Boxing

Brewster using life lessons from inside ring

  • Massive upset: Lamont Brewster sent shock waves through the sport when he floored Wladimir Klitschko to claim the vacant WBO heavyweight title in 2004 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Lamon Brewster will for ever be remembered for his stunning knockout victory over the great Wladimir Klitschko in Las Vegas in 2004.

A crushing 11-1 underdog, Brewster’s hopes of defying those ominous odds appeared unlikely after being dropped by the giant Ukrainian in the fourth round of their vacant WBO heavyweight title fight.

Heading for a one-sided defeat, the third of his career, Brewster rallied specularly in the fifth and forced a physically exhausted Klitschko to the canvas under a barrage of blows.

He went on to defend his title three times — against Kali Meehan, Andrew Golota and Luan Krasniqi — but it is his unexpected win over “Dr Steelhammer” that stands as his greatest ring triumph.

“The biggest satisfaction for me was beating Wladimir because all of my life I wanted to be a world heavyweight champion, the 44-year-old told The Royal Gazette. “Fighting somebody so big, they called me ‘Black Rocky’ and he was ‘Drago’ [in reference to Rocky IV]. He gave his all, I gave my all, and the best man won.”

Brewster, who visited Bermuda last week with four other former world champions — Riddick Bowe, Chris Byrd, Ray Mercer and James Toney — as special guests for the World Alternative Investment Summit at the Fairmont Southampton, reaffirmed his reputation as a fearsome puncher a year later with a vicious display against Golota.

The Indianapolis native floored the Pole three times in 53 seconds in the fastest knockout in a heavyweight title bout.

“The Golota fight was almost on a par [with the Klitschko win],” Brewster said. “I did something that Muhammad Ali couldn’t do, Mike Tyson couldn’t do, or any other fighter, which is hold the fastest knockout in history in a heavyweight title fight. It was a 100-year-old record that Jim Jeffries set [55 seconds against John Finnegan in 1900] and I’m very proud of that.”

Brewster had the distinction of being the last man to stop Klitschko before Anthony Joshua repeated that sizeable feat at Wembley Stadium in April.

He said he has been impressed with Joshua’s unusual ability to throw combinations for a big heavyweight and is excited about a potential showdown between the Englishman and American Deontay Wilder.

“The heavyweight division is definitely on its way back and we have some great fighters in Wilder and Joshua,” Brewster said.

“They have both really helped to reignite the heavyweight scene. The question is: Who is the better? I’d be lying if I said my money wasn’t on Wilder. I’ve spoken to him and I’ve given him motivation — he’s my fellow countryman. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves.”

Just as his upset over Klitschko was shrouded in controversy — there was suggestions that the Ukrainian’s water bottle was drugged, a theory Brewster has always dismissed — Brewster is convinced he was the victim of foul play in his final fight against Finland’s Robert Helenius.

Brewster believes that Helenius’s gloves were filled with a hard, sharp substance that left cuts on his eyelids. He also required surgery on the iris and cornea in his left eye in which he is blind despite many corrective operations.

“My doctor told me that in his 40 years in the medical profession — and he worked for years at fights at The Forum [in Inglewood, California] — that the injuries I sustained were inconclusive with boxing,” said Brewster, who had already suffered a detached retina in his win over Krasniqi 4½ years previously.

“I had slits across my eyelids like someone had a knife. Boxers don’t cut on the eyelids, we cut on the brow, and I didn’t have cuts there. Whatever it was that cut my eye and made me lose my vision is the same thing that gave me the slits across my eyelids.”

Brewster, who was convincingly beaten by Klitschko after six rounds in Cologne, Germany, in 2007, has no bitterness about the injuries he sustained through boxing.

“I can’t do anything about it,” he said. “If I could invent a time machine I would definitely go back and change things. But at the same time real men take the bricks that were thrown at them and build something from it.”

Since being forced into retirement in 2010, Brewster has successfully built a life away from the ring.

He has teamed up with Byrd, his cousin, Bowe, Mercer and Toney to create a cigar line called Champions Cigars, as well as trying to get a reality show onto television in which they unearth the best amateur heavyweights.

Brewster said the former champions were also helping fighters cope with life after boxing.

“Not only are we trying to be entrepreneurs, we’re trying to help those fighters coming after us,” said Brewster, who is married with three children.

“Boxing is a girl who doesn’t love anybody. You have to use her as much as she uses you because the minute she’s done with you, she’ll leave you high and dry. It’s important boxers are educated about money. They don’t get a pension when they retire. They need to learn how to invest their money and make it work for them.”

Brewster and his fellow heavy hitters are now urging the fight community to come together to raise money for those suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last month.

“We’re doing a campaign called Fighters for Puerto Rico,” he said. “All we’re asking is for every champion, trainer, reporter, cameraman to make a small video, just 20 to 30 seconds, just to say, ‘I’m so-and-so ... please support and donate to #FightersForPuertoRico’.

“They aren’t going to be able to rebuild that country for another two or three years. It’s like a fight and it’s not going to be a first-round knockout either. We’re going to have to go the distance.”

• For more details visit www.fightersforpuertorico.com