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Articles of 2009

Paul Williams Sneaks Past Underrated (No More) Sergio Martinez

George Kimball

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ATLANTIC CITY — Chalk up another one for The Punisher.

Pierre (The Punisher) Benoist, that is.

Saturday night's fight was less than three minutes old when Paul Williams discovered that 12 rounds with Sergio Martinez was not going to be the walk in the park many had expected, but someone forgot to pass the information along to Benoist. Operating on what must presumably have been advance intelligence, the ringside judge returned a 119-110 scorecard that not only misrepresented what had taken place before his eyes, but was at significant variance with both of his colleagues.

For the record, Williams captured a majority decision over Martinez in an intriguing and at times spectacular fight at Boardwalk Hall to extend his professional record to 37-1, but for most of the evening he did not much at all look like a candidate for anybody's pound-for-pound list, with the possible exception of Pierre Benoist's.

Only in the opening minute did things look as if they were going to go according to plan: Wielding his right-handed jab like a rapier, Williams drove Martinez into a neutral corner, and then dropped him with a left — although replays would later suggest that the knockdown punch actually caught Martinez high on the scapula, and hence could conceivably not have been a knockdown at all.

Whether it was or it wasn't, Martinez at the very least evened the ledger when, just before the bell ended the first, he floored Williams with a hard right hook. This essentially set the tone for the balance of the evening: Williams was more mobile, more active, and landed marginally more punches. (299-254, according to CompuBox.)

Martinez, on the other hand, landed by far the harder punches, many of them delivered in the form of that same right hook with which he tormented Williams all night long. If Williams had a small edge in volume, Martinez had a big one in accuracy, connecting at a 43% rate to Williams 28%.

“He is supposed to be the most feared man in boxing?” shrugged “Marvavilla” after the fight. “I did not fear him at all.”

That is almost certainly true. Suffice it to say that no one, including Carlos Quintana, the one guy who beat him, has ever treated Williams this way — with what, on this night, anyway, bordered on disdain.

Martinez (44-2-2), had stepped into the breach six weeks earlier after Kelly Pavlik had pulled out of what had originally been intended as a middleweight title defense. The 34 year-old Argentine, who has lived in Spain for the last seven years, even offered to bring a title of his own, but Williams, who had been training for a 160-pound bout, wasn't interested.

(Martinez had won the WBC's interim 154-pound title by beating Alex Bunema last year, and then retained it in February after battling to a draw with Kermit Cintron. His championship was subsequently promoted to the full monty when Vernon Forrest was unable to meet his obligation to consolidate the WBC versions.)

A son of the south who has done most of his fighting on the Left Coast, Williams (38-1) had burst into the national consciousness two years ago when he defeated Antonio Margarito to win the WBO welterweight title. In his first defense he suffered a shock loss to Quintana, but redeemed it in a rematch by scoring a first-round knockout.

Williams' strategy, he would say later, was “to keep making him fight and making him feel uncomfortable,” though it was unclear that he truly succeeded in either. Although Martinez did appear weary before the fight was one-third over, he battled on throughout the evening.

“I know he's a good boxer, but I was never hurt,” insisted Martinez. The Argentine's right cheekbone was slightly discolored for much of the night, but Williams incurred even more damage. A cut had sprouted above his left eye even before a clash of heads late in the third opened another. (Williams was taken to a local hospital to have the cuts attended to, and skipped the post-fight press conference.)

The appreciative crowd loudly applauded both fighters at the bout's conclusion. Things didn't get ugly until they announced the scores.

For the record, The Sweet Science-GK had Williams in front 115-113, the same total as judge Lynn Carter. It was a close fight, and we'd have  had absolutely no problem with the same score in the other direction. Benoist's version, on the other hand, was so preposterous that he had to make a quick exit from the ring and take refuge behind the commission table — whether from the fans or from Martinez' promoter Lou DiBella remains unlearned.

“I thought my guy won by a point or two, and I could have lived with a close decision,” said DiBella, “But when I heard that 119-110 score I wanted to hit the effing guy.”

Put it this way: The third judge, Julie Lederman, who had it even at 114-114, came a lot closer to being on the money than did Benoist. On the other hand, his card was so laughable that he could in the end serve DiBella's purpose as this fight's Gale Van Hoy, should  it be determined that it was rotten enough to warrant a rematch.

Martinez, in any case, said he'd welcome one.

“A rematch?” said Williams before leaving for the emergency room. “Hey, if HBO wants it, I'm all in.”

The paying customers and the HBO audience got an unanticipated bonus from a co-feature that turned into a Pier Six brawl. It was hard to escape the feeling that Cristobal Arreola may have been in a few of these before, and while In the end it was a gritty Brian Minto who went out on his shield, it was not without dishing out all his more accomplished street-fighting adversary could handle over the first three rounds.

Spotting Arreola 45 pounds, an undaunted Minto was a gutsy aggressor through those early rounds, even though his his discolored left cheek had swollen to the size and approximate hue of a large eggplant. Minto was pressed forward, winging combinations, body shots, and right-hand leads that kept Arreola ducking, but there was the overwhelming sense that danger was never far away, as Arreola's lethally-aimed counter shots repeatedly whistled past his head.

It was the fourth round before Arreola finally connected, and when he did it was with a big right hand that dropped the former Slippery Rock linebacker in his tracks.  (Asked if he'd ever been hurt, Arreola replied in the affirmative: “Yeah,” he said, “I hurt my hand on Minto's head.”)

Although clearly hurt, Minto got up, seemingly more determined than ever, and in the exchange that followed Arreola was cut across the bridge of his nose. Alas for Minto, this occurred at roughly the time his hematoma burst. Although he appeared to wing Arreola with an overhand right thrown almost blindly Arreola stepped inside, set him up with a left, and then landed a crunching right that sent Minto down again. Although he was able to arise, Eddie Cotton waved it off at 2:40 of the round.

CompuBox stats revealed that Arreola had not only outjabbed Minto 98-63 but had landed a whopping 34 of 46 power shots in the less than three minutes the fourth round lasted.

“It was a great fight, and my hat's off to Minto,” said Arreola, who improved to 28-1 with the win. (Perhaps as significantly, the aggregate record of his last dozen opponents, has been 291-42-9.) Having dominated — eventually — a tough and rugged opponent in his first trip back since being stopped by Vitali Klitschko, Arreola seemed philosophical about that loss.

“I lost to Klitschko, but I showed I'm still a legitimate contender,” said Arreola. “Besides, who's better than Vitali?”

The 34 year-old Minto's record dropped to 34-3 with the loss, but he left Boardwalk Hall buoyed by a legion of new fans.

Former welterweight champion Carlos Quintana, who authored Williams' only professional loss, bounced back from a second-round knockdown to stop the always-game Jesse Feliciano via a third-round TKO.

“[Feliciano] is a hard puncher, and he caught me a little off balance,” Quintana recalled the embarrassing trip to the canvas. Then, less than a minute into the third, a solid left hand from the southpaw Quintana ripped open a gash along Feliciano's right eyelid. Referee Randy Neumann halted action and summoned the ringside physician, Dr. Marc Shaber, who unhesitatingly  recommended that the bout be stopped.

“It was a deep cut, and about an inch and a half long,” explained Shaber.

The ending came at 0:59 of the round. Quintana improved to 27-2 (the losses were to Miguel Cotto and Williams in the rematch), while Feliciano's record dropped to 15-8-3.

In what otherwise hasn't been a great week for guys named Tiger, Washington heavyweight Tony (The Tiger) Thompson followed eight rounds of hibernation by stirring just enough to stop Chazz Witherspoon at 2:13 of the ninth in their scheduled 10-rounder.

Thompson, TKO'd by Wladimir Klitschko in a Hamburg title fight last year, was the larger and stronger of the two, but seemed unable to put together two sustained minutes, much less two rounds. He and Witherspoon had battled on essentially even terms through the penultimate round, when Thompson rocked the erstwhile Mensa Mauler with a right hook followed by a straight left that knocked him sideways. Benji Esteves, ruling that only the ropes had kept Witherspoon up, administered a count before turning Thompson loose again, but when four punches in succession brought no response, the referee quickly moved to rescue Witherspoon.

Thompson is 33-2 after his latest win, while Witherspoon, whose only previous blemish had been a DQ at the hands of Arreola, dropped to 26-2.

Jorge Diaz, the unbeaten New Brunswick (NJ) featherweight handled by longtime Arturo Gatti manager Pat Lynch, went to 11-0 with a first-round knockout of Puerto Rican Luis Paneto (5-7-2).  Paneto went down from a short right to the chin and took Eddie Cotton's count in a neutral corner, stumbling to his feet just a millisecond (Oh, darn!) too late.

The opening act of the six-bout card saw Jeremiah Wiggins (7-0-1) of Newport News, Va. score a unanimous decision over Manuel Guzman  (6-9-2) of Lancaster, Pa.  There were no official knockdowns, though Guzman caught a breather from Esteves when he spit out his mouthpiece in the final round. Frank Cappuccino had Wiggins by a shutout 60-54, while Debra Barnes had it 59-55 and Hal Bennett 58-56.
*  **   *
AT BOARDWALK HALL
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.
December 5, 2009
MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Paul Williams, 157, Augusta, Ga. dec. Sergio Gabriel Martinez, 159, Buenos Aires, Argentina (12)  ?
HEAVYWEIGHTS: Cristobal Arreola, 263, Riverside, Calif. TKO'd  Brian Minto, 218, Butler, Penn. (4)
Tony Thompson, 250, Washington, D.C  TKO'd Chazz Witherspoon, 234, Paulsboro, N.J. (9) ?
JUNIIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Carlos Quintana, 153 1/2, Moca, Puerto Rico  TKO'd Jesse Feliciano, 152 1/2, Las Vegas, Nev. (3)
Jeremiah Wiggins, 151 1/2, Newport News, Va. dec. Manuel Guzman, 150, Lancaster, Pa.
FEATHERWEIGHTS:  Jorge Diaz, 123 1/2, New Brunswick, NJ KO'd Luis Angel Paneto, 121 1/2, Caguas, Puerto Rico (1)

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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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