Brewster out to prove he's no 'one-hit wonder'
Several months ago Lamon Brewster, who faces Kali Meehan this Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Showtime, stopped Wladimir Klitschko to capture the WBO heavyweight title. A couple of weeks ago at his media day at the Broadway Gym near Watts, manager Sam Simon would present Brewster with another trinket to go along with his championship belt.
As Simon addressed the gathered media and well-wishers, he pulled out of his pocket a sparkling gold ring -- which had plenty of bling to it -- not to propose, but to honor his fighter's achievement.
"That's truly the icing on the cake for me because now, I mean, man, I feel official," said a gratified Brewster of his newest jewelry. "A lot of people can have a belt made, but man, that ring, wow."
Simon, who is the Executive Producer of "The Simpsons" in his real life, came up with the idea.
"The ring is traditional in sports," says Simon, who considers Brewster a part of his family. "They don't do it as much in boxing but mainly you look for ways to commemorate these special things that happen in life and the ring seemed like a good idea. It's big and heavy, and I'm hoping Lamon can wear it under his glove for the next fight."
Simon was just kidding around with his last statement and it seemed like he was poking fun at the excuses made by Klitschko following their fight this past April. But the allegations that were made by Klitschko and his team in the aftermath of his loss to Brewster have perhaps taken away some of the luster of their win.
"I think to an extent, to a small extent, I'd say yes," admitted Brewster, whose camp was fingered by the Klitschkos with some bizarre conspiracy theories. "I think the true fight fans of boxing knew for a fact that nothing was wrong with the fight other than the left hook to the chin. I think it just set boxing back. I looked at him as a gentleman because he didn't carry himself with a big entourage; he wasn't a mean-mugger, a bully. He got in there and fought, he spoke well to the best of his ability, but in losing, well, things like that keep us in the dark."
But while Klitschko was unable to continue after the fifth round after taking a big left hook from Brewster and then succumbing to exhaustion, he had his way with Brewster early on, hitting him with hard, precise punches and sending him to the canvas in the fourth round. But Brewster insists that the fight turned much earlier than when he hit Klitschko with his own big shot.
"I knew it was going to turn in the second round," he claims. "When he leaned over to me and I heard him breathing so hard, I just said to myself, 'Man, I just gotta be patient, keep being persistent, make him throw all those punches and pretty soon he'll run out of gas."
And sure enough, the needle would hit "E" for Klitschko, who was deemed unable to continue after the fifth round by referee Robert Byrd. Suddenly and shockingly, Brewster, who came into the fight as an 8-1 underdog and who was thought of as cannon fodder by HBO, was the new WBO champion.
As the fight was called off, pandemonium and exhilaration swept through the Mandalay Bay Events Center, which was littered with the friends, family and supporters of Brewster and his manager.
"It was such a spiritual thing for me. It felt like God himself showed up on the scene and just touched me and lifted my spirits up," said Brewster. "Like all the struggle, all the hardships and all that I endured coming into that fight, it just seemed like he said, 'After 30 years, I've seen your struggle, I felt your pain, I know what you want and you've proved to be worthy of this blessing. So I give it to you.' And that's what I felt."
But what should have been one of boxing's feel-good stories of the year was instead dragged through the mud by the spurious accusations and innuendos that were brought forth by Klitschko, his trainer Emanuel Steward and attorney Judd Burstein. The focus quickly shifted from Brewster's upset win, to what his team may have done behind the scenes.
"I think that the whole Klitschko scheme to discredit Lamon was hideously unsportsmanlike," said Simon, who still feels that his fighter's marketability was not adversely effected in the aftermath of his win. "They knew it wasn't true, but they still did it. They stopped as soon as they got a letter from our lawyers. But I credit the press for just immediately seizing on how preposterous it was.
"So I'll say nobody believed it but I think it may have taken some of the column inches away that might have gone to giving Lamon credit," he does admit. "But it's going to be several fights before the general public catches on to who Lamon is and how great he is."
Well, hold off on the labels of greatness. To many pundits and fans, Brewster's win is viewed more as Klitschko's loss. And many still can't shake the image of him losing to Clifford Etienne and (gasp!) Charles Shufford. A win against the unknown Meehan won't do much for his reputation.
In many respects Brewster is fighting to not be mentioned in the same breath as Hasim Rahman and Buster Douglas, other "one-hit wonders" of heavyweight lore.
"To me personally, they don't mean anything because of the fact that Hasim Rahman and Buster Douglas aren't in my shoes and I'm not a 'one-hit wonder.' I've been striving for this my whole life. And now I'm here, it's even more intense because I'm not going to let no man come take this from me. It's like when I said to Klitschko, 'You're going to have to kill me to beat me.' Now, I'm saying, 'You're going to have to kill me to take this title from me.'
"Because I put it like this, I've been at the bottom of the well, I know what it's like to stand in mud and have mud thrown upon you. To have people not even look at you. Or people to look at you and say, 'Oh, he's shot, he's washed up.' I'm not going back there. I equate that to being hell on earth."
But where just a few months ago he was the hungry underdog, he is now the hunted. Meehan, who he sparred many rounds with as a sparring partner, is what he was against Klitschko.
"Yeah, most definitely," agreed Brewster, "but the thing about Kali Meehan, he fights with heart and he wants what I got. But the bottom line is, it ain't about Kali Meehan, it's about Lamon Brewster. And as I say, I'm not going to let no man take this from me."
Looking at Brewster on this day, it's clear that this rhetoric isn't just lip service. He seemed to be in better physical condition than he was for the Klitschko fight, weeks before he was to go from his training camp in Big Bear down to Las Vegas.
"He's in great shape, physically and mentally," confirmed his trainer, Shadeed Suluki. "He's the heavyweight champion of the world, so that's made a difference. He's 'The Man' now. That motivates a fighter to work harder, so he's a lot better."
There's an old boxing adage that says after winning titles some fighters become 25-percent better. Suluki thinks it applies to his charge.
"I can see his confidence level is really high and he's gotten a lot better. That's why I was saying earlier that you're going to see a different Lamon because he's the heavyweight champion and he's good, he's better, he's the best out there."
Again, that remains to be seen. The reality is that most observers have Brewster ranked behind other titlists like Vitali Klitschko (WBC), John Ruiz (WBA) and Chris Byrd (IBF). But to the people who have joined this media gathering -- where there were signs on the doors of the Broadway Gym inviting the locals -- it's clear who their champion is.
"It's very special because that really means that the community cares and they understand how important something like this is," Brewster says of the folks who have turned up in support this day. "Because y'know, you don't become the heavyweight champion of the world everyday. And the heavyweight champion of the world is right here in the heart of the ghetto in Watts."
Brewster is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet in boxing. So nice in fact, many thought it was his Achilles heel. But he does have some venomous words when you ask him who he'd like to ultimately face.
"My first goal, I want to fight Vitali Klitschko because the man is in Los Angeles, he got the key to the city, he can't even speak English. I came up in the Los Angeles boxing program, I represented the United States on amateur teams and my own city doesn't recognize me," he says incredulously. "But this man wins a title a couple of weeks after I do and they give him the key to the city.
"I'm sorely hurt on the inside and very bitter about it," he admits. "Because I've tried to stay positive, I've tried to do the right thing, I went to communities, I've went to YMCA's, talked to kids. I think I should deserve that. And now without the recognition, they just made it worse on this man.
"Now, I really want to wreck him; I don't even want to fight him for money, I want to destroy him. They can have the money; I just want to destroy him."
Brewster-Klitschko. There's a fight with a familiar ring to it.