Philly's Chambers celebrates a career-changing 2009
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
Eddie Chambers is a happy guy this holiday week.
Coming off a 2008 that yielded a first career loss and an unwanted trip to the back of the title-shot line, the Philadelphia-based heavyweight decided 2009 would be his career's make or break year.
"I decided that if I wanted to get a real shot at anything, I had to sell out completely and be willing to do whatever it takes, giving up three or four or five years of my life now so that I won't have any regrets in my 80s," he said. "To be completely great, I had to give that kind of effort and even more.
"Because I knew the more I put into it, the more that would be there to get out of it."
Twelve months later, those rewards may be as near as his next fight.
Oft-ignored behind verbose competitors for the "Best American Heavyweight" crown, Chambers proved deserving of the tag through two 12-round masterpieces in the soon-to-be old year, dominating former belt-holder Samuel Peter and unbeaten prospect Alexander Dimitrenko to claim the WBOs mandatory challenger shot heading into 2010.
The wins lifted his record to 35-1 over an eight-year professional career.
And though a bout with incumbent WBO title-holder and consensus division kingpin Wladimir Klitschko is not yet finalized for a March 20 date already penciled in on boxrec.com, Chambers nonetheless remains confident Santa will deliver the prize soon -- if not exactly in time for a Friday morning unwrapping.
"There's no signed contract. Nothing has been signed. I'm hoping that it'll get done," he said. "We thought we were pretty far into it, but then questions have come up about where -- so we're trying to lock in a place -- and then there are always questions about funding and TV and everything else that comes up.
"But I'm thinking it's going to happen. And I'm confident that it'll be March 20."
If so, hes got a relatively low bar to jump.
His two most recent competitors for domestic supremacy failed badly in their own recent shots at world glory -- with brash Californian Chris "Nightmare" Arreola falling to Vitali Klitschko in 10 rounds in September, before talkative New Jersey product Kevin "Kingpin" Johnson lost nearly every second of a 12-round date on Dec. 12.
Monikers aside, neither Arreola (27-0) nor Johnson (22-0-1) had beaten a Top 10 contender before their shots. Meanwhile, the tamely-named "Fast" Eddie has not only beaten Peter and Dimitrenko, but also out-pointed former Klitschko victim Calvin Brock over 12 rounds in 2007.
A self-proclaimed "average looking guy" from Pennsylvania, he uses basketball logic to explain why he expects success against Wladimir where most others, 53 out of 56 overall and 11 straight since 2004 to be exact, have failed.
"I go into a ring thinking about what I do, and how I need to do it better," he said. "Most of the guys who fight him worry about what he does. It's like watching a great ballplayer. In basketball, guys will stand around and watch a great one play. Too many guys worry about what Wladimir is doing and they're afraid to assert themselves. So they essentially let him play with a 20-point lead and never look back.
"Dimitrenko had the same pedigree. He would stay on the outside and box guys to death, and occasionally go in and get some of them out of there. But against Wladimir, I'm most likely going to be faster than him. I'll have better movement than him. I have to be elusive and be in different places. Too many guys stay on the outside and then theyre stuck watching. I'll give him angles and use my own offense."
Chambers also plans to re-unveil the sleeker chassis he modeled against Dimitrenko in Germany, where he weighed in at 208 1/4 pounds after tipping in at 223 for the win against Peter just four months prior.
It was, in fact, the lightest he'd scaled for a night's work since his 15th pro fight -- a second-round stoppage of Allen Smith at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia in 2003.
"I'd heard the criticism, and a lot of it really came from me," he said. "I was too heavy, even though I ran every day and did all my training work with the utmost effort. My diet was off and some other things weren"t completely right. So about a week after the (Peter) fight I hit the ground running, literally.
"I made the commitment to get myself cleansed and I think I lost about 10 pounds the first week. It lit a new fire in me. I realized that having a lot of talent isn't enough if you're not really into it mentally. And the more I was dedicated, the more good things happened. So I've taken that and not looked back."
Should he defeat Klitschko to win a championship, Chambers said the changes wont end there.
Instead, he claims, he'll use the title-holding perch as a platform to prove to American audiences that the terms "nice guy" and "world-class fighter" dont have to be mutually exclusive.
"I'm a very nice guy with a fun personality and I'm not afraid to get on TV and laugh at myself and have fun," he said. "I'm always loose and calm and I try to communicate in a comfortable way that's easy to understand.
"I don't think it's a bad thing to be a "normal guy" who's able to be articulate and speak in the community. I think fighters need to be able to do that to keep the sport on the map. We're not all big monster ugly guys. Some of us you could even take home to mom if we were dating her daughter."
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz and read more at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com.