After leaving his home town of Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 13, and rolling up more miles than he cares to count as a collegiate athlete and professional boxer, Cassius Chaney (11-0, 8 KOs) has finally come home.
Undefeated heavyweight Chaney now lives and trains in Baltimore. He spent four years as a standout scholarship basketball star at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. His switch to professional boxing after earning a degree in sports management took Chaney from Florida to England for bouts, and as a sparring partner for Tyson and Hughie Fury and other top heavyweights.
Now Chaney is back in Baltimore, training with Calvin Ford at the Upton Boxing Center. Ford, known as "The Mayor of Baltimore Boxing" and the real-life inspiration for the character Cutty on the popular TV series "The Wire" is hard at work preparing Chaney for his bout with Tim Washington (6-5, 6 KOs) of Toledo, Ohio at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on the Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin non-televised undercard on Saturday, March 3.
"A big part of the change was the comfort of my family, my mom still being here in Baltimore," said Chaney. "I've learned you can't be everywhere at once. Because of sports, I've never had the chance to be home too long. During a visit, I went by the gym, I liked the staff and the atmosphere, and being home and not having to worry about travel. I liked going to Florida to train, but it was difficult," explained Chaney.
Chaney made the switch to training with Ford, and as a result is rethinking his approach with the help of some tough love from his new team. "They're learning me, I'm learning them," said Chaney. "Some of it for me is not thinking so much," which is not an easy thing for the rare boxer with a college degree. "I gravitate toward people who think a lot."
Chaney says Ford tells him not to overthink, "to let it flow, be comfortable, that's what I'm trying to get back to."
As much as Chaney and Ford work on his skills and boxing craft, Chaney says Ford and assistant coach Kenny Ellis are working on his mental toughness. "They do things to try and push my buttons," said Chaney. "They want to rile me up. In the ring, I'm not being nice. But I'm a thinker, I have to try and get out of that."
Chaney is at heart still a student, and knows how to do his homework outside the ring. He became accustomed to studying game films as a college basketball player, and those habits have translated to boxing. "I can watch fights all day. I can watch them one time and remember ... I look for tendencies, not specifically how (an opponent) is going to fight me," said Chaney.
Chaney said he's been inspired recently by the 2010 book written by basketball great Kobe Bryant, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles For Success -- An Insider's Look Into Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant's Warrior Life & the Code He Lives By. "The principles of winning are always true. Once a winner, always a winner," said Chaney.
Chaney says his role models in boxing are Lennox Lewis, Bernard Hopkins, and the great Muhammad Ali. "The intellectual ones are the ones I gravitate to," said Chaney.
No matter where he calls home, Chaney's loyal fans continue to support him as a professional boxer and should be in force at Madison Square Garden. Surprisingly, Chaney has never appeared at the Garden, even during his collegiate basketball days. His only experience was a single visit to watch the WNBA's New York Liberty play.
"Main Events has given me so many opportunities, fighting in England, Canada, and Las Vegas. I have a lot of people interested in checking the fight out. I always perform my best in big moments. I've gotten a lot of knockouts on HBO cards. More than anything, I'm getting better. I'm excited to get there and put on a show, back on HBO," promised Chaney.