What defines a “prospect”? To some, a prospect is an inexperienced athlete that harbors a certain potential. To others, it’s a representation of untapped greatness. If one was to ask one-hundred people for their definition, there would be one-hundred different answers. As varied as the responses may be there is one thing that seems to remain constant in one’s idea of a prospect. He/She must be young.
Amir Mansour seems to be a special case as he goes against just about every person’s perception of a prospect when you look at his stats. To begin with, Mansour is 40-years old. This fact alone is a hard one to ignore since Mansour is at an age in which most fighters are already long retired. The second stat that jumps out is the fact that Mansour made his pro debut back in ’97. One immediately assumes that as an almost sixteen year pro, Mansour is a well established enough fighter that he can let go of the “prospect” label. There are some things that a stat sheet doesn’t show, and Mansour has already proven that his story is more interesting than your average prospects.
As was mentioned earlier, Mansour made his professional debut in the summer of ’97. Coming into the sport with no amateur experience, the then 25-year old Mansour had to work his way up the smaller boxing circuits to really build momentum towards his budding career. From 1997-2001, Mansour went undefeated at 9-0, with 6 victories coming by way of stoppage. With promises of both size and crushing power, Mansour seemed poised to become the next great force in the heavyweight division after the decline of Tyson. But just like Tyson, Mansour found himself in some legal trouble stemming from a controlled substance charge.
For 8 1/2 years, Mansour sat in a cell with the “prime” years of his career slowly passing him by. To everyone’s surprise, and to his own credit, Mansour re-emerged and looked to get his career back on track. Starting in 2010, Mansour went 7-0 and compiled a glossy 16-0 record with 12 knockouts, but once again, time was put on hold for Mansour. Stemming from a violation of his probation, Mansour was sentenced to 14 months in prison, but served only seven.
Mansour now finds himself picking up the pieces, and building upon the foundation of a solid professional career at 40-years old. With all the challenges he’s faced, one wouldn’t be wrong to wonder what continues to draw Mansour towards a significant career in boxing.
“It’s [me] being so good at it, and understanding that I still had my talent. I still have my speed, my reflexes, and being so good at it is something that creates a situation where you’re too good to not continue. You’re too fast, you hit too hard, and all-around just being good at this leads to my understanding that I still can do this. That’s why I continued and just stayed aggressive in moving forward with my goals as far as boxing is concerned. I didn’t make that situation define me. I didn’t let it break me.”
With his most recent stint in jail behind him, one can’t help but admire Mansour’s perseverance in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. However, one can’t help but be worried. With a new-found focus on concussions suffered in sports, one can’t help but wonder what kind of adverse health effects Mansour might face as he continues pursuing a career in a sport many now deem “a young man’s game”.
“It’s definitely a young man’s game, but it’s a young man’s game to the extent of how much punishment you have taken throughout your boxing career, amateur and up. See, I didn’t have a long and extensive amateur career; I didn’t have ANY amateur career! Therefore, I still have my reflexes, and I’m still fast. I don’t talk and slur, and things of that nature. I’m still young physically, and then being in prison for 8 1/2 years really just puts you in a pickle jar, and really preserves you. I didn’t have a career where I suffered a lot of damage throughout my early years, and then I get into my 30’s and am already ready to retire. You have some guys with 300 amateur fights who turn pro, and after 15 fights they can’t even walk straight anymore. They can’t take a punch anymore because of their long and extensive amateur careers. I didn’t have that, and it’s a blessing because I am able to do what I’m doing now.”
As the end of 2012 quickly approaches, Mansour is set to make the next year a good one with his return bout rumored to take place in late January (Jan. 26th). Mansour isn’t the first fighter to try to make a career after time in prison, and he’ll hardly be the last. When one sees the names Bernard Hopkins (52-6, 32 knockouts), Jack Johnson (53-11-9, 34 knockouts), Diego Corrales (40-5, 33 knockouts), Mike Tyson (50-6, 44 knockouts), and even Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 knockouts) on that list of fighters, it proves Mansour isn’t facing an impossible task. The question left on people’s minds though is how will Mansour re-adjust and fall back into the daily grind of preparing for a professional fight?
“It will be very easy because in prison I just continued to train. It was like the 8 1/2 years in prison was an 8 1/2 year camp for me, and that’s what I turned it into. In my mind, I was in a boxing camp. I trained everyday while I was in prison. I was blessed to be around a very good fighter who had a huge knowledge of the fight game, and would probably make a great trainer someday if he chooses to become one after he comes home from prison. Calvin “Strictly Business” Davis (22-1, 8 knockouts); He was locked up with me, and he was such a great inspiration for me that for about the 6 1/2 years we were together he would train me, and really forced me to train hard as I was often pushed to my limits. We used to train with some make-shift pads and some gloves, and we would train in a little 10’x10′ closet. We’d go all over the prison to get guys to spar with me, so we really trained hard. So when I came home, I was right where I needed to be.”
With his upcoming fight in January, Mansour is hoping to recapture the momentum that once followed him as a young, yet ferocious power puncher. With some wins under his belt, there is little doubt that Mansour can once again be brought up in talks as a potential challenger to one of the top heavyweight contenders, or maybe even one of the Klitschko’s. It’s anybody’s guess as far as when this moment may finally occur for Mansour. On one hand, it could take a matter of months, but on the other, it could take years.
“It all depends on who gets in the ring with [me]. After my first fight in January, you’re gonna see me go after one of the guys in the top-10; then you’re gonna see me go after one of the guys in the top-5; then hopefully somebody in the top-2 or 3 will fight me. This is why I was able to rise in the rankings so fast. I wouldn’t fight anybody if they weren’t ranked higher than me, and that’s what I’m gonna set out to do in 2013. Hopefully by year’s end, I’ll be right in line for one of the Klitschkos, if they’re still fighting, because I’m going after these guys in the top-10.”
In this stage of both his life and his career, Mansour has proven time and time again that he is more than able to overcome seemingly immense obstacles in his journey up the heavyweight ranking. With a life that resembles something out of a movie, Mansour has embraced the underdog role en-route to potentially having a “Rocky” moment of his own.
For any boxing news, updates, and previews be sure to follow Tha’ Boxing Voice on Twitter ( @ThaBoxingVoice ) as well as myself ( @dfgonzalez305 ). Also be sure to support and follow Amir “Hardcore” Mansour by liking his Official Facebook Page.