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Churchwell Loss Continues Disturbing Trend of Tennessee Boxers

By David L. Hudson, Jr.

Another fighter with a glossy record from Tennessee recently stepped up in competition and lost. When will this disturbing trend stop?  To those of us learned boxing fans in the Volunteer State, which I count myself, the pattern is all too familiar.

Power punching lightweight Terrance Churchwell showed his remarkable power against tough Jose Antonio Ramirez on the Stevie Johnston-Jose Luis Castillo
ESPN2 undercard on Friday September 14.

Churchwell, who possesses one punch kayo power in either hand, floored Ramirez in the first round but couldn't finish the tough Dominican. Ramirez finished Churchwell in the third round of a remarkably high-energy battle.

Though the action was nonstop, the fight showed the importance of fighting decent competition - an undeniable fact that seems to be lost on boxers and
their handlers in Tennessee.

Churchwell, who sported an impressive amateur career, entered the Ramirez fight with a record of 18-0 with 14 knockouts. However, the first 15 of those fights took place in Nashville against a string of journeyman and outright tomato cans.

From Oct. 30, 1996, until December 2, 1997, Churchwell racked up week after win. In September 1997, he fought four times alone.

Then, in December 1997, Churchwell fought the one and only Reggie Strickland who outweighed him by at least 10-15 pounds. Strickland, who has nearly 300
career pro bouts (and who deserves a book written about his career), arguably beat Churchwell in a close four-rounder.

Then, inexplicably Churchwell did not fight again until April of this year. Allegedly he was embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with his former manager.

Whatever the real reason, local fight fans in Tennessee were dismayed at seeing their fighter sidelined. Then, earlier this year, Churchwell resurfaced in Nevada adding three more impressive knockout wins.

His power is undeniable. "Man, Churchwell has real power," said local middleweight Brent Cooper, who used to spar with Churchwell in Nashville. "Fighters didn't want to spar with him because he hit so hard. Even guys that outweighed him by 20 pounds didn't want any part of him."

However, the quality of his opposition remained questionable. His first fight back was against a Jose Luis Limones, a fighter with a losing record. Then, he faced 39-year-old Javier Lucas whose first pro bout took place in 1979 - when Churchwell was 2 years old.

In his last bout prior to the clash with Ramirez, he faced Jose Luis Baltazar, a fighter with a record of 28-18-1.  None of these three opponents made it out of the 2nd round.

Last Friday, Ramirez almost didn't either. Churchwell blasted him with sledgehammer right hands. Yet, Ramirez, one tough customer, fought back and hit Churchwell more in one round than he'd been hit in his entire pro career.

Part of the difference, as the ESPN announcers pointed out, was that the 15-2-4 Ramirez had faced much tougher opposition. Ramirez had gone the 12-round distance four times against tough competition.

Churchwell couldn't handle it when he fought a guy that (barely} survived his punching power. Hopefully, he will train hard and rebound from the devastating defeat.

Unfortunately, numerous fighters who pad their records in Tennessee against limited competition fail when they step up in competition.

Junior welterweight Theo Elmore racked nearly thirty wins against inferior competition before failing in his television fight. Local heavyweights Frankie Wood and Joey Guy also lost when they took fights against contenders.

Hopefully, undefeated middleweight Jonathan "Reid Dawg" Reid, who is now 26-0, can change the disturbing pattern.

The lesson from the Churchwell-Ramirez fight is quite simple:  fight quality opposition before taking a major step up in competition.

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