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Articles of 2009

Malignaggi Wins Rematch; Victor Ortiz Beats Diaz

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CHICAGO-It happens from time to time. Occasionally a boxer can so raise his game that he has the fight of his life against an opponent who by rights should not only be tougher but more gifted. Sometimes this performance goes for naught, simply because it seems such an aberration that judges can't quite believe what their own eyes seeing — and that, more than anything else, would appear to explain the scorecards of Raul Caiz and David Sutherland down in Houston back in August. Fortunately for Paulie Malignaggi, there was a third judge seated at ringside that night, and before he went to bed Saturday night, if he ever went to bed at all, we trust that Malignaggi got down on his hands and knees and thanked the Almighty for Gale Van Hoy, because if it weren't for him and his 118-110 scorecard, there's no way in the world Paulie would have gotten the chance to do what he did here.

In many respects rematches can be fairly predictable.  It is rarer still that you'll see an underdog who has come up short the first time raise his game yet again and, essentially, come up with the fight of his life twice in a row. But Malignaggi is clearly cut from a different cloth than most boxers, and while he was still performing before an audience of (mostly) Juan Diaz fans Saturday night at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion, he staged a virtuoso performance that three neutral judges weren't about to deny him.

On paper, Malignaggi's only natural edge over Diaz would be in hand speed, but this time around he not only out-quicked the Baby Bull, but repeatedly frustrated him with a crafty game plan and an improved defense, and on those occasions when he deigned to stop and slug with the slugger, more than held his own in that department as well. Although it wasn't much of one, Malignaggi was credited with the only knockdown of the night, and didn't come close to going down himself. And if he got wobbled once or twice, he wobbled Diaz on at least half a dozen occasions.

Malignaggi set the tone as he out-boxed Diaz early, and by taking the first two rounds staked himself to a lead he would never relinquish. By the midpoint of the 12-round fray he had Diaz cut along the right eyebrow, and while that wound never really became a factor, neither was Diaz exactly encouraged by the sight of his own blood.

Mainly, though, the bout turned on Malignaggi's ability to establish a distance from which he could torment Diaz with his jab — and from which Diaz found it extremely difficult to connect with his own.

If Malignaggi's punches are usually more annoying than genuinely troublesome, but on at least one occasion a jab from Paulie seemed to stagger Diaz, and while the Baby Bull did his level best to turn it into a slugfest, he didn't always like what happened when he did.

Malignaggi seemed so in command, in fact, that the only real danger was that his mugging and woofing — at one point late in the fight he turned to engage the HBO broadcast table in conversation even as he dodged Diaz' furious charge — might infuriate a couple of judges enough to turn them into Van Hoys.

The two were at close quarters in the tenth when Malignaggi lashed out with a chopping right hand that sends Diaz spinning ass over teakettle. He never did hit the deck, but his effort to stay upright either his glove hit the canvas, or came close enough to doing so that referee Geno Rodriguez thought that it had, and when the Illinois referee administered a count, it put the fight pretty much out of reach.

Rather than protect what seemed to be a rock-solid lead, Malignaggi even accommodated Diaz by engaging him toe-to-toe down the stretch. The principal result of that was that the blood was pouring from Diaz' cut at the bell.

In the end Mauro DiFiore (Illinois), Tom Miller (Ohio) and Mike Pernick (Florida) returned identical 116-111 scorecards. (TSS' scorecard had it 115-112; how Gale Van Hoy scored it from his living room back in Texas remains unlearned.)

“All I needed,” said Malignaggi after the verdict was returned, “was a fair shake.”

Diaz, followed by his corner men, barged straight out of the ring and into the locker room afterward, while Malignaggi, who just four months earlier had acknowledged what seemed the most likely result of the Houston fight when he said “I'm an opponent now,” was talking about fighting Juan Manuel Marquez and Ricky Hatton.

He may not get either — it would seem far more likely that they might fight each other, and that's if Hatton fights again at all — but what he will earn by this performance is a few more high-profile HBO fights, and possibly even a crack at another world title.

“The key to this fight was staying committed to my game plan,” said the former junior welterweight champion, now 27-3. “The idea was to utilize my strengths, and by keeping Diaz on the defensive so he couldn't  set up to use his power.”

Although he allowed himself to be drawn into more close-quarters exchanges than would have seemed prudent, Malignaggi noted that “I took his punches pretty well, even when he hit me flush.”

Diaz, 26-3 after the loss, was described by Malignaggi as “a class act and a great fighter.”

Less than six months after his surprise KO at the hands of Argentina's Marcos Maidana, former prospect of the year Victor Ortiz bounced back with an impressive performance that went into the books as a 7th-round TKO when his fellow Mexican Antonio Diaz (45-6-1) failed to answer the bell for that stanza.

Ortiz (25-2-1) had patiently opened up in a counterpunching mode, but was plainly annoyed when, in the second round, Diaz grabbed him in a clinch but then decided to keep punching anyway. When Ortiz wound up on the deck, although referee Gerald Scott ruled no knockdown, he got up mean, and before the round was over Diaz was sporting a gash to the bridge of his nose.

The third round brought the fight's only knockdown. As Diaz waded in to throw a one-two combination, Ortiz waved a pawing right and then drilled him with a counter straight left up the middle.

Ortiz, who for the first couple of rounds had shown his jab mainly as a decoy, began to throw it in earnest at this stage of the fight, establishing a tone of dominance that would endure through the balance of the night. In he fifth Diaz was cut above the left eye from what Scott ruled a butt, but even had the issue gone to the scorecards, Ortiz was comfortably in front.

In the sixth the blood was flowing copiously that Scott called time and invited the ringside physician up for a look-see. The doctor allowed it to continue, but over in Diaz' corner they seemed to wish he hadn't. When the bell rang for the seventh, trainer Romulo Quirarte signaled that his man wasn't coming out.

“I respect my corner's decision,” said Diaz, who certainly didn't argue with it. Ortiz, who had out-landed him 97-37 while it lasted, had a whopping 23-6 connect edge over the last three minutes they fought.

It was another nice scalp for Ortiz.  Diaz hasn't a lot of tread left on the tire, but this is a guy who nine and a half years ago scored back-to-back wins over Omar Weis and Mickey Ward to earn himself a title shot against Shane Mosley, and while he didn't do so well in that one, Diaz has been in with the big boys.

“I actually felt pretty rusty at first,” said Ortiz. “But as the fight went on I started feeling a little more comfortable, and was able to use my jab more.”

And he has, from all indications, managed to put the Maidana loss behind him.

“These things happen for a reason,” said Ortiz. “It's time to move on.”

The co-feature had been preceded by a ceremonial 10-count as part of a tribute to the late Francisco Rodriguez, a popular local favorite and 5-time Chicago Golden Gloves champion who died as the result of injuries incurred against Teon Kennedy in a bout at Philadelphia's Blue Horizon three weeks ago.

Former WBO 140-pound champ Randall Bailey knocked down Germaine Sanders in the first, second, and fifth rounds but was unable to put the elderly Chicagoan away and had to settle for a unanimous decision (Mike Fitzgerald 78-71, Jerry Jakubco 79-70, Patrick Morley 77-72) in their eight-round prelim. All three knockdowns came with right hands, but Bailey explained later “I hurt my [right] hand on his head” in administering the last one and had difficulty pulling the trigger thereafter. Bailey is now 40-7, Sanders 27-8.

Fighting for just the second time since his March upset at the hands of Harry Joe Yorgey and with his illustrious father watching from a ringside seat, 30-year old junior middle Ronald Hearns scored a 6th-round TKO of Kenyan Shadrack Kipruto (10-12) to advance his own pro record to 23-1.

Hearns appeared to wobble Kipruto several times in the second, and just before the conclusion of the round, stiffened him with a left and then dropped him with a short, cuffing right thrown over the top.  Hearns dominated the intervening action, but it wasn't until the sixth that he put the Kenyan down again. When he did — with a hard left hook — Kipruto hit the canvas with such force that referee Pete Podgorski didn't even think about counting but waved it off at 2:33 of the round..

Highly touted Texas junior welter Omar Figueroa celebrated his final hours as a teenager (he would turn 20 the next day) when referee Celistino Cruz rescued outclassed Bahamian opponent Anthony Woods at 1:46 of the second. It was the 8th KO in as many pro fights for Figueroa, who still has yet to see a fourth round. Woods slips to 6-13.

Two other Texas 19 year-olds posted wins on the Chicago under card. One of them, Houstonian Jermell Charlo, interrupted a spirited battle of unbeaten welterweights with stunning (literally) second-round knockout of Abdon Lozano. Lozano, who had gone down in the opening seconds, battled his way back and was confidently swarming ahead, winging punches with both hands, when Charlo, purely in self-defense, threw a short left uppercut as he tried to keep him off him. The punch caught Lozano off balance and flipped him over backward, but he landed hard, the back of his head smashing off the canvas, and was unable to respond before Cruz had reached the count of 10 at 2:11 of the round. Charlo is now 10-0, Lozano 6-1.

The other Houston junior welter Hylon Williams Jr., posted 80-72 tallies on the scores of all three judges (Ted Gimza, William Lerch, Bulmarow Camuzano Jr,) for a unanimous decision over Mexican journeyman Humberto Tapia (14-12-1) to make his record 12-0.

Welterweight Jimmy Herrera had a memorable, if brief, pro debut, requiring just 28 seconds to stop fellow Chicagoan Gustavo Palacios (2-7), Herrera put his more experienced foe down with a furious flurry that brought the crowd to its feet, and although Palacios made it to his feet, referee John O'Brien had seen enough.

Brooklyn-based former Dominican Olympian Argenis Mendez improved to 15-1 with a unanimous, if not exactly overwhelming, decision (80-72 Fitzgerald and Morley; 78-72 Jakubco) over Kenya's Morris Chule (7-8-1).

In a 10-tounder just before the televised portion of the card, Cuban middleweight Erislandy Lara stayed perfect at 9-0 with a one-sided decision over Chicago-based Mexican Luciano Perez (17-01-1). Perez was tough as nails and very willing, but simply out of his depth; his face looked like it had been through a meat grinder by the end. Robert Heckel scored it 100-90, John McCarthy and Gary Kruse 99-91.

A pair of heavyweight bouts had opened the show.  Dominick Guinn (32-6-1) won an uninspired but unanimous decision over Arizonan Charles Davis (19-18-2). McCarthy scored in a shutout at 60-54, while Heckel and Kruse had it 58-56. Earlier, Guinn's Sugar Land (Tex.) neighbor Darlington Agha (2-0) was awarded a second-round TKO when his opponent Terry Adams quit, only a second after the bell had rung to begin round two.

* * *

At IUC Pavilion

Chicago, Illinois

December 12, 2009

JUNIOR WELTERS:  Paulie Malignaggi, 138 1/2, Brooklyn, NY dec. Juan Diaz, 138 1/2, Houston, Texas (12)

Hylon Williams Jr., 137, Houston dec. Humberto Tapia, 137, Tijuana, Mexico (8)

Omar Figueroa, 138 1/2, Weslaco, Tex. TKO'd Anthony Woods, 137 1/2, Nassau, Bahamas (2)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Dominick Guinn, 239, Hot Springs, Ark. dec. Charles Davis, 214, Tucson, Ariz. (6)

Darlington Agha, 239, Sugar Land, Tex. TKO'd Terry Adams, 209, Huntsville, Ala. (2)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Erislandy Lara, 155 1/2, Guantanamo, Cuba dec.  Luciano Perez, 155 1/2, Michoacan, Mexico (8)

JUNIOR MIDDLES: Ronald Hearns, 154, Southfield, Mich. TKO'd Shadrack Kipruto, 154 1/2, Nairobi, Kenya (6)

WELTERWEIGHTS: Victor Ortiz, 144, Garden City, Kansas TKO'd Antonio Diaz, 144, Jiquilpan, Mexico (7)

Randall Bailey, 148, Miami, Fla. dec. Germaine Sanders, 146 1/2, Chicago, Ill. (8)

Jermell Charlo, 146 1/2, Houston, Tex, KO'd  Abdon Lozano, 146 1/2, Las Vegas, Nev. (2)

Jimmy Herrera, 146, Chicago, Ill. TKO'd  Gustavo Palacios, 148, Chicago (2)

JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS:  Argenis Mendez, 130, San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Rep. dec.  Morris Chule, 129 1/2, Nairobi, Kenya (8)

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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