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Articles of 2009

Have Fun, Will Travel, Says B-Hop

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Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins’ postfight press conferences have always had a surrealistic quality, but his musings about his past, his future, and the state of boxing in general following Wednesday’s 12-round unanimous decision over Enrique Ornelas made for an especially intriguing verbal zigzag.

Hulking basketball star Shaquille O’Neal once proclaimed himself the “Big Aristotle,” which presumably leaves room for a philosophizing Hopkins to associate himself with other ancient deep thinkers such as Socrates and Plato. How’s “Less-Large Sock-rates” grab you?

B-Hop’s unofficial degrees, of course, are from the School of Hard Knocks and University of Graterford, where the course selections include How to Avoid Getting a Shiv in the Back 101 and Advanced Theory of Kicking Some Bad Dude’s Ass in the Exercise Yard to Get Respect. Those subjects are not in the curriculum at Temple University, the North Philadelphia institution of higher learning in whose campus arena, the Liacouras Center, the 44-year-old Hopkins (50-5-1, 32 KOs) schooled Ornelas (29-6, 19 KOs), 15 years his junior, on the basic principles of the pugilistic arts. The official scorecards had Hopkins romping by margins of 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110, which is worth at least an A-minus no matter what the grading system.

“When the fourth or fifth round started coming, my engine really warmed up and I started feeling great and I let those hands go,” said Hopkins, whose unlumped face again bore no physical evidence that he’d been hit very hard or often.

Ornelas went the distance, which has to be a source of satisfaction to him even though Hopkins isn’t as much of a finisher as he once was, his streak of bouts without a stoppage now standing at eight.

“I give him a lot of credit,” Ornelas said of the old master. “He’s one of the best.”

It was a homecoming in more ways than one for Hopkins, given that Temple’s gritty North Philadelphia location is within siren distance of the high-crime “Badlands” area where many of this fighting city’s better-known boxers learn that fast fists can provide the ticket to something better than drugs, violence, desperation, death and repeat visits to the Big House. And, no, that isn’t a reference to the Liacouras Center.

Hopkins has been lecturing about the dangers of life on the street for some time now, and if you can overlook his woeful sense of geography – referring to Roy Jones Jr.’s first-round technical knockout loss to Danny Green in Sydney, Australia, he mentioned how difficult it is for American fighters to win in Europe – much of what he says makes as much sense now as it did years ago, when he a junior instructor instead of a tenured professor.

“Bernard is one of the smartest guys I know,” says Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, the former Swiss banking executive who is a pretty bright individual in his own right.

The plan concocted by Hopkins and Schaefer had been for B-Hop to scrape off 14 months of ring rust against Ornelas, proceed to a March 13 rematch with Jones – who outpointed Hopkins in 1993 for the vacant IBF middleweight title – and then bulk up to 203 pounds or so for a challenge of WBA heavyweight champion David Haye. As exit strategies go, every step seemed reasonable. Hopkins has said his perfect farewell to the ring wars would be to win a heavyweight title, a dream dating back several years to when he first suggested getting it on with big, strong but lumbering WBC champ Oleg Maskaev.

But the middle link in the chain was removed when Green exposed the way-over-the-hill Jones as the relic he has become since his luminescent 1990s heyday, as if most fight fans didn’t know that already. All of a sudden Schaefer and HBO pay-per-view chief Mark Taffet were left to brainstorm a feasible Plan B for Hopkins, one in which a “historically significant” candidate could step in to replace Jones.

Hopkins is persistent, though, and his desire to settle that old score with RJJ remained strong despite the Pensacola, Fla., native’s Blunder Down Under. The notion that he’ll one day retire without opening a can of payback against Jones clearly is one he isn’t willing to accept just yet.

“Being a legend, being a future Hall of Famer, I think Roy should at least have been given the benefit of the doubt,” Hopkins said of Jones, who was decked by an overhand right from Green and was taking more unreturned shots than a paper target at a Marine Corps firing range when British referee Howard Foster stepped in at the 2:02 mark. “He lost on his feet, not on his back.

“(Green) was pounding away and got some shots in, but I think some of those were missing. I don’t think the ref should have stopped the fight. When you have someone like Roy Jones Jr., he deserves to get the benefit of the doubt. (Joe) Calzaghe had him hurt worse than that, but they didn’t stop that fight.

“I think I can still fight him.”

Asked if Hopkins-Jones II is still doable, Schaefer and Taffet looked around the packed Al Shrier Media Room uncomfortably, as if they might find an answer in someone’s face that would serve to mollify Hopkins. But of course they know that the idea of Jones going against Hopkins or any other top-flight fighter is now as extinct as the dodo bird, and selling such a matchup — particularly on pay-per-view or an on-site venue – wouldn’t fly even in Jones’ comfort zones of Pensacola and Biloxi, Miss.

“Roy Jones Jr. is still on that list,” Schaefer finally allowed in saying that representatives of eight fighters already had contacted him concerning a possible go at Hopkins. “He has not been eliminated. But Roy Jones has dropped from the top of that list to the bottom.”

Which is code-speak for saying that Jones should not expect his agreement to fight B-Hop to rise from the dead like Lazarus.

Upon further review, as NFL referees are wont to say, even Hopkins more or less conceded that Jones’ ship has left the dock, struck and iceberg and sank. At his best, Jones probably was the most gifted fighter of the last quarter-century, but his unorthodox style, which was exciting for as long as his reflexes were nearly supernatural, left him vulnerable when his reaction time began to slow, even imperceptibly. The old saying – “He does everything wrong, but it turns out right” – can be a career-killer when you continue to do everything wrong, like drop your hands to your sides and lean straight back to avoid punches – and the results start coming back wrong, too. The Jones his fans will always choose to remember fondly would not have lost to Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson and Green, and probably not against Calzaghe, had he remained longer at the very top of his game.

“I don’t like kicking somebody when he’s down, but Roy Jones Jr. didn’t have the basics,” a more reflective Hopkins said upon his return to reality. “He didn’t need them. He was that good. But he never learned the ABCs — basic jab, good defense, hit and not get hit.”

So how does Team Hopkins fill in the blank created by Jones taking his leave? There are several possibilities for the public to speculate about, all of which fall into one of three categories: Guys that Hopkins might want to fight but don’t necessarily want to fight him; guys that want to fight Hopkins but he doesn’t want to fight for reasons rooted in finance and legacy, and, the shortest list of all, those whose participation in such a bout would seem mutually beneficial.

Danny Green, as the guy who took down Jones, might seem a logical choice. He’s got a minor cruiser title and is the most recent man to beat the man. But consider this: Did Kevin McBride become a household name after he thrashed the remnants of Mike Tyson? Did Trevor Berbick after he beat the Muhammad Ali who stayed too long at the fair? Such a fight might make financial sense only if Hopkins traveled to Europe, uh, Australia, but Schaefer seems indisposed to take Hopkins there either literally or figuratively.

It is possible, of course, that Hopkins, who has said he would again enlist the services of noted nutritionist and physical-conditioning guru Mackie Shilstone to pack on pounds the proper way, could proceed directly to Haye. But Hopkins just ended a 14-month layoff since his Oct. 18, 2008, conquest of Kelly Pavlik and he probably isn’t disposed to sit around nearly as long while Haye fulfills his mandatory against two-time former WBA heavyweight champ John Ruiz.

Could former IBF cruiserweight titlist Tomasz Adamek, a one-time target, drift back onto Hopkins’ radar?

“The Adamek fight probably is gone,” Schaefer said. “Bernard only wants to do historically significant fights. As the cruiserweight champ, Adamek brought some historical significance to the table. Now that he’s moved up to heavyweight, I don’t that Bernard would want to fight him with no title involved.”

Undefeated light-heavy Chad Dawson probably is the name most often mentioned by fight fans, but Hopkins – who no doubt is aware that Dawson, for all his talent, has yet to establish himself as a box-office attraction _ places him in the category of not-quite-ready-for-prime-time players. In a sense, Dawson reminds Hopkins of former WBA junior middleweight champ David Reid, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist from Philadelphia who was rushed up the ladder too soon and flamed out.

“They’re trying to make stars out of people that can fight, but they haven’t been given a chance to blossom,” Hopkins said in what seemed like a dig at HBO’s apparent eagerness to hurry along the next batch of marquee fighters before they’ve fully mastered the nuances of the hardest sport.

“We got a microwave society. Pop, pop, pop, pop, they’re great champions. They give them belts, they give them titles, and they call them great. Don’t they understand what `great’ means? I just sit back and laugh. I mean, Jermain Taylor could have been great. But they fed him steak before he had all his teeth.”

So why the need to rush potentially excellent fighters into positions of prominence?

“Lack of patience. Greed. Arrogance,” said Hopkins, who said his Golden Boy partner, Shane Mosley, would use his experience to undress Andre Berto. “That’s why you have these guys falling off and not having longevity. (They don’t) learn their craft. They become a champion and can’t keep the title. I held my (middleweight) title for 10 years. Twenty defenses, man! I think what’s happening now is sad. Everybody wants that bird in the hand now, but this is a rough way to make a living. You got to train hard and live right if you want to stick around.”

Hopkins’ words might be spot-on in many cases, but kids who have been told they’re all that from the time they received their first amateur trophy don’t want to be preached to about patience. Dawson has called out Hopkins to fight him “or get out of my division,” and even out-of-left-field possibilities like identical twins Eric “Murder” Mitchell and Aaron “Homocide” Mitchell were at the Liacouras Center, sneering, “Why don’t you give a Philly guy a chance?” at their fellow homie.

The Mitchell twins are 40, which probably means they’re as fully developed as they’re ever going to be, but they come up way short for historical significance. Their odds of boogeying onto Hopkins’ dance card are roughly the same as yours or mine of hitting the Powerball lottery.

So who’s left that meets all the criteria?

“I hear Joe Calzaghe is getting the itch to fight again,” said Schaefer of the Welshman who edged Hopkins on a split decision on April 19, 2008.

But the trendy pick as Jones’ fill-in might be found north of the border, in Montreal. IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute, the Romanian southpaw who has become incredibly popular in his adopted home province of Quebec, is undefeated, he has a title in a division that Hopkins has never fought in and he draws like gangbusters in French-speaking Canada. Bute is coming off an emphatic, fourth-round knockout of Librado Andrade – who, coincidentally, is Enrique Ornelas’ brother – and HBO seems disposed to give him the star buildup.

Hopkins has fought only once as a pro out of this country, an experience he’d just as soon forget, but he said he can be convinced to rummage around for his passport if the opponent is interesting, able to add to his legacy and, of course, good for his bank account.

“I’m not afraid to go out of the country,” Hopkins said. “I been to Quito, Ecuador, in 1995. Quito, Ecuador, ain’t Hawaii. It’s a Third World country, trust me. I fought an Ecuadorean (Segundo Mercado), came off the canvas twice and got a draw.

“At this stage of my career, if they want to lure me over there for something they would check me into a mental hospital if I didn’t take it, I got no problem with it. I’ll fight anybody as long as they got a ring.

“I’m having fun, don’t get me wrong. But I’d have a lot more fun with a big check in my hand.”

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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