Sunday, July 24, 2011

Journey


When Amir Mansour emerged from the boxing ring on Aug. 27, he sent a warning shot out to the heavyweight division: "I will fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. ... I want to be a champion."
Now, almost a year later, Mansour, who goes by the nickname "Hardcore," is on his way to fulfilling what once seemed like an all-too-bold prediction.
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The Wilmington boxer will take perhaps his biggest step in his rebirth after serving 8 1/2 years in federal prison for a drug charge.
It will take place Aug. 19 at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. That is the night Mansour (14-0, 11 knockouts) will fight Dominick Guinn (33-7-1, 22 knockouts) for the vacant IBF North American championship and the NABO intercontinental heavyweight interim title.
A victory would propel Mansour into an automatic top 15 ranking in the WBO ratings. He knows the weight of the opportunity that stands in front of him.
"The opportunity to fight for the NABO title is very meaningful to me," Mansour said. "It was less than one year ago that I started on this trip and now, with a victory, I can be rated and be in a position to make my dream come true -- a world title.
"This opportunity will not be overlooked. I intend on taking full advantage of it and showing my critics and the world what type of fighter I am."
Mansour, who calls himself a youthful 38-year-old, has shown that he is both explosive and powerful in his comeback.
The southpaw has knocked out all five of the opponents he has faced over the past 11 months -- with four bouts at Dover Downs -- showing that all the years of being incarcerated have done nothing to slow him down. All of his fights have gone three rounds or less, evoking images of a young Mike Tyson.
Guinn, of Houston, Texas, will be a step up in competition for Mansour. The seasoned 36-year-old is ranked 11th in the nation and has been in the ring against current top-ranked heavyweights Eddie Chambers and Tony Thompson.
"This has the makings of being the most exciting pro boxing bout ever held in the state of Delaware," said Greg Sirb, the Pennsylvania boxing commissioner who signed off on the fight.
Guinn's last bout came Sept. 30, when he lost a unanimous decision to Kubrat Pulev. He had won five consecutive fights before that. He has never been knocked out, which promises to pose a huge challenge for Mansour.
"This will be a great test for Amir, going against a fighter who is rarely stopped and only top contenders have beaten," said Nick Tiberi, matchmaker. "A match of this caliber will put Amir in a position to challenge the top heavyweight fighters in the world."
Dave Escalet, manager of current WBC Caribbean heavyweight title holder Franklin Lawrence and a former adviser to Andrew Golota and Adamek, sees unlimited potential in Mansour. Even though he has faced sub-par opponents since returning to the ring, Escalet can feel the excitement level intensify when Mansour climbs between the ropes.
"I truly believe that Mansour is one of the top five American heavyweights," Escalet said. "What makes Mansour exciting is he has the aura of Mike Tyson. You feel that electricity in the audience when you go to a fight in Dover because he brings that explosive knockout power, which very few have.
"He is able to knock out a heavyweight with one or two punches, which is extremely rare in today's heavyweight division. In the arena, the crowd is expecting that big punch to land any time, and it makes people come back."
It is all part of Mansour's aspiration to become a champion and give him a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his sons Asanti, Kazon and Amir.
Mansour committed to "turning his life around" while he was in jail. He earned a college degree, kept himself in boxing condition and vowed to live a clean, dignified life to make his family proud.
Mark Reels, executive director of the NABO, said Mansour has been a good spokesman for the sport of boxing since his return to the ring.
"We are aware of Mansour's past, and like many established prize fighters who struggled early in life, we believe when someone has paid his debt to society and conducts himself with dignity in and out of the ring, he deserves a second chance," Reels said. "Placing Mansour at this level is good for Delaware and for the organization, as well."
Flash back to Aug. 27. That was when Mansour looked down and said, "All that I can ask for is a chance."

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