By Lyle Fitzsimmons
It’s not an easy task.
But if you really must go all-out to get under the skin of amiable heavyweight contender Eddie Chambers – there’s one way that’s quicker than most.
Suggest that the second-decade professional – a veteran of 38 fights and a winner in 36 – might be better served chasing a world-title dream in a lighter, less giant-infested weight class.
Do that… and see how quickly the frame of a 6-foot-1, 208-pounder seems to double in size.
“Yeah, let’s just say I’ve been asked that a lot,” Chambers said, when given the scenario for the umpteenth time since he hit the heavyweight radar four years ago with consecutive defeats of an unbeaten Derric Rossy, a still-serviceable Dominick Guinn and recent title challenger Calvin Brock.
“But you’d think it would go away after a while when people see I’m not just sliding by with wins over guys. I’m at this weight, and I’m dominating guys who are good fighters and bigger fighters by walking them down. I guess it’s not supposed to be happening, but it does.”
The Pittsburgh-born/Philadelphia-honed stylist got the “hey, wouldn’t cruiserweight make sense” treatment again Monday, just 72 hours after a unanimous decision rematch over Rossy ended a self-imposed 11-month exile and put him back in line for a shot at the IBF heavyweight crown.
Of course, the IBF jewelry he so covets is still held by 6-foot-6 Ukrainian incumbent Wladimir Klitschko – the very foe who stopped Chambers in round 12 last March and prompted the near one-year layoff.
The 28-year-old had won a WBO title eliminator to get crack No. 1 at Klitschko last March, and he’s steadfast in his belief that another meeting with the 240-plus pounder would end differently.
“Absolutely,” he said, when asked if a complete result reversal was realistic.
“He’s a great fighter, but I think I have a bit of talent, too, and now having been in there with him I’ve got the know-how in my head to win, too.”
Indeed, Chambers claims, it’s the experience of having been in there with Klitschko that gives him an edge from the first go-round, when he had to rely on sparring to replicate what his foe might do.
That impersonation, he said, is the only part of the task that’s impossible.
“That’s hitting the nail right on the head, so to speak,” Chambers said. “There’s no sparring partner that can really replicate what he does when he’s in the ring and he’s coming for you.
“You can get a couple tall guys and tell them to do some of the things he does and mimic him, but it’s not the same at all. If that were the case, these guys would be world champions, too.
“But obviously they’re not.”
Chambers had intermittent moments against Klitschko in the early going, but saw his night end violently when the champion dropped him with a left hook with five seconds left in the 12th.
The nature of the defeat prompted the extended layoff, which Chambers said allowed the body to heal and gave the mind sufficient time to escape the trauma of the KO defeat, if not the bad taste.
The latter, he said, is what keeps Klitschko at the top of his list… regardless of situation.
“Even if he were to lose the belt before we fought and I was able to win it from someone else, he’s still the first guy I’d want to defend against as champion,” Chambers said. “If I’m a champion, I’m not going to be playing games. I want to fight the best.
“And because he’s the guy who I consider to be the best – that’s where my options begin.”
And the road toward creating those options once again began with Rossy, who’d won 10 of 11 fights – including seven in a row – in the four years since Chambers’s seventh-round TKO in their battle of unbeatens at Suffolk Community College in Selden, N.Y.
Chambers was no less dominant the second time around – scoring the fight’s lone knockdown and winning all 12 rounds on one card – but nonetheless failed to get the second stoppage win he’d coveted for the comeback.
But not surprisingly, he managed to find the positive in a full day’s work as well.
“He was a lot more crafty this time, and, even though I was the guy with more skill, I had to go and get it,” he said. “His style was more difficult in terms of getting a knockout and he was tough.
“He wasn’t just giving it away. But it wouldn’t have done me any good to go in there with a guy who you’d hit a few times and that’d be it. A lot of guys would have chosen someone a lot easier than him, but this was a fight that got me back into the elimination mix and he was a good opponent to work with to get me started again.”
And as for that cruiserweight thing… well, maybe there’s still a place for that, too.
“Who knows? Maybe after I have a few more fights at heavyweight, it’s something I could do as a challenge,” Chambers said. “I’m the kind of fighter who won’t run from any challenge as champion.
“I’ll fight anyone, any time at any weight. So if that’s what it’ll take to prove it, so be it.”
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF welterweight title – Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jan Zaveck (champion) vs. Paul Delgado (No. 15 contender)
Zaveck (30-1, 17 KO): Third title defense; Eighth fight in Slovenia (6-0, 1 NC, 3 KO)
Delgado (25-9-1, 4 KO): First title fight; Eight fight scheduled for 10-plus rounds (2-5, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Zaveck’s no powerhouse, but his foe is in over his head here.” Zaveck in 8
WBA middleweight title – Stuttgart, Germany
Felix Sturm (champion) vs. Ronald Hearns (No. 12 contender)
Sturm (34-2-1, 14 KO): Ninth title defense; Previously held WBO (2003-04) and WBA (2006) titles
Hearns (26-1, 20 KO): First title fight; Second fight scheduled for 10-plus rounds (1-1, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Last name is memorable, but son could use some of father’s skills here.” Sturm in 10
WBC/WBO bantamweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Fernando Montiel (WBC/WBO champion) vs. Nonito Donaire (No. 4 WBC/No. 3 WBO contender)
Montiel (44-2-2, 34 KO): Third WBO defense; Former WBO champion at 112 and 115 pounds
Donaire (25-1, 17 KO): Fifth title fight (4-0, 4 KO); Former IBF/IBO champion at 112 pounds
Fitzbitz says: “Better bantam wins make Montiel the pick of streaking little men.” Montiel by decision
Last week’s picks: 2-1
Overall picks record: 176-58 (75.2 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz .