By Lem Satterfield
The story behind Chordale Booker’s ring nickname, “The Gift,” is best told by his mother, Sheryl Morrison.
“Chordale was actually a really good kid all the way up until he got into ninth grade, and then he turned into a complete monster, someone who I totally did not know, had a chip on his shoulder, a nasty, miserable attitude, was hanging around with the wrong crowd, you couldn’t tell anything, and who started getting into a lot of trouble with tons of issues,” said Morrison, her voice quivering.
“Every time I turned around, I was in court or the school was calling me to the point where they caught him with two guns, he got arrested for selling drugs on school property, he was facing a mandatory sentence of 10 years and we were sure he was going to jail. That was a couple of days after graduating from high school. But that was the turning point.”
Nearly a decade later, the 27-year-old Booker (12-0, 6 KOs) is a rising 154-pounder prospect who fights out of a southpaw stance, training and mentoring teenaged youth at the Revolution Training Gym where he got his start and within the same Stamford, Connecticut neighborhood where he trafficked illegal substances.
“I want to be a gift to kids with no Dads or male role models,” said Booker, whose father, Dale, “Was only a part of my life for three years, passing away when I was 19. My final years with my father were great, but there is nothing like having a fulltime Dad.”
Booker’s life has been the subject of an award-winning documentary, “The Boxer,” as opposed to a being on the late-night news for criminal activity. He has swapped mug shots for glamour shots displaying his pearly white teeth, square-jawed features and chisled upper torso as a part-time model.
“Chordale has done a complete turnaround, being a loyal and caring advocate for community children,” said Morrison, a certified public accountant whose son was 3-0 (2 KOs) when renowned photographer and videographer, “Craig Cutler,” chronicled his life story.
“There were times when I felt like such a failure who wasn’t doing enough to keep him from getting caught up in the system. But through prayer, family support, and character references from people, we see the other side of Chordale, a well-round kid with a magnetic personality who truly inspires me. I am truly thrilled, humbled, and fortunate he’s found his way.”
Booker’s first street fight occurred as a 6-year-old in his native Bridgeport when an older boy tried to steal his bicycle.
“This 12-year-old boy was like, ‘Yo, lemme ride your bike.’ I was scared, trying to get home before the streetlights came on. But as he rode it in circles, he’s laughing at me....and tries to take it. I decided, ‘I’ve gotta do something,’” said Booker.
“So we started fighting. I don’t recall who won, but riding home, I remember being so mad and thinking, ‘I’ll never let anybody do anything like that to me again.’ Never wanting to feel that way again, I carried a chip on my shoulder throughout my childhood and into school. I was insecure, choosing to fight first so no one would think I was a punk.”
That inner beast spawned the foundation of a 12-year-old Booker’s double-life as a drug peddler and student-athlete.
“An older dude told me I could buy a car dealing drugs, which was appealing to me. I started out wanting sneakers to be fly in middle school, but I was making good money,” said Booker, who moved to Stamford as a 9-year-old, eventually managing drug distribution with three years of varsity basketball. “I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t playing basketball, which was a constructive activity that kept me out of jail, too. I made sure I did enough homework to stay on the team.”
The 5-foot-9 Booker was a senior shooting guard and defensive specialist on Stamford High’s first-ever conference championship squad in 2009, having survived several near-death situations.
“I’ve had guns in my face and been shot at. Once, when my brother, Kevin, and I were 16 and 17, he goes outside and I hear six gun shots. I run outside and Kevin’s ducked behind a car, holding his leg,” said Booker.
“That was really scary. Seeing someone I love hurt like that nearly killed me, but it’s not enough when you’re making money in the life thinking, ‘I can do this forever.’ I didn’t stop until after I was 18 and got caught.”
Booker was arrested on July 3, 2009.
“I spent a day and a half in lockup, but the entire town got behind me. Teachers and police officers wrote letters for me. We fought the case for a year and a half. Judge Gary White was considered one of the strictest, but he blessed me with three years of probation,” said Booker, who moved to Brooklyn for three years before returning to Stamford.
“I decided to relocate to Brooklyn to be away from Stamford since I didn’t know anything about Brooklyn but the gym where I did my workouts. If my Mom hadn’t gotten me out of jail, being hands-on as my second manager, I wouldn’t be on this path. I’ve been given a second chance at life. That’s why my nickname’s ‘The Gift.’”
Booker walked into Revolution Training that October and met coach and father figure Ahmad Mickens.
“I was in there every day. One day, Ahmad said, ‘Don’t you got somewhere to go?’ I told him, ‘I want to box,’” said Booker, who won a New York Daily News golden gloves title in 2015. “I’d been at a point where everything made me mad and it was always, ‘Fight first.’ But boxing changed my way of thinking, helped me to focus and channel my energy.”
Booker is 4-0 with two knockouts in 2018 after last month’s eight-round split-decision over Ve Shawn Owens, who was 9-1 (9 KOs) entering their clash on the Shawn Porter-Danny Garcia undercard at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Including Owens, Booker’s most definitive victories were in March and October 2017 by six- and eight-round unanimous decision over Moshea Aleem and Malcolm McCallister, who were 4-0-1 (2 KOs) and 9-0 (8 KOs), respectively.
“Aleem was my first test in an even matchup on Bounce-TV, and we took that fight on three days notice. I was getting hit, coming back with shots, and learned how to stick to the game plan. But McCallister showed me a lot more about myself,” said Booker.
“I beat McCallister after getting caught with an early shot and cut in both eyes, overcoming adversity against McCallister on the undercard of the Jarrett Hurd-Austin Trout, Jermall Charlo-Erickson Lubin, and Erislandy Lara-Terrell Gausha triple-header, which was huge.”
Booker scored a pair of first-round knockouts over Travis Hartman and Jose Manuel Saint Hilaire in April and August, and meets John Weir (4-14-3, 1 KO) on November 17 at The Extravaganza in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I’m not a one-punch power guy like Mike Tyson or a Gennady Golovkin. If you look at my knockouts, all of them are a result of my body punching,” said Booker, whose idols being southpaw Pernell Whitaker, Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather.
“All of them are defensive geniuses with boxing IQs beyond anyone in their eras. Whitaker’s my favorite boxer as a southpaw, and I’ve learned the most from watching him. I can fight inside or outside, I’m resilient, and I can fight for a title after maybe 16-to-18 fights.”
Booker had “epic sparring sessions” with Hurd, whose final-round knockdown secured a split-decision title unification over Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara on April 7.
“Chordale played a major part in giving Jarrett the southpaw look,” said Hurd’s trainer, Nesto Rodriguez. “He’s a very talented young man who displays a high boxing IQ, a variety of punches and has a bright future ahead of him.”