by Hans Olson
For too long, the heavyweight division in North America has been subject to constant ridicule. Speaking with Bermane Stiverne this week, I asked him if he felt he could be the savior to a division in such dire need of one.
“I believe so. I really believe so,” he said, with focused intensity.
“I’ll make something happen.”
Stiverne(20-1-1) can make something happen all right. This Saturday, “B. Ware” can get one step closer to fighting Vitali Klitchko for the WBC’s version of the Heavyweight Championship of the World. The only thing standing between him and that dream is Ray Austin(28-5-4). When listening to Bermane speak, you sense in his voice a special willingness to be great, something he acknowledges with his relentless work ethic and the many sacrifices he makes.
“Every fight is important to me. The last few fights I’ve had have meant a lot. With family, loved ones and kids…going away and having to go to Vegas and train; it’s not physically hard…but it’s hard psychologically. Mentally, it’s very heavy….but I do it because it’s what I believe I should be doing. You just have to work hard, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”
The hard hitting Stiverne first stepped into a boxing gym at the rather late age of 18. Initially using boxing as another workout regimen to his football dreams, he quickly discovered his natural ability in the fight game.
“I was born in Haiti, and then moved to Florida; to Miami. Since I was a teenager I was going from Montreal to Miami back and forth and actually lived in Montreal for a bit until college and then I moved to Michigan; I had a scholarship for football. That didn’t work…injuries…so boxing was the next thing. I just tried it, and here I am today!”
He compiled an amateur record of 49-10, scoring victories over the likes of Robert Helenius and David Price.
“I was just doing it…it was fun; go in the weight room for a couple days, do a tournament; the Golden Gloves, Silver Gloves, I was just doing it. The more I fought, it was more serious. I just ran with it.”
After becoming a Canadian Super Heavyweight silver medalist in 2005, Bermane turned pro, quickly building up a 12-0 record before being upset by Demetrice King in July of 2007. He bounced back with 4 knockout victories before getting a decision win against Robert Hawkins, followed up with a controversial draw to Charles Davis in April 2009. Since then, Stiverne hasn’t let judging get in the way, taking out his last 3 opponents within the distance. He hopes to do the same this Saturday night against Ray Austin. The bout will open HBO’s “Boxing After Dark,” a special attraction to the stacked card promoted by Don King.
To prepare for the fight, Bermane got quality sparring with Hasim Rahman, David Rodriguez and Rafael Zumbano. “Everything actually went better than I thought it was going to be. Sparring was great, conditioning was great, everything was great.”
In Ray Austin, Stiverne faces a game veteran who could be on premium cable for the last time. If Bermane scores a sensational victory, he could find himself on HBO for many fights to come.
If so, could the heavyweight division be saved?
“So far, so good right now. I just keep trying to do what I’m doing.”
Bermane Stiverne looks to get it done Saturday night.
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