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Articles of 2009

The End of BRUTE: He Was Like A Bobblehead In There

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Derek, who was as happy as any of us that Stan had won, put his hands in his pockets. “Get a picture of Stan winning,” he said, “’cause that’s what he just did.”

Those who had cameras held them up and took a few pictures of Stan as he paced around the canvas. He looked nervous, as if entrusting the judges with his fate had been a potentially fatal oversight, and now he was wandering in a daze, wondering how he could have gotten the knockout. Stan’s father climbed through the ropes and put a hand on his son’s shoulder, which seemed to calm Stan down. Then the referee took Jett by the wrist, and leading him like a shy child, walked up to Martyniouk. When he had ahold of both fighters he turned to Jett and said something. Jett nodded.

Behind them the announcer leaned over the ropes, keeping one hand on his back either because it was sore, or to keep his shirt tucked in beneath his jacket. The head judge handed up the scorecard, and when the announcer turned so that he was facing us again, he was smiling broadly. “After four rounds of boxing in the lightweight division,” he began, holding the microphone with its wireless tail pointed to the sky. But someone interrupted him.

“There was nothing lightweight about it!” The anonymous voice, which issued from somewhere near the bar, was clear above the rest of the noise in the room, and inspired a healthy laugh.

“After four rounds of boxing,” the announcer repeated, “we go to the judges' scorecards. All three judges score the bout 40-36,” said the announcer, “for the winner, by unanimous decision, Stan 'The Man' Martyniouk.”

The crowd around me relaxed and then applauded. Mehrad seemed to have borne the anticipation of the judgment poorly too, because he was letting out a long breath when I looked over at him. He didn't smile until Gerrell slapped him on the shoulder.

“There ain't nothing to worry about,” said Gerrell.

The clergy were vacating the ring. Therefore the savior, having vanquished the devil a third time, had already walked down the mountain—rather than trusting the angels to catch him. I left the White Tigers to look for him in the dressing room. At the exit from the ballroom I showed the security guard the wristband I'd been issued when I turned in my ticket. It was not a unique bracelet from what the other patrons wore, but I must have showed it with sufficient confidence because the guard only nodded as I passed. I walked through the hallway, which during more conventional events allowed the servers to move between the kitchen and the event they were catering. Now it was filled with friends of the fighters. I passed Gilbert who was leaning against the wall talking with Niavaroni. I must have looked as though I didn't know where I was going, because Gilbert nodded to me and asked, “Are you looking for Stan?”

He clearly recognized me from the gym. “Yes,” I said. At the last fight I'd entered by some other hall, and didn't now know where I was in relation to the boxer's quarters. Like Mobutu's Stadium outside of Kinshasa, the Red Lion was not built with boxing in mind and there was always the possibility that the location had changed.

“He's in the main dressing room, which is just down this hall to the left.”

I thanked him and went on. When I found it, I stood at the threshold with my pad, trying to appear casual. Stan stood with his back partially turned to me. A man I did not recognize was helping him off with his gloves. When they'd been removed and laid on the dressing table, which was bare except for a bottle of water, the man cut the tape. I walked around so that Stan could see me, and he raised his chin in greeting. His face was swollen on the pommes of both cheeks. Below his right eye the skin looked abraded.

To my right, before I had the chance to ask Stan anything, Mike Simms and Urijah Faber came in together. Stan looked honored to see them, and reached out his left hand—he was holding his right gingerly, I noticed—to shake hands with Urijah.

“He was like a bobblehead in there,” said Urijah of Jett. Stan looked down demurely.

The doctor came into the room and put down a small medical bag on the dressing table. He went up to Stan and took his face in his hands and looked into his eyes. “How'd you feel in there, kid?” the doctor asked.

“I felt fine,” said Stan.

“If you'd have thrown a combo and then pivoted,” said Mike Simms, apparently thinking about how Stan could have achieved the knockout. 

“Yeah,” said Stan.

The doctor passed his index finger back in forth before Stan's face, and Stan followed it with his eyes. Then the doctor took out a small flashlight and looked into Stan's pupils.

“I don't think I took very many punches,” Stan said.

The doctor opened Stan's mouth and felt first the upper and then the lower row for loose teeth. They had all, it seemed, remained rooted, and when the doctor was satisfied of this he gave Stan two approving taps on the cheek with his four gloved fingers and said, “You look okay, kid.” He put the light into his bag, closed it, and saluted Urijah and Simms as he left.

During the examination another man had come into the room. He was standing apart from everyone holding a magazine in one hand. Urijah either recognized him, or had observed his species before, because without saying anything he went up and shook the man's hand.

“It's so good to meet you,” the man said. “I didn't want to really bother you, but I was hoping you would sign this for me.” He held up the magazine on whose cover was a very fit Urijah Faber, wet with sweat, and lit so dynamically so that the lines separating the muscles in his stomach were like the seams in an overstuffed quilt. Urijah took the magazine humbly and signed it with a pen the man provided. 

Simms was in front of Stan, now, with his hands up. “Gotta throw that double jab,” he was saying. “Even a lesser fighter can counter that single.”  If Jett had countered Stan's single, I hadn't seen it. Simms, it seemed, was recalling the advice he'd given himself after his fight in May. That win, he must have felt, was a gift from the local officials. Two months later the win remained an incomplete victory.

Stan could see that I was hoping to talk to him before he returned to the ballroom, so when he had a moment's break from Simms he nodded to me and told me that he needed to go wash his face. On his way to the restroom or the kitchen—I don't know where the fighters were scheduled to rinse themselves off—he passed Faber. The man with the magazine had gotten his autograph but was now explaining his theory on how Faber could have knocked out Jens Pulver during their recent title collision. Faber had been listening patiently but took Stan's passing as an opportunity to extricate himself from the conversation.

“Good to see you, man,” said Faber, shaking Stan's hand again. Then he apologized to the autographee for having to get back into the ballroom, and followed Stan into the hall. The abandoned man now looked a little embarrassed to have waylaid Faber, and left without saying a word to any of us. As he went, though, Nasser Niavaroni entered the room. He was looking past me to the rear corner of the room where I had somehow failed to notice Brandon Gonzales shadowboxing. Gonzales raised a glove to Niavaroni without stopping his feet. 

“This thing's gonna go as many rounds as we let it,” Niavaroni said to Gonzales, meaning that the newest fight underway was in little danger of producing a knockout. I didn't feel, therefore, that I was missing anything important waiting in the dressing room. “They'll come in and tell you when the last rounds starts,” Niavaroni added, and Gonzales nodded.

I thought Niavaroni would leave without really acknowledging me. But he took off his hat, ran a hand over his head as if relieved, and said, “How you doing, bud?” before replacing his hat.

“Should've been an eight count in the first,” I said, proud that I had that comment at the ready.

“Well,” said Niavaroni, “it wouldn't have changed anything.”

Simms was now speaking to a security guard with a tremendous stomach and an even more impressive belt encircling it. “Yeah,” Simms was saying. “His brother trains Manny Pacquiao.” I didn't hear whose brother this was. If he were somewhere in the building I should have liked to talk to him. But before I could ask Simms, to whom I hadn't yet said a word, Stan returned. It was clear, now, that Niavaroni had stayed to speak with Stan, because as Stan came into the room, Niavaroni put his hand on the kid’s shoulder.

“Don't get down on yourself that you didn't knock him out,” Niavaroni said.

“I just thought that I had him,” Stan said, his head down as when he spoke with his father in the ring. “In the first I had him hurt, and then in the second it was only the ropes keeping him up. Same thing in the third and the fourth.”

“Don't you be hard on yourself, bud,” Niavaroni said. “He's a journeyman. That guy had fifteen professional fights. You beat the hell out of him. You've got nothing to feel sorry about.”

Stan looked up and smiled sheepishly. Niavaroni patted him on the back and told Gonzales, jokingly I assumed, to go easy on his man. Gonzales kept dancing and throwing punches, and Niavaroni went into the hall. I wanted to conduct and conclude the interview as quickly as possible, less because I was excited to get back to see the semi-final, and more because I feel that a formal interview eliminates spontaneity, and spontaneity, especially when coupled with intelligence or extreme ignorance, is what makes for an interesting conversation. 

There are few athletes who are interesting to listen to when discussing themselves. They are coached, I think, to be humble and self-effacing. Most don't want to get portrayed gloating. They try to give credit where it is not necessarily due. Perhaps it is somewhat different in boxing, where first there was Jack Johnson, then Muhammad Ali, and ultimately Mike Tyson to name three in chronological order, all of whom danced on graves: Johnson because he was the first American black man who'd figured out how to deride a white man in public; Ali because he was the second; Tyson because he had only graves to dance on. But it is rare to hear a young athlete, whether he tries to kill people for a living or not, say anything worth taking notes about. I would much rather listen to a braggart unworthy of his self-praise remind me that he is the second coming of Christ than suffer the false modesty of a fine young fighter, having just beheaded an old fraud, explaining what a challenge the gentleman with three times as man losses as wins had posed. Stan, I feared, was going to situate himself in the latter category. This is the most petty of complaints, I know. If humility is the norm, and conceit the exception, I guess I should be proud of international sporting courtesy, rather than be as I am, which is bored with it. But let’s not forget that indigenous Costa Ricans worship the Resplendent Quetzal, and not the Sooty Shearwater.

“Would you like to talk here?” Stan asked.

“That would be fine,” I said, and turned on my recorder. As I put it down on the table, Stan's father came into the room carrying a small duffle bag and set beside my recorder. 

“What you need is in there,” he said. “I will take you home after this.”

“After the fight,” said Stan.

“Yes, after the fights,” his father said before turning to go. But he stopped and added, “It is the right wrist?”

“I'll be a few minutes, here,” said Stan, taking a wrist brace from the bag.

“Did you hurt your wrist?” I asked.

“It's an old injury,” he said, smiling.

What else, I wondered then, was there to ask him? Jacob Barnes had a similar crisis when he and Bill Gorton stood in Pedro Romero's dressing room before that first bullfight in Pamplona. Then, though, they hadn’t yet seen Romero fight, and perhaps Jake would have had a great deal more to ask in the dressing room after. Yet he found Romero three nights later at the Café Irruña, and they spoke only of a fight in Madrid. Therefore, as a sort of ineffectual journalist less concerned with the dissemination of information than the examination and presentation of a scene, I can say that there was not much to ask him. Stan was 23, alone except for his father, and the hangers-on in the ballroom, and he had just won his third professional fight. I suppose I could have asked him if he felt the match-up had been fair to Terrance Jett. The resignation Stan had articulated by hanging his head in front of Niavaroni was no doubt born in his failure to knock Jett out. But as we stood in the dressing room, his resignation—he was smiling only with his eyes—was living, perhaps, in his recognition that Jett had been chosen to feed Stan’s record. It's not that Jett hadn't fought as well as he could; it's simply that he could not fight that well, and had flown up to Sacramento from Vegas as the bull is trucked to Madrid from Andalucía. Stan had prepared him for the kill, had placed the sword high between the shoulders, but the blade, after eight charges, had not penetrated. As the assistant matador must sometimes sever the spine with the short knife, it was the judges who had finished Jett. This made the ordeal no more a contest or any less a tragedy. But it had still been a fine thing to see.

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

David A. Avila

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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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