- Joe Tessitore, Boxing
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Only in boxing, it seems, do we have stories like this. A story so unconscionable, so far over the line of adversity, that it forces us to reassess our own struggles and hardships.
It's the kind of story that makes you understand why it seems boxing is featured in more critically acclaimed movies than any other sport. And maybe one day down the road, there will be casting directors looking to fill the role of Edison Miranda. They should already be writing the script.
For now, the screenplay still needs an ending. This week, the 25-year-old Colombian middleweight will go inside the ropes for one of the best "Friday Night Fights" main events of the year (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET). Miranda is going up against the steel-framed Howard Eastman.
Eastman is a skilled veteran who fought Bernard Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight title last winter -- and the most experienced and dangerous fighter Miranda has ever faced. Plus, a shot at the IBF title is on the line. Miranda isn't fazed. This pro-boxing stuff is like a Paris Hilton workday compared to his childhood.
I first took notice of Miranda last spring when he showed up on a "Friday Night Fights" bout sheet. I saw the gaudy record with all those knockouts. Then I dug deeper. My Spanish isn't up to full speed, so his trainer helped out. But some conversations don't need an interpreter. The look of truth, hurt and survival beamed from Miranda's eyes.
As it was told to me on that day, Edison was grossly mistreated as a child. He was born in 1981 in Colombia, on the economically challenged southern coast of the South American nation. It would have been a test even if he had the support of a hardworking family willing to provide as best they could. That was hardly the case. Edison was born to a 14-year-old girl with no such intentions.
His mother passed him off and never looked back. Unfortunately, none of the recipients ever looked forward.
Little Edison Miranda was a hot potato tossed from family to friends. There never was a home base. There never was a plan. The young mom was nowhere to be found. Edison Miranda has been coming out of his own corner and ready to fight onward ever since.
He had to fend for himself while being neglected by his supposed caretakers. By the time Edison was 9 years old, this already-weathered little warrior decided he was better off on his own. Edison escaped to the harsh street life of Colombia.
It was nearly a decade after he was abandoned. Edison still wanted to find his mother. Reconnecting with the young woman who started him down this road of extreme hardship became Edison's crusade.
Miranda's current co-manager, Steve Benbasat, is well-equipped to tell Edison's tale.
"It's very tough for Edison to talk about this," Benbasat said. "He was living in the streets and then hit the road. Being from South Florida, I would relate it to hitchhiking the distance of Miami to North Carolina.
"He was hopping into the back of pickup trucks. He made it to a construction site and asked around for his mom. He ended up confronting his mother's brother. The uncle he never knew told him that if Edison was really the little boy his sister gave away, then Edison should have a birthmark on his leg. Edison unveiled the 2-inch long circular proof. The man led Edison to his mother's new home," Benbasat said.
The young woman was now married to a fairly successful man. Maybe Edison had finally found salvation. Instead, his unexpected entrance into the couple's life was unwanted. The young woman abandoned Edison a second time. She chose her new life over her son.
He was 9 years old with nowhere to go.
Benbasat described the horrors. "He was on his own for good. He was sleeping under trees. He was finding dead animals on the side of the street and cooking road kill over open fires. He was chasing down lizards and putting them in his mouth for food. He would cover himself up at night with construction tarps. He would eat whatever he could find out of garbage cans. He wasn't like the other homeless bums. Edison put forth effort."
He was 9 years old and already a man.
At this point, I knew everything I needed to know about Edison Miranda as a fighter. He made decisions at 9 that are tougher than any he will face in the ring.
By the time he was 12, he was working in the plantain fields. The next year, he would have a full-time construction job. By the time he was 14, he was a cattle butcher. Then came 15.
Six years after his mother again turned her back on him, boxing opened its arms. This would be his family. In 1997, he had a half-year of training and started his amateur career. By the next year, Edison was a Colombian national champ. He added two more Colombian titles.
You can only imagine the fire in Edison's eye when that first bell rang. You can only imagine the raw fury that came from his fists. You didn't have to imagine the results. He was a knockout puncher. A seek-and-destroy missile hardened through a childhood that wasn't a childhood.
Edison is proud to boast of an amateur run which earned 128 wins among his 132 fights. Among the four losses was one that kept him off the 2000 Colombian Olympic team.
"I never knew anything about boxing, but when I was 14 years old I dreamed that I was in a boxing ring," Edison said. "I understood that God was telling me something."
Whatever he was told, he listened to it well. In 2001, he turned pro in Colombia. He scored a first-round knockout. Then another, and another, and another. His fourth opponent that year lasted two rounds before being KO'd. Edison got back to the business of instant rage. Four first-round beatdowns followed. In fact, Edison's first 21 fights were all victories by knockout.
Still, he fought for very small purses in Colombia, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Some would say he was a victim of the business and completely taken advantage of. After what he went through, Edison's definition of abuse probably differs. I was told he never made a penny for many of these fights, just food and lodging. New managers and the American dream have changed all that. Recently, against better competition, Edison's KO pace has slowed but his reputation has grown.
The little boy no one wanted is now signed to a U.S. promotional contract. The little boy relatives mistreated is now in position to treat himself to a world title shot. Come Friday night, the little boy whose own mother never loved him is ready to be loved by all of us.
Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
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