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Uknown Chambers one victory from stardom

23
Feb

Eddie Chambers is a single victory away from reaching the pinnacle of the boxing world. At the moment, though, a reasonable question for the casual fan might be: Eddie who?

Such is the lot of arguably America’s best heavyweight, who faces the daunting and normally futile challenge of fighting gargantuan RING champion Wladimir Klitschko on March 20 at the 50,000-seat Espirit Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Of course, Chambers says he’s different from a long line of opponents who were unable to cope with Klitschko’s immense size – 6 foot, 6¾ inches, 240-plus pounds – and his fine-tuned, time-tested ability to use it against smaller foes.

The 6-1 Philadelphian says he has both the skills and game plan to shock the boxing world, which hasn’t seen Klitschko lose since he punched himself out and was stopped by Lamon Brewster in 2004.

Chambers doesn’t get much respect going into the fight, though. Odds makers have made Klitschko as much as a 10-1 favorite to make Chambers his 12th consecutive victim. On top of that: As of now, those in the U.S. can watch it only on the Klitschko brothers' Web site, meaning few of his countrymen will see it if he pulls off an upset

And Chambers can live with that. When he wins – and he’s certain he will – the world will have no choice but to take notice.

“I’m very hungry,” Chambers said over the phone from his training camp in the Pocono Mountains. “And I don’t just mean money. I’m talking about respect. ÔǪ No one sees me as a threat in any way. They think it’s going to be another walk in the park (for Klitschko) because I’m a small guy without much power. I’m not that strong, or even that fast. Why would people want to watch another American get slaughtered?

“ÔǪ I believe I’m one of the best heavyweights of my era and I’ll prove it by beating the best heavyweight out there now. Wladimir is still a man. And there’s always a way to beat a man.”

The irony here is that America might fall in love with Chambers if given a chance. He’s one of the most-articulate and engaging fighters you’ll ever meet. Interviewing him is invariably a pleasure.

And he’s unusual in that he seems to lack an edge, at least outside the ring. He might strike you more as an intelligent guy who would do your taxes than a professional boxer, a notion that made him chuckle because he knows it’s true.

His body contributes to the deception. He has always been relatively short – 6-1 is generous – and pudgy. He just doesn’t look like an elite athlete, although he has worked hard over the past few fights to harden his muscles and improve his overall condition.

He weighed a near-career-low 208¾ pounds when he outpointed Alexander Dimitrenko in July, his most-impressive performance.

“I’m getting a little fanatical about it,” Chambers said. “I’ve been training since July, honestly. Not boxing but a lot of cardio, a lot of running. I don’t want to put on unnecessary weight, for this fight in particular.”

And, while Klitschko certainly deserves to be favored, there are reasons to give Chambers a shot.

One, this will be his third fight in Germany. His only loss was a decision to Alexander Povetkin in Berlin in 2008, his first fight on an unfamiliar continent, and he easily outpointed the favored Dimitrenko in Hamburg upon his return to Germany.

Chambers (35-1, 18 knockouts) expects to be perfectly comfortable when he arrives in Dusseldorf in a few weeks even though Germany is Klitschko’s home base.

“The first time I went I just wasn’t mentally prepared,” he said. “I was so wound up I just stayed in my room the whole time. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. Against Dimitrenko, it was the opposite. I enjoyed the locals, I ate at nice restaurants, I enjoyed the experience.

“I think it’s important to have fun. Even in the ring, you have to have fun. You need to get yourself excited. That’s what I learned from that experience.”

Chambers also proved against Dimitrenko that he can handle a big man. The Ukrainian, unbeaten when Chambers fought him, is 6-7 and weighed 253 but the little American gave the best performance of his career to win a one-sided decision, even if one sight-challenged judge scored it a draw.

Obviously, Dimitrenko isn’t Klitschko (53-3, 47 KOs) but Chambers demonstrated that he can overcome an enormous size difference and turn in a dominating performance with his skills, speed and new-found aggression.

Chambers was always criticized for relying primarily on his defensive skills instead of letting his hands go.

“Eddie realized finally in the Dimitrenko fight how valuable fighting is,” said his promoter, Dan Goossen, who has been among those pushing him to throw more punches. “ÔǪ He was just tremendous from an offensive standpoint. He realized that it’s easier to fight someone when you’re throwing punches instead of just trying to dodge them.

“He needed to throw more punches because he’s fast, accurate and good defensively. It all came together against Dimitrenko.”

Again, however, Dimitrenko isn’t Klitschko. So why will Chambers be different from the rest when he steps through the ropes and looks up at the world champion?

“I’m different altogether from the guys he’s fought,” Chambers said. “I’m more deceptive than those guys. My speed is good. He’s not slow but he doesn’t move much. Those are things I’m working on. I’m not going to stand around and make decisions on the fly like others have. I’m going to think things through beforehand. I’m not going to take a few punches to give one. If you stand in front of him, he’ll probably knockout you out even if you have a good chin. ÔǪ You can’t stay on the outside, though. The thing is to fight your way in, make him respect what you’re trying to do. Then, when you’re in there, you keep firing.

“I know it’s not going to be easy. They’ve [Klitschko and his brother, Vitali] been dominating for a reason. They’re the best in the world ÔǪ until someone gets in there and beats them. I want to shock people.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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