Thursday, May 14, 2009

How Boxing Saved Edison Miranda's Life

Edison Miranda has lived a difficult life. On Saturday night it could get more difficult as he faces Andre Ward in Oakland, California.

Edison Miranda, who will fight Andre Ward tomorrow night in Oakland, California, didn't live a normal childhood. When he was only two months old, the Colombian-born slugger was simply given away by his mother to a relative.

For Miranda, there was no such thing as a Christmas morning with presents under the tree. No pointy hats or cakes on his birthday. There were no family memories of Mom and Dad and no idyllic remembrances of being a happy-go lucky kid that do the things all carefree kids do.

“I was beaten everyday and they mis-treated me,” says Miranda of the childhood he endured. “All they wanted me to do was work and I just wanted to be a kid. When I was only nine-years old I ran away because I got sick of getting beaten.”

Miranda ran to the dark alleys and squalid streets of Barranquilla, Colombia. It was there that he was forced to live and it was there that he got a job sweeping sidewalks. Most meals consisted of whatever he could scrounge out of garbage bins. Most nights he would lay alone in his makeshift shanties, sometimes with other kids similarly deserted , but most times all alone. It was on these nights that he would dream of what it must have been like to be a normal child.

“I would lay there, looking up at the stars and the heavens, sometimes with tears streaming down my face,” he explains. “I would pray. I would pray as hard as person can pray to get me out of there. There was one night I dreamt that I was a boxer. Even though I never boxed before, had never seen a ring or gloves I had that vision. And after that I knew the way out for me was boxing.”

For the man now known as “Pantera” boxing did prove to be his way out of the slums. He was one of the lucky ones that was able to escape the chaotic, violent and murderous streets of a region of the world that breeds equal helpings of evil, poverty and hopelessness.

He fought his first amateur fight in April 1997 and scored a first round knockout. From the beginning he had electric power in his gloved fists. As a boy he was built like a man and he still has a physique that looks as though it was carved from a stump of petrified mahogany.

“I don't smoke, I don't drink and I go to bed early,” he explains. “I am God's warrior and I've always put my trust in Him. He's always protected me. God is the reason I'm here today and he's the reason I fight. I know it's His plan that I be a champion one day.”

So far the plan that has been laid out has worked pretty well. Except, that is, for a couple of guys named Kelly Pavlik and Arthur Abraham. Since turning pro in 2001 Miranda has only lost to Pavlik (KO by 7) who is the current world middleweight champion and Abraham (L 12 and KO by 4) who holds the 160-pound International Boxing Federation belt.

Aside from those mis-steps, Miranda has scored 17 first round knockouts and is regarded as one of the most fearsome punchers in the sport. In Jan. 2008 he scored one of the most sensational one punch knockouts you will ever see when he separated David Banks from his senses in the third round with a flash of a right hand.

What you notice right away is that Miranda has little finesse and he has a puncher's resume of 32-3, 28 knockouts. By all accounts he is a clubber of the highest order.

But tomorrow night at Oakland's Oracle Arena, Miranda is being brought in as an opponent for hometown hero Andre Ward. The Showtime television network is airing the bout with the idea that it will be a showcase for the young and undefeated Ward who is a 2004 Olympic gold medalist. Ward has a well crafted and carefully selected 18-0, 12 knockouts ledger and Miranda stands a great chance to land one punch to wreck all that Ward has accomplished over the past several years.

Miranda chillingly dispatched David Banks with one right hand. The knockout punch made highlight reels around the world.

Miranda, who is as accomplished as a trash-talker as he is a prizefighter, has other ideas about how the night will play itself out.

“I'm going to knock him out in the tenth round,” says Miranda. “I respect Ward as a person and as a man but the second we enter that ring that’s all gone. I respect no one in the ring. That’s how I feel for whoever I fight.”

Miranda makes headlines with his mouth as much (or more) than he does with his fists. He's a dichotomy of personality. On the one hand he's a God-fearing man who relies heavily on his spirituality to guide him through the minefield of life. On the other hand, his pre-fight comments often cross the line of incredulity and have bordered on bizarre. He tears down his opponents first with his mouth and then with his fists.

“Actually, the second they tell me I’m going to fight someone I lose all respect for them,” says Miranda in explaining his mindset. “Ward hasn’t accomplished anything besides a gold medal - and I’m very surprised he even got that. When you look at my career you see that in my first 21 fights I knocked every one of them out. So I don’t think Andre has what it takes to win. On Saturday he’s going to see what it’s like to be in the ring with a real man and what it’s like to get hit by a real man.”

Miranda always shows up in spectacular physical condition and is ready to go from the sound of the first bell.

Miranda, it seems, is a man of many compartments. The neglected child rejected by his mother. The world class boxer on the verge of a world title. The spiritual man on a a mission from God. He seems to be able to block out the negative and focus on the positive and he uses boxing as a tool to forget his dark past and focus on his bright future.

“Being turned away by my mother doesn’t bother me at all,” says the 28 year old Miranda. “It's only other people that bring it up and if they didn't bring it up, I'd never even think of it. For me, I don’t want to think about that. I want to think about the present and the future. The only thing I’m thinking about right now is Andre Ward.”

And maybe that line of thinking has gotten Edison Miranda to where he is today. He's forgotten all about trying to reconcile a horrible past. His thoughts are on settling up with the future.

“What do I want out of life?” he asks no one in particular. “I just want to be the kind of champion and the kind of person that helps others. I want to help children that were like me; homeless, with nowhere else to go. True champions are role models and that's what I strive to be.”

May 2009

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