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Articles of 2010

Chasing Jack Chase, Part I: The Dead End Kid

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Isaiah Chase’s birthday was only three weeks away when a white gentleman knocked on the door of 3360 Delgany Street in Denver, Colorado. It was January 7th 1920. The boy was going to be six years old but chances weren’t good that anyone would remember. His mother, Nancy Walters, was black, single, and not sure when her birthday was. She told the census taker she was twenty though she was actually a year older if an earlier census is accurate.

Only scant details linger about the boy’s father. He was from Missouri, impregnated Nancy when she was a teenager and then left, or died. He represents a specter that dwells beneath the poverty line; a specter that also happens to be the strongest predictor of juvenile delinquency: fatherlessness. It would be expected that the boy at Nancy’s knee reminded her of the man she once knew and loved or thought she loved. Perhaps the strikingly large and maroon eyes looking up at her were inherited from that man. Nancy had given the boy a Biblical name, the name of a prophet, but his surname was his father’s -and like his father, Isaiah Chase would break her heart.

After Isaiah’s birth in Sherman, Texas, Nancy did what countless young mothers have always done in similar circumstances; she went home to her parents. The boy’s memories began at his grandfather’s house in Denver. Despite an advanced age, Jacob (called “Little) Walters worked long and hard as an ash hauler for the city. Aunt Rachel was a cook at a hotel and Nancy got a job as a cook for a private household. She probably walked to the wealthy Country Club District a few miles away. Isaiah’s grandmother stayed home. She could neither read nor write, but the boy learned to mind his manners from this old woman who in all likelihood was born a slave.

Ten years later, the depression had hit and drought and windstorms began in the region that soon ravaged the Midwest. Times were tough. Nancy was living with her sister, now a widow, in the small coal mining town of Walsenburg in southern Colorado. They were a minority among minorities in a community of first and second generation Mexicans. Rent was $10 a month –a bit above average for the area, and both women had to work from dawn to dusk with or without Sundays off.

Nancy had lost control of her son by then.

Isaiah was all of twelve years old when first handcuffed by the police. The charge was auto theft. He may have stolen a police car. The Denver Post reported that a patrolman left his car at 14th and Champa streets, went into headquarters for a little while, and emerged to find his car gone. Red-faced, the patrolman searched for an hour before making an alert. The car was found ditched only two streets away. It was a joyride. The next day, Isaiah was arrested.

Colorado, specifically Denver, had recently revamped its court system at the behest of a reformer judge named Ben Lindsey. Lindsey insisted that a juvenile court be created that would act as parens partriae– “on behalf of instead of “against the misbehaving child. Judges assumed the role of father figure and applied a “remedy with wide discretion as to the length of commitment. One of the criticisms of this model is that minors often served longer terms in the juvenile system than they would have had they been convicted by an adult court. Isaiah was given an ‘indeterminate sentence’ for stealing a car. Despite the fact that it was his first offense, he was sent to the Colorado State Industrial School for boys in Golden. Almost three years later he was released.

Judge Lindsey’s child-saving theories failed in this case. Isaiah’s natural complexion had barely returned before he was collared again. Burglary was the charge. He was sent back to Golden for another indeterminate sentence with the label “incorrigible attached to his name. In the spring of 1930, Isaiah was one of only ten African Americans among 290 inmates. In the fall, he escaped and headed thirteen miles east to Denver. The police were alerted. It’s all too easy to envision a reunion of sorts between Isaiah and his hoodlum friends, a reunion that broke up as sirens sent them scattering in every direction. Isaiah was caught and promptly returned to the industrial school to complete his term, plus an extension.

On New Year’s Eve 1931, Isaiah was picked up for vagrancy in Denver, given a thirty-day suspended sentence, and turned loose. Three days later he was picked up for vagrancy again, given a ninety-day suspended sentence, and was told that he had 6 hours to leave the city. He didn’t. On the afternoon of January 22nd, he and Leonard Hartley (a fellow inmate at Golden) were arrested by the Denver police for a crime that took place within walking distance from where Leonard lived at his uncle’s address. Under questioning, the boys admitted that they stopped a junkman’s wagon in an alley, pulled him out, and attacked him. Isaiah allegedly hit him with a lead pipe. They denied that their motive was robbery but said that they “had it in for the junkman.

Isaiah and Leonard were charged with “assault to kill and held in the city jail.

The junkman lay in critical condition at the hospital.

The charge was changed to “assault with intent to rob and Isaiah served five months and two weeks at the Colorado State Reformatory in Buena Vista. He was released in August. By November he was back at it again. The police, this time in Pueblo, apprehended him as a fugitive with a burglary charge over his head. He was given a break by the judge and turned over to the custody of his mother in Walsenburg. Only a few weeks later, Isaiah broke into a store near his house. Authorities charged him with burglary, he pled guilty, and he was shucked off to the reformatory for another seven months.

The intake officer asked him for a statement about his crime and Isaiah had a hangdog reply, “I think that it is fair that I be sent to this reformatory.

When asked about his father, he offered no name. He said his father was dead.

Was he?

Recall that his mother did not reject the surname of the mystery man who impregnated her. She may have done better than that. She gave Isaiah the middle name of James though that name turns up nowhere in the Walters family. Where did this name come from? Nancy told the census taker that Isaiah’s father came from Missouri. An examination of U.S. Census Records in 1920 and 1930 uncovers an African American man by the name of “James A. Chase living in Blackwater, Missouri. He was a laborer who owned a house and had at least seven children. It is entirely plausible that he crossed the border in the spring of 1913, met and had a brief relationship with the teenaged Nancy Walters when he was about thirty-eight years old, and then left.

Isaiah probably grew up angry at a lot of things. Not least among these would have been the hazy outline of the stranger who sired him. Look again at this eighteen-year-old as he stands and answers a set of routine questions. He is about to begin a fourth term behind concrete walls and we can imagine the thoughts and feelings swirling in his mind…

A strange, stern white man asks about his father without even looking up from the logbook.

…His father?

A father is meant to teach with a hand that is familiar and firm. He is supposed to protect his son from the snares of the world and raise him up straight and strong. Without him, other influences fill the voids.

The young man standing in the reformatory is no different from any other American boy then or now. Isaiah wants to be strong, but without a guiding force, he mistakes strength for violence. He desires good things, but the hand above him wasn’t big enough to teach patience and industry, so he steals. He yearns to define himself, but the most important role model in his life, his father, is long-gone. Other influences filled the voids. Isaiah sought out peers just as empty as he was and together they went astray with stunted definitions. Confusion pointed to frustration, and frustration to anger and recklessness. All of this eventually led to the rejection of those values that seemed to have rejected him.

Isaiah’s path led to crime; but it began with a void and perhaps a cry. A father is not supposed to abandon his offspring.

“What is your father’s name? The officer asks.

Isaiah shrugs his shoulders.

“Where is your father?

“He’s dead.

He may have meant something a bit more specific: He’s dead to me.

Isaiah ran afoul of the law nine times between the ages of twelve and eighteen. This places him in a category since identified by criminologists as the ‘chronic 6%’. These delinquents are arrested at least four times and are responsible for a disproportionate amount of serious offenses. Instead of aging out, they often continue their criminality into adulthood.

Isaiah’s many aliases demonstrate his lifestyle and as a result, reassembling his record makes for a tough chase. His name is identified here as “Isaiah Chase, there as “James Walters. It is also listed as “Isaiah James Chase and “Jack Walters. One gets the impression that he didn’t know who he was, and he clearly had little faith in his future.

Isaiah and his friends smoked and drank bootleg liquor and did what they wanted, when they wanted. One of his associates was a thirty-three year old convicted murderer known as “Snookums. In September 1933, police and railroad officers broke up a ring of car thieves, burglars, and boxcar thieves operating at the Santa Fe train yards in Colorado Springs. A fence was at the thieves’ headquarters late one night haggling over the price of 60 pairs of corduroy pants and 42 pairs of shoes when the police crashed in. They recovered the loot, obtained five confessions, and held eleven in custody –including Snookums. “Isiah Chase was arrested at the scene and confessed to the boxcar burglaries. He also confessed to stealing a Willys-Knight sedan and ditching it.

This time the judge threw the book at him. Still technically a minor, the criminal justice system graduated him early from the juvenile level and sentenced him to 5 to 10 years. Isaiah found himself in the big house –the State Penitentiary at Canon City.

Whether he gave a damn is not recorded.

…..
Photograph courtesy of Colorado State Archives.

Springs Toledo can be contacted at scalinatella@hotmail.com.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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Articles of 2010

UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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UFC_Edgar_and_Maynard_Dec._2010
Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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