|Charles ‘Hatchet’ Brewer looks back on an explosive career - Boxing
Interview By Ken Hissner (Feb 7, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
When you talk about a fighter that’s never been in a bad fight, the name Charles ‘Hatchet’ Brewer comes to mind. His trainer Bobby ‘Boogaloo’ Watts said “He was a warrior”. He added, “He would fight anyone.”
After several years of trying to obtain a bout with then champion IBF super middleweight champion Roy Jones Jr the title became vacant with Jones moving up to light heavyweight. This opened the door for Brewer against Gary Ballard (22-2-1) of South Africa, who was their former light heavyweight champion coming down in weight
for this opportunity. Brewer said “on film, after watching a tape of Ballard I thought they might as well mail me the belt.” Brewer said “I felt good going into that fight and I dropped him after about 30 seconds.” Brewer stopped Ballard in the 5th round capturing the IBF super middleweight title. The three judges had it a shut out up until the time the bout was stopped. This was in June of 1997.
In his first defense he won a lopsided decision over Joe DeGrandis (23-3) of Chicago. He would try again for the WBO light heavyweight title 5 years later. This bout was held in the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia, December of 1997. Brewer never lost in his nine bouts at the Blue.
He followed up with another defense in March of 1998 against British southpaw Herol Graham (48-5) at the Boardwalk Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Brewer thought “when I catch this guy I am going to put him to sleep.” In the 3rd round a straight left by Graham put Brewer down. As a result he twisted his right ankle. This altered his fighting style because he didn’t want Graham to know he was injured. When he came out for the 10th round he knew he would have to score a knockout. This was such an exciting fight that Ring Magazine voted it ‘Fight of the Month’ in
1998. Brewer was able to stop Graham in the 10th by TKO and keep his title.
In his next defense he went to Germany to fight another southpaw, Antoine Byrd (31-6-1), of California. Byrd had failed in an attempt to dethrone Roy Jones Jr in 1995 for this title. In Byrd’s previous fight he had stopped Willie Monroe Jr, son of the Philadelphia middleweight. This fight would be a preview for the German people to see Brewer defend his title against their amateur sensation Sven Ottke, two months later.
Before we get to that fight let’s go back to where it all started. Brewer only had a 14-3 amateur record compared to Ottkes 256-47-5 including win’s over Juan Carlos Gomez, Antonio Tarver, Chris Byrd, Zsolt Erdei, and Michael Moorer, who would all become world champions as professionals. So Brewer was not fighting someone with just 12 fights on his record. Watts had trained Brewer from the start. When he turned pro Watt’s brought in Augie Scimeca as manager and co-trainer. Scimeca told me he was a puncher’s trainer while Watts was known as a boxer in his fighting days. The combination seemed to work majic for Brewer. “I would spar and after the round go to Augie. Then after the next round I would go to Boogaloo. It was up to me to take the advice from both and execute it. It was a great combination”, said Brewer.
“I tried to change his style to shorter punches and killing guys with body shots”, said Scimeca. “My goal was to become a world class amateur, not turn pro,” proclaimed Brewer. Then Watts said “are you ready for the big time?” That was the start of a pro career that would lead to a championship. “I had been sparring with guys like Gary Hinton (former IBF junior welterweight champion) and Buster Drayton (former IBF junior middleweight champion) every day in the gym,” said Brewer. He knew by being in with two former world champions he was ready.
He won his first 14 fights, 8 by knockout. Suddenly he drops back to back fights to southpaw Robert Thomas (14-40-3), both by split decision. Thomas was coming off a draw with Eric Harding prior to the first fight, and then won 4 more fights between the rematch. “It was a wake up call for me in that second fight. I knew the first fight was a bad decision, but when it happened again I knew I had to start knocking guys out,” said Brewer. Top Rank dropped promoting him after the losses. Eventually Peltz Boxing would start promoting him.
Starting with a first round knockout over Willie Harris (21-2) Brewer scored eight straight knockout wins. He then ran into an uppercut by Lonnie Beasley (20-1-1). In going down he tore three ligaments in his left ankle. The fight was stopped in the first. “I was having trouble making weight after a four month lay-off and had nothing after making weight in my next fight against Rafael Williams (32-13). If someone would have given me a pillow and a blanket I would have laid down”, said Brewer. He was stopped in the 6th round by TKO.
“I moved up to super middleweight and had 2 fights at Foxwoods Resort (Connecticut), 19 days apart. I found out later after a quick knockout in my first fight that I was in with the promoter’s fighter Rodney Toney (18-0-2) and lost a split decision. I was so disgusted with the decision that I was going to quit boxing,” said Brewer. After nine months he returned to Philadelphia and scored two quick knockouts. “We put him in with the former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan’s fighter Frank Rhodes (22-3-3) for the USBA title at the Blue Horizon,” said Scimeca. He won the title with a 12 round decision. “I fought up in Madison Square Garden on the undercard of a Roy Jones, Jr. fight. He made quick work of Bryant Brannon,” said Brewer. On the other hand he was in with tough Venezuelan Fermin Chirino (12-10-2) who had gone the distance with Jones (23-0) and Mike McCallum (42-1-1). He even fought a draw with former IBF junior middleweight champion Matthew Hilton (31-1-1). His record was very misleading. “In around the 5th round I got a cut over my right eye. The blood was pouring out. I still have that picture of that at home. It is one of my favorite ones,” said Brewer. He would win an eight round decision. A month later Jones would beat McCallum for the WBC light heavyweight title. This would make the IBF super middleweight title vacant. In February of 1997 Brewer made a USBA title defense against Greg Wright (13-1-1) that would lead to the Ballard fight.
Now, back to Germany in October of 1998 to fight the 3 time Olympian Ottke, (12-0, 3 KOs). His promoter J. Russell Peltz may have figured Ottke couldn’t punch, but two of the judges couldn’t see. American judge George Hill had it 117-111 like most ring observers for Brewer. He was opposed by judges Manfred Kuechler (Germany) 116-112 and Luca Montella (Italy) 115-113, both for Ottke. “I thought I won big,” said Brewer. Brewer would have three fights (three 2nd round knockouts) over a 23 month period waiting for Ottke to give him a rematch. The first one was in Germany on the undercard of Ottke’s 2nd defense of his title. Ottke made six defenses before giving Brewer the rematch in September of 2000.
“Ottke would run in with his head down throwing punches and then grab or run,” said Brewer. The decision in the 2nd fight was more of the same. One judge had it for Brewer 116-113, but was outvoted 116-112 and 116-111 both for Ottke. “This fight was closer but still a bad decision,” said Brewer. Watts said “I thought Ottke fought better but still lost the 2nd time.” Scimeca said “Brewer was not as sharp in the 2nd fight though I still thought he won.” Though Ottke would go on to make 21 defenses before retiring undefeated, he would never give Brewer another chance.
Brewer was back to the Blue Horizon three months later with Esteban Cervantes (23-3-2). “In the first round I slipped an over hand right and caught him with a left hook,” said Brewer. It was all over in 2:06 of the first round. His next fight was on cable TV and what a controversy. Antwun Echols (24-4-1) was dropped three times in the 2nd round but referee Mike Ortega failed to stop it. Brewer returned to his corner. “He told us that Echols couldn’t punch, but I warned him to be careful,” said Watts. A little after a minute into the 3rd round Brewer got caught and was driven into the ropes. Suddenly Ortega jumps in and waves the fight off. Brewer put his hands up in the air questioning the stoppage. Everyone except Echols and his corner were questioning the stoppage. “We had tried to get fights with Jones (three times), Byron Mitchell, Eric Lucas and Robin Reid. Both Mitchell and Reid got a shot at Ottke.”
“I hit Echols and Ballard with the best right hands I ever threw,” said Brewer.
In his next fight he was matched with tough Fernando Zuniga (21-4) for the vacant NABF title. “I hit this guy with a left uppercut on the chin,” said Brewer. Adding “and when he didn’t go down I thought it’s going to be a long night.” Brewer won the title by decision 117-111 (twice) and 116-112. It would be his last fight in Philadelphia. It was this fight that lead to a shot at Joe Calzaghe’s (32-0) WBO super middleweight title six months later in Wales. “I thought it was a good fight though I knew I lost,” said Brewer.
He was back in Foxwoods Resort with Scott Pemberton (24-2-1) who was on a 12 fight (10 by knockout), six knockout win streak. “I had him out on his feet in the 2nd round but referee Steve Smoger gave him an 8 count that saved him for awhile,” said Brewer. He finished Pemberton in the 6th round. It was his only fight in 2002. In 2003 he won two fights in New Jersey.
After a 14 month lay-off he traveled to Germany again, this time against Mario Veit (44-1). Ottke had retired earlier in the year. This fight was an interim WBO super middleweight title bout with the winner getting Calzaghe. “I had over trained. The last time I was 166 pounds was in 1999 (Carlton Holland in Germany).” The fight was stopped in the 9th round. His last fight would be in Copenhagen, Denmark in April of 2005. “Training became a task. It was no longer enjoyable,” said Brewer. He added “just two days before the fight they changed opponents on me.” His opponent was Lolenga Mock (23-9-1) of Zaire whose last fight was in Denmark as a light heavyweight knocking out Giovanni Alvarez (15-1) of Sweden. Brewer said “at one point in the fight I hit him with a right hand and he waved me to come in. I wondered do I have it anymore?” He was stopped in the 10th of a 12 round fight.
I asked Brewer “do you have any regrets?” “When Bernard Hopkins and I were both champions I thought we should have fought. We would have packed them in somewhere in Philly. I think his promoter were the Goossen’s who made much too low of an offer.” He added, “so since there was nothing made of it I just moved on.”
I finished up with “I understand you are writing again for Philly Keith (www.phillykeith.com) here in Philly.” “Yes I am. I look forward to it between training some of the young fighters.” If he writes as well as he used to fight it will be a knockout!
e-mail Ken at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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