Eddie Chambers (right) stands next to 6-foot-7 Alexander Dimitrenko, who he outpointed in a 12-round heavyweight bout at the Color Line Arena on July 4, 2009 in Hamburg, Germany.
For as long as Eddie Chambers can remember he’s fought bigger men. It can be said that he’s been a cruiserweight in a heavyweight body for a near 13-year pro career spanning 39 fights.
Tonight, Chambers, who tipped the scales at 196 pounds at yesterday’s weighin, will make his cruiserweight debut at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., where he will face South African Thabiso Mchunu.
He enters the NBC Sports Net-televised bout with little knowledge of the man across the ring from him.
“I think the fact when you don’t know a lot about the guy it makes it dangerous,” Chambers told RingTV.com. “However, it could be one of two reasons, they tried to keep him protected, or it’s that they want to keep him a secret so they can jump him in on some unsuspecting top fighter. I hope it’s the later of the two ’cause otherwise he’ll be exposed badly. However, I have high hopes for the kid. I want it to be a good fight.”
It’s something he’s toyed with for many years saying of his decision to finally fight at cruiserweight.
“A lot of people say you should go down and fight the cruiserweight’s and I’m like ‘Yeah I could do that but God forbid if I go down to cruiser and have a tough fight and not dominate,'” he said. “People would say he’s not as good as we thought he was, there would be a whole of lot of backlash so it’s always been a risky step.”
However, Chambers admits that it was time to roll the dice.
“At this point in time I’m not taking any steps (forward at heavyweight),” he said. “If you look at it I’ve been pretty stagnant, even though I’ve had some good fights.”
Several top draw fighters had used the cruiserweight division to great benefit before abdicating their thrones for more glory at heavyweight. It’s not lost on Chambers.
“I wanted to do it a long time ago,” he said. “I wanted to be a world champion, then you look at guys like Evander Holyfield, David Haye, James Toney, they all worked their way up to heavyweight, they all used that division and they’ve all had good fights there and they were all champions. Now the heavyweights are 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7, weighing close to 300 pounds.
“Why don’t we fight some guys our own size, win and dominate here then make an effort to become a bigtime heavyweight and it never came to be. That’s why it’s a little late but better late than never.”
It’s not that Chambers didn’t do well up at heavyweight. He went a very impressive 36-3 with 18 stoppages against the leviathans, winning several regional titles, including the respected USBA strap.
He unsuccessfully challenged RING champ Wladimir Klitschko in a 2010 title attempt, lasting until 5 seconds before the final bell before the giant Ukrainian landed the crunching fight-ending blow. Though Chambers was a mile behind on the scorecards he had put forward a solid effort especially in light of the size difference – a 6-inch height differential as well as a whopping 35 pounds.
Chambers says of fighting Klitschko: “He has a heck of a championship pedigree, he’s been there years now; he’s been world number one for a long time. He has to go down in this era as one of the greats of boxing especially Heavyweight Boxing.”
Part of the problem for Chambers on that night he says was inexperience. He was in great shape, he was as ready as he ever could have been but he says “Mentally, I wasn’t prepared for what it meant (to fight for the world championship). When you see 55,000-plus in the stadium I realized this is something big and then when you get in the ring you realize there’s a whole lot more on the line and you have to get your feet wet a little bit.”
There’s no shame in losing to Klitschko, who seems well on the way to breaking all sorts of records as well as becoming a heavyweight all time great.
The other two loses on Chambers’ ledger book end the Klitschko loss – Olympic gold medalist and current WBA “regular” beltholder Alexander Povetkin hung the first loss on his record.
The other was in his last fight last June when he lost a highly disputed decision to former cruiserweight champ and fellow heavyweight title challenger Tomasz Adamek.
“It was frustrating,” Chambers, who injured his hand during the bout, said of the Adamek fight. “I’ve fought a lot of good fights and I’ve had close victories in the past. I knew going in that if we don’t get the knockout most likely we’re not going to get the nod, especially if it’s a close fight.
“After the first round I expected the fight to be very, very easy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking at Tomasz like he’s not a formidable opponent but with my boxing ability (I was confident of winning). So when I hurt my hand I had to make adjustments, it’s very frustrating when you know you landed more punches and you come out with an extremely lopsided decision loss. It is what it is, I had to get past it and I’d love to get a rematch.”
Since that loss Chambers, now 31, has done a lot of soul searching but now he’s reinvigorated himself and trimmed off those few extra pounds to make his debut at cruiserweight.
He’s excited about the new challenge.
“There are a lot of fight of the year candidates to come out of the cruiserweight division because if you think going back to when James Toney fought (Vassiliy) Jirov, O’Neil Bell fought Jean Marc Mormeck, David Haye fighting Mormeck, Steve Cunningham-Tomasz Adamek, Hernandez and Huck then coming to Lebedev-Guillermo Jones. It’s just a constant stream of great fights in the division.
“You get the similar size of a heavyweight and then you get activity of the smaller guys so you’re right in the middle. When you look at the heavyweight division of the past when it was at its peak, the guys were 215 at most, 200 pounds even 190. I believe the challenge for me was to get in there and fight a smaller man’s fight, which I did for most of my career.”
With that in mind Chambers, a student of the game who grew up in Pittsburgh but trains in Philadelphia, believes the new division is as strong now as it’s ever been.
He rated each champion in the division for RingTV.com.
“They all have interesting things they bring to the table,” he said. “Marco Huck is a pressure fighter – not that well versed as a boxer technique wise, however he brings a lot of pressure and a heavy right hand. Then you have Guillermo Jones who’s a bit underrated ’cause of his awkward looking style. It’s kind of like if you look at Tony Thompson, one of the better heavyweight’s of recent years. Very, very awkward, it’s a little awkward for some people to watch but it’s effective. You have Hernandez an awkward southpaw, pretty decent boxer and (Krzysztof) Wlodarczyk, I haven’t seen much of him but I hear he’s tough. I heard he had a real good win recently.
“There’s a lot of interest there, four separate champions. At heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko is known as the undisputed champion. Why don’t we try to do that at cruiserweight? I think at cruiserweight there are a lot of opportunities to make great fights.
“I’ve done well with the big guys now it’s time to step up and see how I do with guys my size. It’s a different challenge for me cause they’re more athletic, more active, it makes it more fun to be honest. I’ve always prided myself on being big but fighting small.”
So what can we expect from the newer smaller version of Chambers?
“The same thing as always, more active, more boxing, altogether more excitement,” he said. “In this situation I can fight fire with fire instead of being at a size disadvantage.”
Time will tell just how Chambers adapts to his new surroundings but for now he’s certainly a welcome addition to the all ready bursting-at-the-seams cruiserweight division that is arguably at its strongest ever.
Photos / Krafft Angerer-Getty Images, Boris Streubel-Getty Images