By Jake Donovan
Most people celebrate their 40th birthday wondering what the hell happened to their 30’s as they prepare for the next stages in life. Some are blessed with a surprise party or similarly big bash to properly commemorate the moment.
Grady Brewer spent his 40th birthday believing there was unfinished business to tend to before he even thinks about calling it a career. He will spend his 41st birthday in a boxing ring, when he faces Michael Medina at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
The fight will mark Brewer’s fourth of 2011, marking his busiest in-ring campaign since winning season two of The Contender more than five years ago.
It’s the fact that he was never truly able to capitalize on being crowned champion of the now-defunct reality show that still keeps him going. The series helped breathe new life into his struggling career, winning three straight five round decisions before outlasting Stevie Forbes in their 10-round finale to win The Contender championship, after entering the series having lost three of his last four.
“It changed my life tremendously,” Brewer said of what the series did for his career, and for his own visibility in his native Lawton, Oklahoma. “It got me in position to where I can fight like right now. It gave me that recognition that I never received before.”
Untimely injuries disallowed Brewer to properly ride the wave of momentum that should’ve come with the achievement. Rather than cashing in (or out, depending on your viewpoint), he spent the next two years on the sidelines rehabbing an injured knee requiring four separate surgeries before returning to the ring in 2008.
Dating back to his first win on The Contender, Brewer enjoyed an eight-fight win streak, the longest of his 12-year (and running) career. The good fortunes came to an end when he suffered a 10th round stoppage in a televised bout against Erislandy Lara in January 2010, his only fight of the year. Many suggested it to be the end of a career largely spent as a journeyman and occasional spoiler.
Instead, he spent the rest of the year resting and properly preparing for a career revival in 2011.
The benefit of full training camps allowed him to win two straight, including a huge upset fourth-round knockout over previously unbeaten Fernando Guerrero in their ESPN2-televised main event this past June. It was hardly the first time Brewer snatched the ‘0’ from a young upstart, but a shock considering where the two fighters were at in their respective careers.
A shock, that is, to everyone but the man on the right end of one of the year’s biggest upsets.
“When I went into the Guerrero fight, I had a full camp and more time to get ready,” Brewer insists of the fight. “I was more focused and preparation. It gave me time to make things happen. Guys know to try to catch me when I’m not prepared. When I’m prepared I’m untouchable.”
Finally, Brewer had a moment for which he could properly celebrate. On the surface, it appeared as if his agreeing to face unbeaten welterweight prospect Demetrius Andrade two months later was his way of not allowing momentum to be squandered.
As Brewer explains the situation, the exact opposite proved to be true.
“That was a fight I shouldn’t have taken on short notice,” Brewer admits of the August fight, in which Andrade boxed and danced his way to a wide decision win. “I tried to take advantage (of the momentum). Andrade is a good fighter. He’s a lot better than what I thought he was. I didn’t get a chance to prepare like I thought I could have but gave it a try considering who he was.”
A career filled with short-notice losses should’ve served as his lesson, but as a middle-aged boxer there are hardly any guarantees that too many more meaningful fights come along. It was Brewer’s way of saying he’ll still face anyone, at any place and at any time.
However, he now knows to place an asterisk next to the part that reads ‘at any time.’
“I want a fair amount of time. That’s why I have a lot of losses, because I didn’t give myself enough time to prepare for a lot of those fights.”
He’s been given ample time to prepare for next week’s showing, which takes place approximately 90 minutes north of his hometown of Lawton, Oklahoma. The bout is the closest he’s enjoyed to a hometown showcase in more than two years, a moment he plans to savor while focusing on the task at hand – scoring the win and moving towards a more rewarding 2012 campaign.
“It’s an opportunity to go showcase myself and represent my hometown. I hope it takes me to better opportunities to redeem myself. I want to be in position to fight for a world title at (154 lb). I feel real comfortable here. I’m strong and more competitive.”
Fighting as frequently as he’s been - the bout will be his fourth in a span of just over seven months – goes a long way towards staying close to fighting weight. Still, even at an age when most fighters are either thinking about retirement or remaining inactive while holding out for one big fight, Brewer is out to lend credence to the suggestion that 40 is in fact the new 20.
“It’s been great to fight this often lately. But still doesn’t feel like enough. I feel like I should be fighting a lot more. It’s not enough.”
What could eventually prove to be enough is finally contending for a world title, perhaps the one remaining thing left that Brewer has yet to enjoy in his lengthy career.
Naturally, the focus remains on getting past Medina (24-3-2, 19KO) and back into the win column. Assuming that falls into place, the next step will be to challenge the division’s best – nobody in particular, just whoever is willing to offer up their hardware.
“It’s a strong division. A lot of fighters that I can beat. Just need to be in the right position. I think it’s a hot division. I honestly feel I have an opportunity like that (to challenge for a title). I just have to keep winning. I don’t have anybody in mind. I just want to make sure I have the right time frame to prepare for an opportunity like that.”
How much time he has left to fit in that frame depends first on how he performs next week, and then how his 41-year old body feels once the New Year is upon us. If the recent past is any indication, then the smart money should be on not expecting Grady Brewer to catch up to his age anytime soon.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com