Boxing
Fields anxious to follow a "Real Deal" path
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's not as if Eric Fields, even in the small town of Ardmore, Oklahoma, didn't have options.

But rather than looking 82 miles north (to Norman) or 110 miles south (to Dallas) for athletic role models of the gridiron or hard-court persuasions, he's chosen other directions.

"I played football and basketball in high school and I liked it, but it never really stuck with me," Fields, now 25, said in a Tuesday phone interview. "But I remember watching a lot of boxing when I was younger and I remember really loving the way Evander Holyfield fought in his younger days.

"He threw a lot of punches and he just had this mentality about him, like he just refused to lose. I used to watch the tape of when he won the cruiserweight title (against Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1986) all the time. And every time I saw it, it got me ready to fight. It made me want to fight.

"If I could take that same path and have half the career he did, I'd be happy with it."

So, armed with inspiration from the Atlanta-based Holyfield -- already some 890 miles from Ardmore -- Fields added another 822 miles to the odometer and unleashed the so-far signature performance of his own brief career in, of all places, Key West, Florida.

There, in an inaugural TV appearance on ESPN's post-sunset card from Mallory Square, Fields reduced recent IBF cruiserweight belt-holder Kelvin "Concrete" Davis to rubble in just less than a minute -- recording his 11th straight win, his ninth by knockout and his fourth within 90 seconds or fewer.

"It feels like things have changed, yes," Fields said. "If nothing else, the people here in my hometown are paying a little bit more attention. It's not that they didn't know I was fighting and being successful, but if it's not here in town and they don't see it, they don't really believe it.

"Now it feels like things are ready to go. I tell my promoter and my manager just what I said on ESPN that night. Whatever they have planned for me is what I'll do. If it's a slow process, OK. And if it's a faster process now, I'm ready to go."

A veteran of just 20 rounds over 10 fights prior to the Davis match, Fields said he'd gone in expecting a longer night, but discovered shortly after the opening bell that his 29-year-old foe was presenting a far more inviting target than he'd anticipated.

"The first thing that surprised me right after the bell was, although I'd heard he was like Tyson in the way he moved and came forward in the ring, there was really no head movement at all. I was measuring him with the left hand and the right hand was wide open for me.

"He was just pawing at me and standing right there, so I took my shot with the right hand. And I was surprised that I hit him so good. I don't really consider myself a devastating one-shot puncher, but he was right in the way for me and it was a good shot."

And now, the sky that made Jimmy Buffett famous seems the limit for the Holyfield wanna-be.

Though his Washington-based promoter Brian Halquist hasn't yet committed to anything, Fields, a two-time national Golden Gloves champion, said he expects to be back in the ring no later than May, perhaps as part of a tentatively planned card at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California.

And, assuming no surprises, there's the predictable optimism from an unbeaten slugger.

A top-20 opponent here, a top-10 challenge there, and, eventually, a cruiserweight title belt or two before -- just like Holyfield -- he and his chiseled 6-foot-2 frame move up to heavyweight for both widespread recognition... and the rewards that accompany it.

"I can see myself doing it that way," he said. "I'm big and strong for a cruiserweight and I can stay there and take advantage of my size and work on things before I go up and get bigger people.

"Either way, I feel like I'm ready to make a big move."

Meanwhile, about 423 miles north of Key West, another Florida city figures to be the world's 175-pound capital for one night in April.

The awkwardly dubbed St. Pete Times Forum, which actually sits in Tampa -- 25 miles away from the newspaper holding its naming rights -- will host three members of the light heavyweight division's combative royal family in two Showtime title bouts on April 12.

Initially, WBC champion Chad Dawson will defend his crown for the third time against Miami-based veteran Glen Johnson, who himself held a recognized belt as recently as 2005 after consecutive defeats of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver.

Then, Tarver takes center stage for a unification bout, in which he will risk his IBO title against IBF claimant Clinton Woods, who's gone 1-1-1 in three bouts with Johnson and previously lost an undisputed title challenge against Jones in 2002.

The night's most impressive performer could be left with a series of attractive options, including both the winner of the other bout and a legitimate claim for a shot at whomever emerges from the Bernard Hopkins/Joe Calzaghe match on April 19 in Las Vegas.

Woods, for one, has eliminated the middle man and already issued the latter challenge.

"(Tarver) lost to old man Bernard Hopkins on points, but I am going to knock him out and then my status as the best light heavyweight in the world will be confirmed," he said.

"If Joe Calzaghe gets past Hopkins the week after I make mincemeat of Tarver, he can come looking for me. I'm ready for Calzaghe any time and any place and he knows it."

Truth told, the intrigue surrounding Tarver, Woods, Dawson & Co. might not even make for the best card of the night on April 12.

Another 1,108 miles north -- in the Garden (State) of Eden of New Jersey -- the main room at Boardwalk Hall promises as much or more fun with the welterweights as the aforementioned quartet seems to guarantee with the light heavyweights.

There, a pair of 147-pound titles will be on the line alongside the Atlantic Ocean's springtime froth, with one fight featuring a compelling rematch -- IBF champion Kermit Cintron vs. Antonio Margarito -- while the other provides another spotlight chance for the sport's hottest young star, Miguel Cotto.

Cintron and Margarito will be renewing hostilities from their April 2005 get- together, when an unbeaten Cintron was systematically broken down by the then- WBO belt-holder over five one-sided rounds at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

The Puerto Rican-born Pennsylvanian has righted the ship since, however, winning five straight bouts by stoppage, including a defeat of Mark Suarez for the vacant IBF belt and two subsequent defenses against Walter Dario Matthysse and Jesse Feliciano.

Margarito lost his title to Paul Williams two years after the Cintron fight and has been in the ring only once since, stopping veteran Golden Johnson in one round on the Cotto-Shane Mosley undercard at Madison Square Garden in November.

Cotto, of course, is still perfect, having used the win over Mosley to improve to 31-0 and firmly establish himself as No. 1a in the 147-pound pecking order behind Floyd Mayweather Jr.

An impressive win here over challenger Alfonso Gomez -- best known for ending Arturo Gatti's career last July -- could both ensure a big fight for Cotto with the Cintron-Margarito winner in July and simultaneously up the public drumbeat for a match with Mayweather, who's scheduled to once again meet Oscar De La Hoya later this year.

South African bantamweight Silence Mabuza makes the first defense of his second reign as IBO champion on home turf Saturday night, headlining the weekend's lone world title card at the Emperors Park Casino in Kempton Park.

Mabuza, who held the IBO strap from 2002-2005 before losing to Rafael Marquez, will face young Filipino southpaw Eden Sonsona in his first action since recapturing the vacant 118-pound championship via fifth-round TKO of Mbwana Matumla last May.

He previously won the belt with a sixth-round stoppage of Jose Sanjuanelo in March 2002 and defended it six times before falling in four rounds to Marquez in November 2005.

Mabuza tangled with Marquez again nine months later with a similar result, retiring after nine rounds in the winner's final fight before moving up to 122 pounds.

Sonsona, who turned 19 in late December, defeated veteran trialhorse Celso Danggod in seven rounds in his last outing on December 10 and improved his career mark to 14-2.

He'd suffered the second loss one fight earlier, dropping a split 12-round decision to Kohei Kono for the Oriental-Pacific Boxing Federation super flyweight crown on October 6.

Until next week... if you can't be good, be careful.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has been a professional sports journalist since 1988. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com), provides 'In The Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com) and is available for free- lance print, radio or TV assignments at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.