Sellers keeps rising from canvas

Updated: April 30, 2004, 10:37 AM ET
By Thomas Gerbasi | Maxboxing.com

Talk about a killjoy. You go into an interview, have your angle, and your subject goes ahead and kills the whole premise within minutes.

That's cruiserweight contender Ezra Sellers, whom I planned on profiling as the ultimate warrior, the guy who rises from the canvas over and over to win, the man with the guts of steel. The only thing missing was the loincloth and shield.

So Mr. Sellers, what's your take on the toughness it takes to rise from the canvas numerous times to win fights?

"I've got to tell the truth," he laughs. "Everybody can say what they want -- 'Oh, he gets up because he's so tough,' and this and that; it's a bunch of garbage. When you get knocked down, at first you're shocked. Then after you're shocked and like, 'man, I'm down here,' the automatic reaction is to stand up. It don't mean you want to fight some more. (Laughs) It's natural. When you're getting out of bed, you get up. You get knocked down, you get up, and then the guy comes at you again, and you start fighting again."

But if the self-deprecating Sellers -- who battles for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title against Kelvin Davis in a Showtime-televised bout on Saturday in Miami -- doesn't want to say it, I will: This is one tough hombre, a made-for-TV fighter if there ever was one.

First, a little background. Sellers was born in Washington, D.C., 35 years ago with a hole in his heart. Kind of ironic that a guy known for his heart in the ring was born with a hole in it, isn't it?

"Maybe they put something in there that keeps it ticking," he laughs.

Needless to say, after corrective heart surgery at six, Sellers' father wasn't too thrilled about the possibility of his son lacing up the gloves and stepping into a boxing ring.

"My dad's a minister, and I had the heart surgery, so that didn't make it any easier," said Sellers (27-5, 24 KOs).

Nevertheless, Sellers started boxing at the age of 10, and won two local Golden Gloves titles before turning pro in 1989. His opponent was future heavyweight titlist Bruce Seldon, who dropped Sellers twice en route to a second-round stoppage victory. At 0-1, Sellers didn't fight again until 1992.

From '92 to '96, Sellers won 13 times, with eight of those wins coming in the opening round. Add a first-round blowout of the future Mr. Laila Ali, Johnny McClain, in August of 1997 to win the WBU cruiserweight title, and the hard-hitting Sellers discovered he liked taking care of business early.

"I like those," he chuckles. "If I can have those all the time, I definitely want those."

But with the good comes the bad when you've got a style like Sellers'. He hit the floor against journeyman Marion Wilson before winning a 10-round decision in 1998, and followed that up with a war with Alex Stewart in which he was dropped three times before losing in the third. Oh yeah, he dropped Stewart three times as well.

Since that bout, Sellers has only lost twice, to Ramon Garbey in a NABO title bout in 2001, and two years ago in a WBO title bout against Johnny Nelson.

"It's really weird because in most of the past losses I had, I was winning the fight, then fluky things happened," said Sellers. "When I fought Johnny Nelson, I had beat him in every round, and then I got thumbed in the eye, and the socket around my eye got cracked. I felt my sight was a little bit more important than the fight. My vision was very blurry and I couldn't see, so I stopped."

Win or lose, though, if you look up the word "war" in the boxing dictionary, Sellers' name should follow somewhere in the definition. It's a badge of honor to those of us watching from the outside, but not necessarily one for Sellers.

"I have been in a few bad ones," he said. "They weren't bad for y'all, but they were bad for me. They weren't bad for you guys at all. They were up and down, roller coaster and all that. People love that, though. That's what helps me keep going, I guess."

And that's probably what got him back in the title picture against a guy who, on paper, looks like the perfect dance partner for a crowd-pleasing rumble. So how does Sellers feel about the prospect of a knockdown-drag 'em-out war with Davis on Saturday?

"That's a bad thing," he admits. "How can a war be a good thing? I don't look to have a war if I can help it. But if it turns into one, then I'm going to war. If I can outbox him and do the things I need to do to win without it being a war, then I will definitely go that route."

With a six-inch height advantage going into the bout with the 5-7 Davis, Sellers should be able to keep his opponent off with a stiff jab, but the veteran is not expecting Davis to go along with the perceived script.

"Fighting anybody presents a problem because everybody has a different style," he said. "It really just depends on what he does whether it will make it very difficult or not. It depends on him. He's a very strong guy, so being careful and boxing is the most important thing in my book."

Riding a three-fight winning streak, Sellers is also aware that at 35 (and with a lot of fistic miles on his odometer), it may be win or go home come Saturday.

"This is it," he states without hesitation. "Unless something really, really major pops its head up, like another shot like this, but working back through the rankings and doing all that, I'm done with it. I'm not doing that anymore."

If he does win, Sellers will finally have his world title and the chance to make some good money in some sort of cruiserweight unification tournament with the likes of WBC champ Wayne Braithwaite and WBA boss Jean-Marc Mormeck. But if he loses, he's ready for life after boxing too, not surprising from a fighter with a mature outlook and a good head on his shoulders.

"It's really not that difficult for me," said Sellers. "I have a little boy who keeps me pretty busy. I work, I do construction work, and I do whatever I have to do to survive. The main reason that I'm still boxing at this moment is that I want to pay my home off and get a nice nest egg saved up. That's what I'm doing right now."

Ezra Sellers is one of the game's good guys. He tells it like it is, doesn't see the need to exaggerate to build himself up, and puts in an honest day at the office every time out.

But you would never hear him say that. And even though his father has never told him, "son, you made the right decision," when it comes to boxing, he understands.

"He's a father first and I'm sure I would probably feel the same way if my son, when he gets older, decides that this is what he wants to do," said Sellers. "I'll be the same way because I know what it takes to get where you want to be in this game. It's very difficult."

But he's persevered. That should tell you all you need to know about Ezra Sellers' father -- he raised a man.




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