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A Journeyman Opponent Who Comes to
by David L. Hudson, Jr.
In the sport of boxing, most fighters do not fight for a world title, become a
top contender or garner extravagant purses. Most boxers ply their craft in
front of small crowds for meager pay at less than glamorous locations.
Most boxing cards consist of hometown fighters against out-of-towners. The
unspoken rule of thumb is that the hometown boxers will pad their record at the
expense of the journeymen.
Super middleweight James Mullins from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is one such
journeyman. He sports a record of 6-63-2 with 1 no-contest. He loses many of his
fights by decision in other fighters' hometowns. Close fights are usually
awarded to the hometown fighter. (The term "hometown decisions" was
not made up out of thin air.)
Mullins has seen it all in the ring - and usually from a disadvantage.
He's faced fighters with much better skills in their hometown. But, unlike many
journeymen, James Mullins comes to fight. "I always come to fight," he
says. "I have a lot of heart. I usually lose by decision."
His trainer and manager Billy Mitchell says of his fighter: "We know he's
not world-class. He's awkward and limited on skills but he'll make you fight. In
fact, on many cards, he's involved in the fight of the night."
Mitchell often exhorts Mullins in his fights by calling him by his nickname
"Volcano." "I call him Volcano because you never know when he's
going to erupt."
At a recent fight in Nashville against light-heavyweight Dennis McKinney,
Mullins lost the first four rounds. However, in the final two rounds, Mullins'
activity began to be rewarded. He won the last round on all three cards but lost
a 6-round decision.
Though his career is littered with losses, Mullins does throw lots of punches
and puts in an honest night on the job. He often absorbs large amounts of
punishment before going down.
At a fight card this September in Nashville, I witnessed a card full of boring
mismatches. However, in the last fight of the evening, Michael David Rogers
(18-2) entered the ring against Mullins. The two staged a four-round war with
Mullins drawing blood in the first round.
However, the larger Rogers was able to score a knockdown in the final round and
secure a unanimous decision. The pattern of fighting larger fighters is one that
Mullins has faced often in his career. For example, in April 1997, Mullins lost
a four-round decision to a then-undefeated heavyweight Frankie Wood, who
outweighed by more than 30 pounds. Later that year he fought
heavyweight Samson Cohen and was stopped in the second round.
Though he almost always loses, Mullins can occasionally pull a big surprise.
Perhaps Mullins' most noteworthy fight came relatively early in his career in
1992. Mullins entered the ring in Forest City, North Carolina, with
prospect David Izeqwire for what was supposed to be another easy win for the
then 5-0 (5 kayoes) Izeqwire. Mullins gave the undefeated prospect all he could
handle. In the ring the bout was declared a draw. Officials later changed the
bout to a decision win for Izeqwire.
Mitchell says that at that time, the state did not have a state boxing
commission to which he could appeal.
In October 1997, Mullins faced cruiserweight James Hayes in Nashville. Hayes
entered the contest with a record of 17-1 with 15 kayoes. In the first round,
Hayes suffered a gash above his eye and the fight was stopped. Ringside
officials ruled it a no-contest. Mitchell and Mullins insist that Mullins opened
Hayes up with a punch.
One might ask why a fighter with a terrible record and limited skills keeps
absorbing punishment in the ring for small purses.
"I fight for the love of it and to make a little money," he admits.
"The sport of boxing has allowed me to meet a lot of people and travel all
over the world."
"Boxing also kept me out of trouble," Mullins says. "If young
kids can't go to the gym and learn boxing, some of them will take their fighting
to the streets."
Mullins says his goal is to "fight four more years till I'm 35 and then
become a trainer. I think I can help some young kids from going down the wrong
path. Boxing prevented me from going down the wrong path and I'd like to pass
that along to some other young people."
--- David L. Hudson, Jr. is an attorney, writer and boxing judge in Tennessee.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org