By: Hans Themistode
Fighting is the norm in the streets of Brooklyn, New York. One form of fighting in particular holds a special place in the hearts of just about everyone associated with the borough.
Just as its name indicates, slap boxing is when two men or women for that matter box either in the middle of the street, on the sidewalks or even in the classroom. It happens just about every and anywhere. For those unfamiliar with this sport and yes the residents of Brooklyn consider it a sport, one that they take serious for that matter, it simply involves two individuals who fight by only slapping one another.
Photo Credit: Frankie Mendez
Whoever can dish out the most punishment while avoiding getting severely hurt in the process is the winner. Professional boxer Dushane Crooks was one of those kids who engaged in that activity throughout his childhood.
Just chalk it up to a young kid that was simply mad at the world for no reason right? That might be the case for some, but for Crooks the passing of his father made him angry. He needed a way to let out the frustrations that were built up inside of him.
“My father was murdered back in my homeland of Jamaica,” said Crooks. “I used boxing as a therapy to keep me busy. It was rough growing up in Brooklyn and I did a lot of stupid stuff. I was just so angry. Slap boxing was a way for me to take out that anger.”
What first seemed to be a good way to let out his frustrations while having fun and passing the time with his friends, actually propelled current Jr Middleweight contender Dushane Crooks into a career as a professional fighter.
“Fighting was something that I enjoyed doing since I was young. I used to slap box in the street a lot and I was good at it. I started to think to myself maybe I can become a boxer since I’m so good at slap boxing.”
At the age of 13 Crooks took the talents that he displayed in the world of slap boxing and stepped into the boxing ring. Crooks quickly found out that it wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be.
“I had about 15 amateur fights but I only won about two or three them. My amateur career wasn’t good at all but it was more so because I had a pro style.”
Success as an amateur boxer is usually indicative of the prosperity that a fighter will have as a professional. Seldom will you find any world champion level boxer who did not have mountains of success on the amateur scene before taking his talents to the pros. There are those who struggle in the unpaid ranks but choose to try their hand at the next level. Many have failed. Crooks was an unsuccessful amateur boxer to say the least but like everything else in life, there is always an exception.
Crooks may have been awful in the amateurs but he’s been down right dominant as a pro. Through 14 fights he has managed to win 13 of them while losing only one contest which could have gone either way. He is now looking to continue his winning ways and build himself into a bonafide contender in the stacked Jr Middleweight division.
For those who are on the outside looking in, they only see how successful he has become as a professional. Behind the scenes however, the road he traveled to get here was anything but easy.
After winning his first six fights as a pro, Crooks was effectively put on ice by his management. It wasn’t by any fault of his own. At the time, Crooks career was being guided by the same team that helped lead former multiple weight division world champion Paul Williams.
The tragic story of Williams is well chronicled as he was seriously hurt in a motorcycle accident which led to his paralysis in 2012. Unfortunately for Crooks, with Williams on the shelf permanently his management team failed to bring any fights to the table for him.
“Paul’s manager put everyone on the shelf after he got into that accident. I had long stretches where I couldn’t get a fight. What first started out as a great way for me to start my career ended up being a nightmare for me. It just really turned into a bad contract.”
Although he was forced to the sidelines for over two years he continued to train and sharpen his skills in the hope that he would eventually break free from his management. In 2014, Crooks got his wish, as he became a free man. His career should have took off from that moment but, as is often the case in the life of Crooks the problems for him only continued.
“When I was finally able to get out of that contract I got with a new trainer and things were going really well for me, but then my trainer got really sick. I later found out that he had cancer. That really made me question if I should really do this boxing thing.”
Crooks would go on to take two more years off in order to get his mind right and figure out if this is truly what he wanted to do. Along the way, several people helped him in his decision making process.
“When my trainer was on his death bed he told me that he wanted me to keep fighting. He also told me that I’m going to be a world champion one day if I just don’t stop. Those words from him really helped me but I still had second thoughts and did some soul searching. What helped me was just me thinking about my dad. He was one of the main reasons why I started boxing in the first place. After thinking about it for a long time I decided to keep going. I’m going to chase my dreams til the end. I don’t want to be a waste of talent. I don’t want to live in regret, so I want to give it my best no matter the outcome.”
The decision to continue his career as a boxer has proven to be a sagacious one. Since 2016, Crooks has gone on to win seven fights in a row. He’ll be looking to continue his winning ways this Friday night on September 6th, in New Orelans.
Winning his upcoming fight isn’t the only thing that is keeping Crooks motivated. His younger brother Orville, is now an amateur boxer and looks to him as a source of motivation.
“When I see my brother it motivates me because I want to make sure I’m setting a good example for him. Also I want him to keep pushing himself because he is so talented, just pure raw talent man. He actually motivates me as well to want to keep going.”
Motivation for a boxer is an important factor but so is the lifestyle that they choose to live. Staying disciplined at all time, and staying in shape is something that many fighters struggle with. For Crooks however, you won’t find him in slacking in that department. Thanks to his slogan, stay activated so that you won’t have to get activated.
“It’s just about staying ready no matter what. Stay ready for anything and be ready at all times. That’s what that slogan means.”
There’s no doubt that Crooks lives by his motto and keeps in shape all year round. The discipline and control he has shown is remarkable but with that being said, he does have a weakness. One that even his level of dedication can’t overcome.
“I’m a sucker for chocolate. Snickers, chocolate cake, cookies. Even when I’m cutting weight I just have to have it. My trainer actually set me up one time by putting some chocolate in a room with me and I took it when he wasn’t around and tried to lie about it,” said Crooks while chuckling. “I couldn’t even help it man.”
His affinity for chocolate won’t stop Crooks from getting the victory this Friday night. Some fighters look for the knockout but for Crooks, he could careless how he gets the win, as long as he gets it, he’ll be satisfied.
“I just want to win by any means necessary. It doesn’t matter how it happens as long as I get the victory that’s what matters the most.”
With the right management team now behind him and his motivation at an all-time high, Crooks seems poised to not only accomplish the goals that his one time trainer believed he could accomplish before he passed away but also his own personal goals as well.
“I want a shot at a world title belt. Not everybody even gets a shot at a title. Win or lose I want to say I did my best and kept going. I ultimately want to make enough money so that I can invest in something and give back to the community. I just want to do good deeds. Great things happen to you when you do things from the heart.”
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