People often bring up the downsides of boxing, focusing on the savagery they see in the ring and the unfortunate toll not infrequently seen decades later in boxers, including slurred speech and dementia intensified by brain damage suffered from trading blows.
Less often do people focus on one of the sports' major upsides, namely that by giving young men who were on a path that promised incarceration and/or premature death of a violent nature, for them and/or others who crossed their paths, boxing likely reduces carnage that affects friends, families and neighborhoods.
Hank Lundy fights at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Conn., in the main event of this week's "Friday Night Fights," and although he views a win in that fight against Dannie Williams as a stepping stone to the lightweight title shot that would go a long way toward providing for his four children, really Lundy has already proven himself a high achiever in the game. Because if he hadn't taken up boxing as a teen and stuck with it to this point, Hank Lundy would be dead.
This isn't me overwriting for dramatic effect, making an assumption for the sake of trying to deliver an impact. That Lundy (21-1-1, with 11 KOs) would be dead if not for boxing comes from the mouth of the man himself.
Lundy, 28 and born, bred and living in Philadelphia, will battle St. Louis native Dannie Williams, who himself was once a good bet to suffer a cold, hard, premature end, probably on the wrong end of a handgun.
"If it wasn't for boxing, I'm not gonna lie: I'd be dead," Lundy told me in a phone interview on Wednesday.
"I was growing up on the streets of South Philly since my mom was in the hospital," he said, referring to his mom, Kimberly, who has long battled schizophrenia. "By age 13, I was on the street hanging with older guys, who had guns and were selling drugs. When I was 13, I got into a fight with a guy and beat him up bad. I wasn't that big then, and I'm not that big now. His big brother, who was like 25, smacked me with a gun in the face."
His face and pride busted up, Lundy was planning revenge and upping the ante. But before that could go down, his aunt, Denise Bennett, swooped in and got custody of him, his brothers and his sisters. "I never got back to that situation," Lundy said. "That was God's way of keeping me out of harm's way."
Lundy found an outlet and a passion in sports, including football. He was offered a scholarship to play ball at Crookstown University, but there wasn't enough money to attend. At 18, his uncle got him into a gym, and it stuck. He had about 70 amateur bouts and turned pro in 2006. In his most recent outing, in August 2011 on FNF, he stopped vet David Diaz in the sixth after getting dropped in the fourth round. FNF watchers might recall his step-up bout with John Molina in July 2010, which resulted in Lundy's sole loss, via 11th-round TKO.
Lundy, the NABF lightweight champ, wants to prove he is among the world elite at lightweight. But he's already in the top tier in the trash-talk department.
"Dannie's fought nobody," Lundy told me. "I'm not sleeping on him, but he doesn't belong in the ring with me. He's stepping in the way of my kids trying to succeed. I'm pissed about that. I'm really gonna hurt him. I'm going to beat him no problem."
Lundy's kids are ages 10, 9, 7, 5 and 3, and the fighter is looking ahead to college tuition. That motivation, he said, sets him apart from many other hitters, those who want to succeed to benefit themselves. "I didn't have a chance to go to college," Lundy said. "I want to make sure their dreams come true."
Beyond his kids, Lundy told me he is dedicating this fight, which he predicts he will win inside the distance, to slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and Martin's mother, who had a stint in a hospital to deal with her schizophrenia and was released just last week.
"A lot of these guys are fighting for nothing," he said. "I'm fighting for something. That's six people, and now seven with the young man that passed. I'm fighting for justice. Me being in the ring is my way of venting, especially the stuff with my mom. Me being in the ring is God's blessing; I could be on the street hurting somebody."
Williams, 27, has a track record of hurting people in the ring. With a 21-1 record and 17 KOs, he has won nine in a row, seven by stoppage. Williams now lives in Youngstown, Ohio, and is trained by Jack Loew, the man who guided Kelly Pavlik from the Silver Mittens to a middleweight championship. Like Lundy, Williams danced with the devil that is the streets, and was busted for assault in 2006. He served 30 months, and looking back is grateful that he did the time.
"Since then," he told me, "I've been on the straight and narrow."
Lundy's talk has jazzed up Williams, giving him extra motivation to drop and stop Hammerin' Hank, likely with his game-changing right hand.
"Yeah, I want to knock Lundy out. I want to knock everybody out if I can, but I want to make sure I knock him out; I want to knock him out cold. Everything he's saying is a joke. He talks like I ain't nobody. That makes me mad. I've never lost, I've never been dropped. He's doing too much talking already: 'He's learning on the job, he's not naturally talented.'"
Lundy has been in tougher than Williams, who is coming off a stoppage win over 33-17-6 Fernando Trejo. Lundy's chin can be checked, but as he points out, he usually pops back up.
Loew foresees a challenging first few rounds for his guy, but "once he lands a good shot, the scenario changes. Dannie is the hardest puncher I've ever had, he hits hard with both hands. You know, I had Kelly Pavlik -- he can punch -- but it's scary how hard [Williams] can hit."
So how does he beat Lundy, specifically? "By backing him up," Loew said. "He's got to outwork him, stay disciplined, stick to the game plan, work the body the first four or five rounds."
Sounds convincing, but Lundy has had to negotiate choppier waters as a pro. I suspect he'll face some Friday -- and he'll know what to do. Without much conviction, I like Lundy by decision. But more importantly, I will be focusing Friday night on the fact that this sport has served both these fighters well, provided a beacon to follow and thus benefited society mightily as a whole.