tampabay.com

Boxers brushing off risk

Fighters don't dwell on the death of Leavander Johnson, but they know the dangers that come with their career.

By VINCENT THOMAS
Published October 2, 2005


TAMPA - Leavander Johnson's death last week sobered the boxing world and sent many - medical commissions, promoters, media - scurrying to analyze and, perhaps, answer the safety issues that have long hovered around the sport.

But the fighters seem mostly unaffected. Roy Jones Jr. stepped into the ring Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum having been knocked out in his previous two fights. His last bout ended with him lying on the canvas, limp for nearly 30 minutes, knocked unconscious by Glen Johnson.

In the wake of Leavander Johnson's death, some have wondered if it's in Jones' best interest to prolong his career. Jones hasn't had much to say in response. Thursday's 17-second news conference was proof of that.

Brad Jacobs, his adviser and pseudo-mouthpiece for the week, said Jones weighed every scenario before deciding to take on Tarver for the third time.

"Roy's had sufficient time off, he's prepared well. There's absolutely no fear that (what happened to Johnson) will happen to Roy," said Jacobs at the Times Forum. "He'd never get into the ring if he had any questions about his health."

It's not farfetched to argue that the punishment Chavez handed Johnson in the Sept.17 fight - more than 400 head shots - is more physical abuse than Jones has ever incurred.

But even the Tarver-Jones undercard fighters similarly expressed that Johnson's death, though saddening, has little bearing on them.

"I'm more worried about the fact that he has four kids at home, you know?" said Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward. "I'm more worried about the fact that his father was in his corner. The family concerns me."

The 21-year-old rising star squared off against St. Petersburg's Glenn LaPlante Saturday. As far as he was concerned, death was not on his mind coming in.

"God hasn't lifted me to leave me," Ward said. "I feel like, God has lifted me to lead me. So I can't worry about those other issues in the ring."

Others acknowledge the risk but don't seem concerned. For Nate Campbell, growing up in his Jacksonville neighborhood will do that.

"Look, where I'm from, they were pulling 16 bodies out of my 'hood every day. I'm not afraid of my mortality. I die a little more each day," he said. "In fact, that risk ... makes me more vicious.