By: Rich Quiñones
Heavyweight contender, Chazz “The Gentleman” Witherspoon returns to the ring after a two-year absence Saturday when he takes on Tyabb Beale (9-4-1, 3 KO’s) of Newark, NJ in an eight-round main event at the Riverwinds Community Center in West Deptford, New Jersey.
The show is being promoted by Witherspoon’s Silver Spoon Promotions and will be held essentially in his backyard.
“I feel good, even though I was out of the ring for two years and did not have any fights, I feel good. I have been training and I am in good shape and I think it will be a good night,” said Witherspoon (30-3, 22 KO’s) over the phone Wednesday.
A native of Paulsboro, New Jersey, Witherspoon’s last time in the ring was a devastating 3rd TKO loss to Seth Mitchell for the vacant WBO NABO heavyweight title back in April of 2012. The fight was held at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
Witherspoon started out strong in the fight, moving around well in the opening round. He was able to work well behind his jab and hurt Mitchell midway through the round with a solid right hand. He connected with a few more but a wobbling Mitchell was able to hold on and make it through the round.
Witherspoon recalls that opening round vividly and the aftermath of it as well.
“Actually, that was a tough loss, I got him hurt in the first round. Any body who knows me or watched my career knows that one of my best attributes is my conditioning. So the fact that I got tired after the first round was all new to me. The bell rung after the first round and my legs and arms were burning and I was like what the heck was going on, this is not the 10th-round, this is after the first round. That never happened to me before and when it happened I was annoyed that I got tired.”
In the second, Mitchell was more aggressive and the toll of tiring out so early took effect on Witherspoon as he moved less and was more willing to exchange. Mitchell, though, did not mind exchanging as he caught Witherspoon with some nasty power shots and then sealed the deal in round three.
A left hook put Witherspoon on his backside in the first 30 seconds of the round. He was up at the count of six, but Mitchell was able to come forward and get Witherspoon up against the ropes, pinning him there. As he landed more clean shots, the referee stepped in and began counting as if he was going to give a standing eight-count before waving and end to the bout.
The fight is still fresh in Witherspoon’s mind as he looks ahead to his about against Beale.
“Seth Mitchell did what he needed to do. Listen it was a 12-round title fight, I was in best shape of life. I was training with Virgil Hunter, who is a hell of a trainer, a great trainer. Great boxing philosophy. I sparred about 147 rounds, 12 rounds at least four times in camp and easily could have lasted 12 rounds. Everyone has a theory about what happened. I do not know what happened. All I know is what happened after the first round. If I would have won that fight, I would have been top 5 in the world. I would have done it without a promoter. Think about that, top 5 in the world, and I would have gotten there really by myself.”
Many have suggested that Witherspoon basically retired after his loss against Mitchell. It is easy to look up a boxer’s record and see a gap of inactivity and assume that they just quietly retired or perhaps they are not ready to come back.
Witherspoon cleared the air on that and pointed out it is very hard to get fights without a promoter and many of the cards fell through.
“I was slated to fight at least three times after the Mitchell loss, but one time I hurt my back lifting weights, trying to get stronger and put on some size and then there is the case of the smaller cards they just fell through. I could not get any fights. I realized after time, that I could be a promoter myself. I needed to fight. I needed to stay relevant because I was not getting any younger. I am 32, but I started boxing right before I turned 21. I am not an old 32. I am not looking to do this in my 40’s. I want to preserve my mind and body and be able to do some things after boxing.”
Look forward to Saturday, Witherspoon sees an opportunity to get some rounds in and get his feet wet again. Whether it is a six or eight round fight doesn’t matter to him. He still respects Beale and is not looking past him.
“We wanted 10 rounds, but the commission approved it for eight. I know he (Beale) has some skill. He is a big guy. He is 6″4 and 250 lbs. I will be giving up about 14-15 pounds or so. You can not take anyone lightly especially in the heavyweight division. All it takes is one punch. I think he is 7-1-1 in his last nine fights, so you have to be aware of that.”
It might take two or three or even four fights before people start to take Witherspoon’s comeback as serious. However, if anyone is doubting his skill or time in the ring, he will be quick to jump on them.
“At the end of the day people look at my record and I am 30-3 with 22 KO’s and I have a good record, but people will still look to write me off. They will say I stepped up three times but lost each time. But at least I was competitive. Look at the Chris Arreola. You can I won the first two rounds. In the Thompson fight, I suffered a concussion early in the fight. I think it was at the end of the third or fourth round and I fought into the ninth and the Mitchell fight I had a good first round and I got tired or whatever the case might have been. It happened.”
The DQ loss to Arreola might have been the toughest pill for Witherspoon to swallow because of the way it ended with him being disqualified after his corner jumped into the ring after referee Randy Phillips gave him an eight count, during which Witherspoon’s corner entered the ring, resulting in Witherspoon being DQ’d.
“Yeah it was, it was tough because I got DQ’d. I was fighting his fight, I chalked it up to my boxing immaturity. People were saying why are you taking this fight, this guy is scary, he has knocked out a bunch of people. When I got hit with a couple of shots instead of doing the smart thing and using my boxing IQ, which was to box him or hold on, I didn’t. I wanted to show everyone I am not scared of this guy, I will go tow-to-toe with him, I will show you. I will back him up. I did not stick to the game plan, which was box him and try to run down on him and stop him in the later rounds. Instead of me sticking to the script, I felt it was going to be easier to lay a punch then I thought it was going to be and I started to jump the guy early in the fight. That was not the script. It was hard to swallow because I wanted to stay undefeated. I fought a dumb fight. To be DQ, was stupid,” he added.
Witherspoon went down twice in round three, with the second knockdown coming at the bell as chaos and confusion ensued.
“A couple of years later, the ref apologized. He did not realize the bell had rung and my corner came into the ring. If you watch the fight the bell had rung as I was going down and once I got up and beat the count, they rang the bell again to let him know the round was done, and my corner was already in the ring. I move on,” he said.
One thing that Witherspoon understands and lives by is in the sport of boxing, there is only one person who can tell you if you are done or not.
“I do not think I am done and that is the thing, as long as I do not feel I am beaten, I am not done. I do feel like I have a lot of life left in my career and I have yet to be on TV and put on my best performance. I definitely have an upside and if I can get a couple more fights, I could get back into the mix. In boxing they say you are only as good as your last fight and that is a double meaning to me. It means that you are one fight away from your best performance or a title fight. That is the way I feel.”
The card will also feature Witherspoon’s younger cousin Tim.
“I think people will like this. It will be fun and family friendly. We want to showcase local talent, get some South Jersey talent and I had to get Tim on the card. I am just taking everything in stride. My family and friends have helped me put this card together and they all did their part to make this happen.”
Witherspoon is grateful for this second shot but realizes it only takes a couple of fights to open up people’s eyes again.
“In a perfect world I would like to get two or so more fights. Maybe one on another card that I do, and one on another card that I do not promote. I like to step up in competition the right way and at the end of 2015 I believe I could be ready for whoever. It is really about playing Chess right now and try to win and get back in the rankings. I can’t get anywhere without winning. I just basically need to win and get back in the Top 10 and try to get a title shot, that is the plan.”
The challenge in getting fights right now might be the toughest for Witherspoon, but getting a good promoter who can showcase might even be tougher.
“I have talked to some promoters and as long as it makes sense from a business standpoint, I have no problem partnering up with a promoter. As long as it makes sense. It is a process and I am trying to align myself up with the right promoter and people who can help me. The business part is the easy part, the boxing is the hard part. Man I am a St. Joe’s guy, I can look at a contract and tell you if it is good or bad.”
He might be asking himself a similar question regarding his performance after Saturday night.
Rich Quiñones is an award winning broadcaster and journalist. He is the lead blow-by-blow Boxing voice for GFL.tv and Go Fight Live’s Boxing on Comcast. He has sat ringside calling the action with Monte Barrett, Brian Adams, Amir Mansour, Danny Garcia, James Kirkland, Mark Breland, Ronnie Shields, Teddy Atlas and Lou DiBella, while broadcasting over 125 bouts for GFL in 2013-2014.
Rich is also a contributor to Ringnews24.com and he has also handled calling the action for Muay Thai and is exclusive lead blow-by-blow voice for CFFC MMA.