Friday, January 28, 2005

Big Time

This week is the big time. My fights are one week away and the big fight card is next Saturday. I got to give props to the Saint Louis American for covering boxing. Cory Spinks is defending his Welterweight Championship of the World next Saturday at the Saavis Center squaring off against Brooklyn's Zab Judah. This is huge. The American had done stories on him from the get go. In fact, I even wrote one in the American four years ago on this up and comer. Several others have written about him in the American, Alvin Reid, Thomas Crone and now the regular boxing columnist for the American and Panda AC coach Glenn "Bad Intentions" McBrady. So props to the American.

Last year when Cory defeated the undisputed champ Ricardo "El Matador" Mayorga we all got together to watch the fight. There was no preview in the Daily. I asked around to see who was going to Atlantic City and apparently they wouldn't pay for anyone to go cover it. I picked up the Sunday five star with excitement to see where we gave props to our hometown hero. I figured they would pick up a wire story on him and put it above the masthead or on the front page, like the sneak peek for a feature on someone's yarn collection in the Everyday. This is the World Series of boxing for Saint Louis. But there was nothing. Surely there would be something on the front of the Sports page. I mean, Cory just captured the three big belts, something that DeLahoya never did. But no, not the cover. Jeez, where was it? Flip to the next page. Something on Kurt Warner's sore pinky. Nope. Next page, something on Kurt Warner's breakfast. Nope. Nope, nope, nope. Finally, page 11. They put the story on page 11. A big factor in boxing is about respect. I wrote a letter to the editor expressing my disappointment, and it did get in the sports section letters. To their credit, they have really done a great job since then covering Cory. While the respect came late, it is now coming heavy and quality.

Of course, now every casual boxing fan, and even non boxing fan is juiced up to go to the fights at the Saavis. All sorts of people are snapping up tickets. This is great. Cory deserves it. I took the kids to the press conference. The brothers. Derron, Demetrius and Bruce. It was a few weeks back. They are some funny kids. This was huge for them. Cory is also from the north side and they always hear stories about him. He gets his car fixed at Kunkle over next to the Bus Depot. He lived up in Hyde Park. He lived over there and went to school over there. Some of the stories are true, some are not, but the kids just dream about it. Cory is a good guy. Coach Doveed and coach Dio joined us there.

At the Press Conference, from center: Coach Dio, me, Bruce, Demetrius "the Navigator", Derron "The Mayor"

The press conference was great. There were probably over 1,000 people there and they were just bursting with excitement that had been long brewing. Don King spoke nearly the whole time and was just going on and on. About thirty minutes too long, and I am fairly certain he was getting all sorts of facts wrong. In fact I know he was. He called Slay the Mayor of the fine state of Saint Louis. He started talking about Lincoln in reference to Missouri. Um. But it was a beautiful delivery even if a bit long. Cory was shy. So was Devon Alexander, the man on the undercard. But then Kevin Cunningham spoke. He is Cory's manager and trainer. He is a great guy. Former cop who gave it all up to give it a shot with Cory. And it worked. He spoke smoothly and with conviction. Demetrius said he sounded like Snoop Dogg. Demetrius is very sharp and observant, that is why we call him the Navigator. He always knows where he is and picks up a lot more than you would expect for a ten year old. He goes to one of the magnets and is teased for being smart. He just smiles.

I took the kids for lunch over at the Tap Room. They loved it. They had never been. I had to drop off some paperwork. The Tap Room has been very very supportive. Very cool place. They gave the kids a nickel tour too. All four of us split a large order of fish and chips and a chicken sandwich. They wanted soda and I told them they could buy that themselves. I don't drink soda, nor do I encourage it. It should be treated like a dessert. I put one of the big slabs of fish on to a plate and told Demetrius and Bruce to split it. Bruce looked at me. Bruce is 11. This tough kid gave me the look like I needed to cut his fish for him. I looked at him and asked "Does the tough boxer need his fish cut?" He kept looking at me. I cut his fish as I smiled and shook my head. Demetrius and Derron smiled and laughed. Bruce then began to laugh too.

I then took the kids to a big time marketing company that handles a huge non STL brew to solicit a donation to get the kids tickets to the big Spinks fight. No luck. They offered to do a bake sale and then said they couldn't do that. No worries. I asked the kids who we should have help get them tickets. Bruce told me the Mayor is rich. We should ask him. I laughed. Bruce said the Mayor gives all this money away and we should get some. In a way he is right, there are some big city giveaways to people with money, but I would prefer to have the city spend their money on other things, besides there is a private company out there somewhere that should be able to make these kids year.

Last week I took nearly the entire core squad over to Loop to take a tour of the RFT. We went upstairs to rough up Chad. The kids were on good behavior, and they usually are. I told them to poke around Chad's desk and they did. Funny. We got the nickel tour there and they were highly amusing and highly amused. We saw Ben, Malcom, Randy, Jen. We went downstairs to talk to Mike Wagner. He is the head guy in advertising. Cool guy. Very cool. The kids were getting into the swing of it and started to just tell everyone they were fighting the next week. They were excited. We went into Wagner's office and he did just about the coolest thing for these kids. He peeled off nine tickets to the Spinks fight at the Saavis. One for each kid. These are very expensive tickets. This was just about the coolest thing that anyone has done for the kids. I got to give my props. A lot of people help out these kids. The owner of Kunkle is building corner posts and a speed bag rack. Another fella named Steve has donated a huge amount of gear. My father built some benches for the club. The landlord is very understanding and supportive. We pay a fair modest rent and doesn't hassle us about having a lot of kids unlike other places. Another guy has helped with our signs. My peeps Caroline and Dave helped with the design. Even City Hall has been supportive. Maybe I will ask the Mayor to build me a boxing arena. The coaches spend a lot of their time, a whole lot of their time working with the kids. We work with the adults too, and quite a bit, but it is working. Not without challenges. I hope these fights work out well next week. We have to make money at it. But we will make it work.

Exclusive Photos by Dilip Vishwanat/ Props to Dilip the official Panda AC photographer!


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