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Brewster out to prove he's no 'one-hit wonder'

8/30/2004

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.