Heavyweight Factory churns out boxers
James Bryant wears a lot of titles. He's an underwear model, swimwear model, NFL hopeful and former college football player. But now he's training for the biggest title of all: heavyweight champion of the world.
Bryant, the 24-year-old ex-fullback/linebacker for the University of Miami and University of Louisville, is 2-0 with two first-round knockouts. And although he has no amateur boxing experience, he's a shining example of what former boxing promoter Kris Lawrence had in mind when he founded The Heavyweight Factory. Lawrence wants to take former college athletes, mostly football players, and funnel their athleticism and aggression into a heavyweight title.
"Anything's possible. That's the way you have to look at things," said Michael Moorer, the former heavyweight champion who trains fighters for the Heavyweight Factory. "This is way out there though."
The Heavyweight Factory, based in Hollywood, Fla., has a stable of about eight fighters, none of whom earned all-conference honors as football players. It browses college football programs, mostly in Florida, and contacts strength coaches to help find prospects. Then it trains its pupils, who still have to work other jobs to support themselves, in a sparkling 20,000-square foot modern facility, complete with weights. They work out under the tutelage of two former heavyweight champions -- Moorer and Shannon Briggs -- and in the same gym as another former heavyweight champion, Oliver McCall.
"It's almost like being a basketball player and working out with Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen," Bryant said.
Moorer, the only former champ among the trio who is strictly a trainer as opposed to being a boxer looking to regain a belt, understands turning an athlete into a fighter, and then into a heavyweight champion is a years-long process.
"I personally think it's going to take quite some time, over five years," he said.
But Moorer said even that timeframe is optimistic, considering a boxer likely wouldn't have more than two fights per year.
Lawrence, who was never a big-time promoter but was fortunate enough to handle Moorer for a while, isn't dissuaded. He's driven by an American dream of sorts.
"The American people are starving for a heavyweight," he said.
Bryant (6-3, 245 pounds) isn't dissuaded, either. He said he thinks about becoming heavyweight champion every day. He thinks he could be a savior for the division and a sport that has already turned him off a bit because of its seediness.
"I'm in it to bring back the sport," he said. "I'm in it to knock people out and have people on the edge of their seat every time they see James Bryant step in the ring, or they see James Bryant in front of a podium, or they see James Bryant in front of his opponent the day of the weigh-in. That's the excitement of heavyweight boxing.
"Yeah, you get it a little bit with Floyd Mayweather and some of these little guys, but at the same time when you get in the ring with somebody who's 245 pounds, 6-3, an ex-football player who is known as being one of the nastiest guys on the field, you're in for a rude awakening.
"I just try to bring my dynamics of football and my aggression and passion from the football field to the ring, and so far it's been successful for me."
Chris Perkins, formerly of The Palm Beach Post, is a freelance writer for the Sports Media Exchange, a national freelance network.