier for those guys, amongst a lot of other reasons. So I don’t think our road up to this point has been slow or stagnant. It’s been right on time.

“Nazim Richardson, a decorated trainer, used to tell us that you may have what it takes to beat the champion but you have to be man enough to win a championship and also to keep it. And I’m man enough now and at the point where I not only have the intelligence but the physical strength to not only win it but to keep it for a very long time. We were just waiting for the right time. I don’t think it’s been slow at all.

Will you be looking for the knockout?

“Just the win. Obviously you look at different things and different strategies that may lead to a knockout but I don’t go in there looking for it. If you look for it it never comes so absolutely it’s just about winning first and foremost.

During the Olympics you were always the first to arrive and the first to leave and you studied so much film. Have you done the same preparing for Kessler?

“It’s just a testament to my personality and how seriously I take my job. I think the main thing is that I love to win. I’m very, very competitive and know there are some ingredients that come with winning and that part of that is in the gym and in the ring as far as physical preparation goes. But it’s also the mental preparation and just watching film and that kind of thing. It’s the same approach I took as an amateur, at the highest level as an amateur, and it’s the same approach I take now. It’s just who I am.

“My thing is I want to just maximize my potential in training camp so when the fight comes it’s just time to perform and you don’t have to second-guess it. So I’ve trained for Mikkel Kessler the same way.”

What did you take away from the last time you fought in Oakland?

“I mean, everything was pretty much the way I thought it would be. I’m the type of person who likes to live my life in the middle. Because people are going to be screaming and yelling and they’re going to try and get your attention two week’s before the fight or a week before. Even the night of the fight they’re yelling your name. Good things and bad things. I just try and stay in the middle. I try to stay focused and keep my eye on the fight at hand. This is a long time coming, more than a decade of preparation so I won’t allow it to be a distraction. And just like the (Edison) Miranda fight I will use the crowd as motivation. They were excited for the last fight and they are extremely excited for the next fight. I’m definitely going to use it to my advantage but at the end of the day it comes down to two men fighting and who comes out on top. Who’s going to focus and who’s going to execute the game plan. If you go in there thinking just about the home-field advantage it’s going to be a long time because it’s not going to get you through every time. It’s just focus. It’s focus if you’re fighting at home or fighting abroad.”

Is Kessler the most talented fighter you’ve ever faced?

“Absolutely. Without a shadow of a doubt. He’s the champion. He’s the most skilled and the most tough. Absolutely.

Did you learn any lessons watching the first two fights of the tournament?

“Not really. When you fight a champion you have to believe. What I’m saying is there were some cases in the Dirrell fight with body language that some of the closer rounds went to Froch. Even though I thought Dirrell won the fight. That’s something that you have to be aware of. You have to been in command at all times. It’s different for you guys in the media who get to think of all the different things that can happen. When you fight a fight like this, this is it. This is what you think, this is what you eat, this is what you drink. You can’t sit back and think, what if this happen or that happens. It just happens. It’s all about this fight right here.”

Will the 168-pound weight limit be a problem for you over the next year and a half?

“I don’t think it will be a problem. I live a clean life. I don’t have any extremes when I’m not fighting. I’ve only had 20 fights and I’m always training. I think if there wasn’t a tournament I would be in the super middleweight division at that time anyway. I don’t think it’ll be a problem at all.

“I expect a very, very, very tough fight. I don’t want to get into many details but I expect to see the very best Mikkel Kessler. I expect a better Mikkel Kessler than I saw against Pedromo. I expect a better Mikkel Kessler than I saw against Calzaghe. If I didn’t expect to beat every man in this tournament then I shouldn’t be in this tournament.

“I’m planning on bringing the total package. I don’t know how you perceive me as a fighter but I plan to bring a little bit of everything on November 21st. Not just speed, not just foot work. The total package.

Do you feel the pressure from the American boxing fans after the loss of the two Americans in the first Super Six fights?

“I don’t look at it like pressure. I look at it like it’s a privilege. I’ve been here before with the Olympics and it’s something that I relish. There’s always going to be pressure. It just depends on how you deal with the pressure. It was unfortunate that both Americans lost their fights but It’s just added more motivation. It just really motivates me and I did take it personal because that’s what everyone expected it to be. Even Carl Froch said everything is going as scheduled. And I take that personal. I’m a proud American and it’s time for the super middleweight champion to be an American. They’ve dominated over there for a long, long time but I want to do my part to bring back the belt here on American soil.”

Kessler has fought twice as much as you as a pro. How will you overcome his experience?

“I’ve been fighting for a long, long time. This isn’t my first big fight. This isn’t my first big stage. I’ve been here before in terms of the pressure. It’s just my time to shine. If you look at other great fighters when you have the skill and the hunger, records don’t mean anything. If you look at Floyd Mayweather Jr. when he fought Genaro Hernandez he wasn’t supposed to win that fight. Muhammad Ali when he beat Sonny Liston he wasn’t supposed to win that fight. Sugar Ray Leonard and Wilfredo Benitez, Leonard really wasn’t supposed to win that fight. So that’s how I look at it. A guy who has more fights than you is not going to stop you from fulfilling your goal.

“I don’t want to be the shining American. I’m not necessarily looking to be the man. I just want to do my part as an American to represent. I’ve always been the type of guy who protects the kid from the bully. I don’t want to say the Americans are getting bullied by the media or anything. I’m not going to go that far. But we haven’t been given much of a chance. But I take that and I use it as motivation.

“I think we’re both hungry. I think I have a different kind of hunger. He has a hunger to keep what he has and I have a hunger to want to take what he has. It’s hunger none the less but it’s just slightly different that’s all.

If you win this fight does that make you the favorite to win the tournament?

“I think it would. If I beat Mikkel Kessler it will send shock waves into the tournament and throughout the boxing world because it’s just something they cannot fathom happening. They just don’t see it happening. They won’t believe it until it happens. I think people’s minds will change after this for sure.”

Talk about your relationship with your longtime trainer Virgil Hunter?

“Virgil’s been like a God-send to me because he’s been so much more than a trainer. He’s been my one and only trainer my whole career. And that’s very important for a fighter to have. We don’t even have to talk much. He knows what I’m thinking and I know what he’s thinking. But even bigger than that, when my father passed in 2002 he stepped in and became a father to me. He’s helped me and given me a lot of wisdom. A lot of people have said I have wisdom beyond my years and the reason why is because he’s a wise man. If you want to be a wise man you hang around wise people. He’s just taught me so much about manhood, about life. He’s just helped me rise up to be the man that I am today; The family man that I am today. I want him to get the recognition he truly deserves. To be a recognized trainer you have to have a breakthrough fight. Well, this is our breakthrough fight. He’s been so many things: A father-figure and an adviser. But I would love the world to acknowledge him as a world-class trainer.”

KALLE SAUERLAND

“We’re very excited coming into this big fight. It’s going to be a massive event and a massive challenge for Mikkel Kessler here. Mikkel Kessler is a man who has been there before having boxed Joe Calzaghe in front of 55,000 fans. So we’re going into the Lion’s Den which is something I think speaks a lot to the champion’s mentality. He has prepared for this tournament and is going away from home for his first fight to box in front of 19,000 fans in Oakland. So it’s obviously going to be a massive stadium and a massive setting for this great Super Six event. Everyone will get to see the Viking Warrior coming into the States and making a statement about what he wants to do in this tournament.

DAN GOOSSEN

“There are a lot of great fights coming up but I’m looking forward to Ward-Kessler. It’s a can’t miss. Andre Ward is an offensive-minded very intelligent fighter inside of that ring. Mikkel Kessler is a proud champ. We know it’s going to be a great fight. All of the participants of the first two fights will be ringside and we will introduce them to the media.

“Andre Ward is one of the meanest fighters I’ve ever been associated with and we’ve been associated with some great fighters throughout the years.”

BONUS: Check out this Kessler-Ward promo video.link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid49625175001

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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