|It’s Showtime for Witherspoon
By Gabriel Montoya (June 30, 2006)
Hard work. Discipline. Holding yourself to a higher standard and always looking to improve. These things are what it takes to not only succeed in world of boxing but in life. Philadelphia born Heavyweight prospect Chazz Witherspoon 12-0 (7) exemplifies all those qualities. This Saturday night on a special ‘Sons of Champions’ edition of ShoBox, Witherspoon (the cousin of two-time heavyweight champ ‘Terrible’ Tim Witherspoon) will step up in competition for what should be an entertaining fight against undefeated Michael Alexander 110 (8).
An amateur for just two years, Witherspoon was a National Golden Gloves Champion as well as a 2004 Olympic alternate. Witherspoon tallied a record of 25-6 and became the only man in the Golden Gloves to knockout all five of his opponents en route to the National Title.
“I was thrown in with the top amateurs in the country,” Witherspoon told Doghouse Boxing. “I only had two years in the amateurs. Most guys have three or four years in the amateurs. I knew I didn’t know what I was doing in the amateurs. I just went in there and fought hard. That’s all I would do, you know? I just been boxing for a little under four years. I only had two years in the amateurs. Most guys have three or four years in the amateurs. So I got kind of a crash course.”
What is most impressive is the fact that while Witherspoon was succeeding at a rapid rate in the amateurs, he was also a full-time student at St. Joseph’s, earning himself a degree in Pharmaceutical Marketing all the while holding down a job to support himself. For Witherspoon, all that multi-tasking set himself up for the hard road ahead.
“I was put in the top amateurs virtually overnight,” said Witherspoon. “I was going to school and had to maintain my grades to stay in school and I had a job, too. When I look back on it, it was hard. But now I am a better man for doing it. It definitely made things easier [now] because back then there wasn’t a day that I didn’t have to be someplace at a certain time. Monday through Friday I had school and boxing. Friday I had work, school and boxing. Saturday and Sunday I worked ten hours days. It definitely taught me discipline, how to manage my time better, how to prioritize.
Now that I can concentrate on just boxing it makes things a lot easier. “
With a Bachelor’s Degree in a growing industry, the risk of navigating the heavyweight waters might seem an unnecessary risk. For Witherspoon, the risk is what life is all about.
“That’s my point exactly.,” explained Witherspoon. I mean… why not? I’m young and if boxing doesn’t work out, I have something to fall back on. I look at it as the opposite. I look at it like, why not? My degree is not going anywhere. Youth is fleeting. I’m not getting any younger. I gauged whether or not I was going to turn pro by how I did in the amateurs. If I reached the pinnacle of boxing in a year and ten months in the amateurs, before I knew what I was doing … why not turn pro and take a stab at it? The way the heavyweight division is, and I don’t think it’s as bad a state as everybody thinks it’s in, there isn’t one overall dominant heavyweight. You have guys out there with talent, but there isn’t one dominant [boxer like a]…Mike Tyson, Holyfield, Ali or Larry Holmes. Now that Lennox has retired, there’s room.”
Being the cousin of a two-time champ has helped Witherspoon to prepare himself for headlining fight on a major cable network. But it does have it’s drawbacks as well.
“I’m a blessed individual, I recognize that,” said Witherspoon. “I’m not arrogant in any sense of the word. It’s a gift and a curse. Both at the same time .A gift because you get press, [from] name recognition. But you’re held to a different level of scrutiny also when you get in the ring. Tim was a two-time world champ so when people come and see me fight they expect me to be… they expect me to be a puncher first of all cause Tim had a strong overhand right. They expect you to perform to a different level. They expect you to perform at a champion’s level.”
So does the step up in competition add any pressure, especially considering that it is taking place in front of a Showtime Saturday night audience?
“Not really,” revealed Witherspoon. “You have different things to think about going into every fight. But I hold myself to a higher standard. I know I am great shape. I come to fight .I train five days a week even if I don’t have fight coming up. I train six days a week if I have a fight coming up. I’m working on becoming an all around fighter. You’re just setting yourself up for success if you can do everything. I don’t to want to put myself in a box. I don’t to be able to be able to pull all of the tricks out of the bag if I have to. So I’m working on all of that. So it’s taking me little longer to develop my own style because I’m trying to get everything down at one time. I’m trying to take on everything. I’m not just concentrating on one thing.“
As for his opponent, Michael Alexander?
“I hope he comes to fight , too,” said Witherspoon. “I want the crowd to want to see a Chazz Witherspoon fight. I want an exciting fight. I hope that all the work I do in the gym comes forth in the fight. I don’t take anybody lightly in the ring because in the heavyweight division one punch can change any fight. When I go in there I really don’t care about the person’s record. I’m going in there to do my best, I don’t take anybody lightly at all. I’m definitely not going to take anybody that’s 11-0 with 8 knockouts light.
“I know I can punch. Even though I am 12 and 0 with 7 KO’s, everybody that I didn’t stop, I had hurt at some point. I don’t want to become somebody that just relies on power. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be somebody that can box. And the power will be a bonus. Every time I tried to get a knockout is every time I didn’t get a knockout. I am learning to get away from that.
“I’m a hard worker so if I am giving it my all in the ring, it’s going to be a good fight. I just want to perfect my craft and become the best fighter that I can be. I’m my own worst critic. If I become a decent fighter by my standards then I know I will be a great fighter by everyone else’s standards. I don’t give myself anything. A good fundamentally sound fighter can be a faster guy, a more athletic fighter. I want to be a fundamentally sound fighter and an exciting fighter. I want people to want to come see me fight. I don’t want people booing in the crowd or to give a lackluster performance. I want to give a good performance, an entertaining performance. If I do my part, I’m going to rise to the top of the heavyweight division. By working hard and fighting hard, the people will see what I am worth.”
In my fight report from the June 3rd Vic Darchinyan fight, I made my first big mistake as a reporter. I dismissed women’s boxing hopeful Christina Kwan’s loss as nothing more than the demise of an over-hyped athlete. I not only misreported her loss as a KO (it was a TKO), I dismissed her without knowing the whole story. I received an email from her trainer Vincent Perozzi who informed me of my ignorance and the real story of what happened. Kwan, a U.S. National and World Champion in the 95-pound weight division, had her original opponent drop out ten days before the fight which was at a contracted limit of 99lbs. give or take one pound. A second opponent, who had weighed in at 109lbs. in her previous bout, was offered. The third opponent offered was Valerie Rix who informed the Kwan camp that she could not go any lower than 104lbs. and never been below 102.
As Mr. Perozzi explained to me, Christina Kwan , making her pro debut, is used to the amateur rules of weigh ins. They are the same day and if you win, you must make that weight the next day in your next fight. Most amateurs fight closer to their natural weight than professionals do. In the amateurs, Kwan fought at 95 lbs. The night of her pro debut against Rix , she weighed 102 to Rix’ 110 . Totally against the customs of a pro debut, Kwan fought an opponent that outweighed her, had more fights than her, and a 3-0 record. With all that was going on during the weekend of June 3rd, what with the Castillo/Corrales debacle, the pressure on Kwan, who was being heavily covered by the media, to go through with the fight was enormous. Like the true warrior she is, Kwan accepted the terms of the bout.
For the record, Mr. Perozzi would like Ms. Rix to know that Team Kwan wishes her no ill will and no hard feelings. They also wish her luck and hope she continues her winning ways. Like a true professional, Mr. Perozzi also acknowledged his team’s part in the fight. As for Christina Kwan , she will be fighting on ESPN sometime in July against an opponent who is a natural 98lber. I wish her the best and sincerely apologize for not doing my job to the best of my ability. I have a responsibility to the fighters I cover and to the fans who visit our website. It’s a hard and embarrassing lesson learned but one I am grateful for. I’d also like to thank Mr. Perozzi for his class in bringing this mistake to my attention.