- Michael Woods, Boxing
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Following a stoppage loss to Cris Arreola in April 2009, Harlem-born boxer Jameel McCline hung up his gloves. A pro since 1995, he'd used boxing to propel himself to a more solid existence as a productive member of society. After doing five years in lockup for a gun charge as a young man, he took up boxing, at age 26, and it helped him stay focused on a goal. That goal, to win a heavyweight championship, didn't come to fruition, though he had opportunities, against Wladimir Klitschko (2002), Chris Byrd (2004), Nikolay Valuev and Samuel Peter (in 2007).
So after getting kayoed by Arreola, he acknowledged that it was time to go to Plan B, which included work as a fitness trainer and consultant. But the goal stuck in his head. It gnawed at the man who grew up in Port Jefferson, Long Island. That stubbornness that served him well during 14 months of solitary in prison hadn't left him. So he got back to work, and in December 2011, beat Dennis McKinney in North Carolina. Now based out of Florida, McCline (41-12-3) hit a bump in his next fight, losing a MD to 18-23-2 Harold Sconiers. He eked out a split decision against Livin Castillo in March, and then lost a UD10 in Poland, to 11-0 Artur Szpilka, almost 20 years his junior.
Still, the gnawing continued. He didn't throw in the towel, again.
Now 42, McCline has assumed the role of steppingstone, in the eyes of the promoters who are putting on his Saturday fight in Moscow -- underneath a Vitali Klitschko-Manuel Charr main event -- against Magomed Abdusalamov (15-0 with 15 KOs; age 31; a lefty from Russia).
But McCline doesn't see his role as others do. "I'm just happy to be here and not look like the old guy trying to be something he no longer is," he told NYFightBlog, from Moscow on Wednesday morning. "I'm in the best shape since 2007. I'm just very proud that I'm disciplined enough to get in great shape. This will be a great fight for me when I execute the game plan."
Now, there is stubbornness, which can benefit anyone, athlete or otherwise, who has to deal with losing. And then there is delusion. Those fond of McCline don't want him to stay in the sport one fight too long. McCline seems to understand that he needs a win to keep his dream aloft. "I'm definitely on a fight-by-fight basis," he said. "I am back for the one thing that has eluded me four times already, a world championship. After this win I am sure I will get a shot. That is my only goal."