Chazz Witherspoon: Bigger things ahead!
Story by Rick Scharmberg
Photo courtesy of PrizeFight Boxing
Chazz “The Gentleman” Witherspoon is not only a heavyweight contender; he is also the proud father to three young sons, a husband, a college graduate, and a mentor to children in his community. Witherspoon (25-1, 17 KOs) trains and boxes out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and resides just across the Delaware River in West Deptford, New Jersey. This Saturday, Witherspoon will face veteran Stacy “Bigfoot” Frazier (14-5, 13 KOs), of Shreveport, Louisiana, in a six round heavyweight bout at Fitzgerald’s Casino and Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi.
“Although this is a ‘keep busy’ fight, I am not looking past him,” explained Witherspoon. “I was supposed to fight July 31 on ESPN2, but my grandfather passed away, and I spoke at his funeral. I had 20-days notice for this fight. I know he is strong, and has 13 knockouts out of his 14 wins. That makes him a dangerous fighter, and anybody can have a puncher’s chance. I want to get my feet wet in this fight, and show what I’ve been learning in the gym.”
Witherspoon, 27, has been boxing for only seven years, and has been a pro for less than five. He has come a long way in a relatively short time. In his sophomore year at prestigious St. Joseph’s University, Chazz took up boxing as a way to stay in shape. He sought the advice of his famous second cousin, former two-time world heavyweight champion “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon. On April 10, 2002, Tim took Chazz to the Joe Hand’s PAL boxing gym in Philadelphia, where Chazz capitalized on his pedigree working with trainers Wade and Randy Hinnant.
“The fact that Tim boxed is the reason I tried boxing. He told me that boxing is not for everyone, and that is the first thing I tell people. There is a mental side to the sport you have to understand to get to the next level. You have to live a certain lifestyle to become an elite boxer. Tim had a big influence on me,” explained Chazz.
Witherspoon had an impressive two-year amateur career. Compiling a 26-6 amateur record, Chazz won the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves twice, and was the National Champion in 2004, when he became the first boxer in any weight class in the history of the Golden Gloves to win all of his bouts by knockout. He also traveled to Athens, Greece as a member of the 2004 Olympic boxing team, serving as an alternate.
On December 12, 2004, five months before receiving his degree in Pharmaceutical Marketing from St. Joe’s, Witherspoon made his pro debut, scoring a first round KO over James Daniels in Washington, DC. Chazz would fight eight times in 2005, developing his skills against veteran fighters such as Marion Wilson and Demetrice King.
Witherspoon remained on the fast track in 2006, fighting – and winning – six times. Chazz continued his climb in 2007, stopping Talmadge Griffis and Ron Guerrero to close out a perfect 5-0 year. Chazz won his first three fights in 2008, including an impressive stoppage of tough southpaw Jonathan Haggler.
Chazz, now a perfect 23-0, was poised for a showdown with highly-regarded contender Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola, of Los Angeles, California. The bout took place at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN on June 21, 2008.
Chazz held his own with “The Nightmare” for most of the first two rounds, countering nicely, and using his strong jab. Things began to unravel near the end of round two, when Arreola shook Witherspoon. Urged by his corner to “stick-and-move”, Chazz instead went back to his Philly roots and slugged with the slugger. Arreola dropped him twice in round three, including once at the bell, which led to a bizarre stoppage.
Witherspoon beat the referee’s count, which began seconds before the bell ending the round, but since his corner man was on the ring apron during the count, Chazz was disqualified and suffered his first defeat. Rather than sulk and make excuses or pass blame, Chazz’ post fight reaction was handled with nothing but class. He praised his opponent, and promised his fans that he will learn from that experience and come back stronger.
“My pride got in the way,” said Witherspoon when discussing the experience. “I don’t take anything away from Chris Arreola. I was standing there and trading with him, and he took advantage. It was a macho thing, and I played into his hands. When he hit me, I didn’t move or tie him up. I traded with him to show people that I could. Pride got the better of me. I had a plan to stick and move, but I got ahead of myself. I did some good things, but I could have been much better. I was in great shape. I should have boxed him for twelve rounds. I learned to stick to the script.”
Three victories later, Arreola is all set to face Vitali Klitschko in September for the heavyweight championship. It is a bout that Chazz has a keen interest in, and he gives Arreola a good shot at beating the older Klitschko.
“I’ve never sparred with Vitali, but I’ve been in camp with Wladimir three times. I don’t think he would beat Wladimir – I’ve been I the ring with him – he is faster and stronger than he looks, and he is awkward. You find that out too late. Plus, he has a serious right hand. Arreola has a chance against Vitali though. Chris is a good puncher, and is a better boxer than people give him credit for. He came in heavy in his recent fights, so I would like to see what his weight is before making a prediction,” said Witherspoon.
Training in Philadelphia, Chazz has had the opportunity to work with highly-ranked contender “Fast” Eddie Chambers. “Eddie was some of the best work I had in Philly,” he said. “He is fast, and is as slick as they come. He never gets hit clean. That’s a hard combination to beat. If he was a big puncher, he would already be a champion.”
The Frazier fight will be Witherspoon’s third fight since facing Arreola. He hopes to be ready to make another assault on the top-10 sometime in 2010. “I will be ready after three or four more fights. People have yet to see me at my best. I lost to Arreola, but I don’t like to lose, but if Arreola beats Vitali, my only loss would be to a world champion. By the end of next year, I hope to be in the top-ten at the very least, or even top-five. I believe the heavyweight division will clear itself out next year, and I will be ready.”
Chazz accounts for his quick rise in the sport by his dedication and lifestyle. “I truly respect the sport,” he said. “I cut no corners. I eat right and I train hard. I can improve by getting better sleep, but I am an involved father, and I do things like getting the bottle for the baby at night, things like that. I live the life of a fighter. I pick things up fast. I am a fierce competitor, even when I do things like play golf, even if I am the worst one on the course.”
Outside of the ring, Chazz lives with his wife Jacqueline and their three young sons, King, 3, Messiah, 2, and Czar, 1. Raising a young family keeps him busy, but he still finds time to be a mentor to young men in the economically depressed Camden, New Jersey area.
“On September 9, we will be opening the Troy Wallsten – Chazz Witherspoon Youth Academy in Camden,” explains Witherspoon. “It is an after school program for boys ten through thirteen. We will use boxing and basketball to get their interest, but the program will help them to set goals for themselves, and to open their eyes to see a bigger world outside of Camden.”
Chazz Witherspoon will embark on the next phase of his young career this Saturday against Stacy Frazier. “There will be bigger fights coming up,” he promised. “We will be stepping up the competition as I perfect my craft. Time and experience will make you better in this sport. This next year will be our coming out party.”