By Steve Kim: For much of his career, Eddie Chambers has been a “small” heavyweight. In the land of giants, Chambers was always small by the standards of today’s behemoths, many of whom are the size of power forwards and have no problems carrying 240-plus pounds. Chambers, who is 6’1” and in the low-200s, has made the decision to now compete in the cruiserweight division. He faces South African Thabiso Mchunu this Saturday night (NBC Sports Network 10:30 p.m., ET) from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT.
It was very simple: the modern-day heavyweights are simply too damn big.
“It was a bit of that,” Chambers admitted to Maxboxing, “plus just the opportunity to become a world champion. I’m not saying at cruiserweight, it’s going to be any easier but of course, if you look at the sheer dynamics of the size of the guys, it should be a little bit easier at the very least. So yeah, it was about time to get down there. You get tired of the way you have to prepare. It’s tremendously hard - just like you do at any weight class - but even more so in trying to put a tad more weight on which I got tired of doing after awhile.
“I just said, ‘Y’ know what? I’m just going to fight at whatever weight I come in at. I’m just going to go in there and fight these guys, no matter what.’”
When you ask Chambers of the last time he fought at this weight, he laughs and says, “Honestly, this is the first year in a looooooong time I’ve been around 200 pounds. I’ll be honest with you. But I mean it wasn’t like I was ever too far above it. I always knew it would pretty easy for me to get to cruiserweight or even when it was cruiserweight at 190. I felt like I had a good shot at making that weight. So it would never be too much of a problem now.
“If we were talking light heavyweight, that’s a different story.”
Several years ago, Chris Byrd, another smallish heavyweight, made the mistake of going all the way back down to 175 pounds and was a hollow shell of himself against Shaun George. Chambers is being much more realistic. “You’re asking me to lose because at my last fight I was at 202 - you’re asking me to lose more than 25 pounds to [drop to] the light heavyweight limit. Being at cruiserweight has never been a big issue.”
Like many others who might be better suited for the cruiserweight class, one of the reasons Chambers competed at heavyweight is simple: the money is much better in the sport’s glamour division. But that came at a heavy price - fighting much bigger men. It took a certain amount of courage to do what Byrd and Chambers did for years.
“I’ve had success most of my career and I’m a point guard against power forwards. So that’s always been an issue. But y’ know what? Honestly, the success I’ve had over time and being able to use the little tricks and the speed and the different things I have as far as ability to overcome that size, I never really thought of it during a fight. But I’ll tell you what, when I was in there with Wladimir [Klitschko], I thought about it a little more because he was able to exploit every little bit of his six-inch height advantage and it’s a 35-to-45-pound weight advantage as well,” explained Chambers, who lost to Klitschko back in 2010.
Yeah, other guys are big but they aren’t as effective at utilizing their strengths like Wladimir, who stopped Chambers with a mere five seconds remaining in the 12th round.
“Because most guys, I don’t think, have that pedigree in that arsenal to be able to use the advantages that they have over the other guys,” said Chambers. “Not everyone is so adept at doing that but I think Wladimir is one that...for him, he’s in a great spot. He’s 6’7, 240-some pounds, so he’s a really big heavyweight but even the real big ones he’s going to be fighting, he’s going to be much more athletic. The guys he fights that are smaller than that are going to be too small. So he’s in the perfect situation and he’s just athletic enough to get away with it.”
The Klitschkos, Wladimir and Vitali, comprise the two-headed monster in the division. But if you take them out of the equation, the next dozen or so heavyweights, you mix and match them and you’d get some competitive and compelling fights.
If the brothers suddenly left the sport, well, Chambers would go back to his protein shakes to get back to the heavyweight division.
“Absolutely,” he said, laughing. “Even with them there, there are such great fights out there for the smaller heavyweights and when you say ‘smaller heavyweights,’ I mean 6’2”, 6’3” or around my size at 6’1”.”
Believe it or not; there was a time when heavyweights - the legendary ones - were more or less the size and stature of Chambers.
Kathy Duva of Main Events, which now promotes Chambers, states, “People harken back to the greatest heavyweights of all-time, most of them including Mike Tyson, who isn’t that big of a guy, were ‘small’ heavyweights because they moved better yet they still hit hard. You get the combination of speed and power that you only see in the higher weight divisions. Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, [Jack] Dempsey, [Gene]Tunney and [Rocky] Marciano and on and on and on were all smaller than Eddie Chambers. Ali, when he won his first world title, he only weighed 205 pounds and remember, he wasn’t making weight [having no weight cap at heavyweight]. Joe Frazier, I think was only 202 and he wasn’t making weight.”
For the first time in a long while, Chambers now gets to fight someone his own size. In Mchunu, he’s facing an unknown quantity to Americans.
“I’ll tell you this much; I haven’t fought a guy his size since I was 15 in the streets. Nah, just kidding,” he said jokingly. “But I haven’t fought a guy around his size for the majority of my career. I fought one other guy; he was a southpaw. He was a bit shorter than me. It was one of the few times I was bigger than the guy I was facing. From what I’ve seen, he’s not a bad fighter. He’s bringing a little bit to the table and he wants to be a little slick. He wants to use some of the stuff he sees from the American fighters.
“He’s been doing the Mayweather shoulder roll, the James Toney shoulder roll. Those guys who have made it famous and he’s trying to get that. I’m not saying he doesn’t have it because as far as he’s concerned, with the guys he’s faced, he’s got it down pat. He’s facing a different person and a different level this time. So now we’re going to see what kind of level he can actually step to and see if he can be successful. I highly doubt it because I think I’m hitting my stride right now at 31 and for heavyweights especially, that’s just being into your prime.”
Chambers, whose goal is to pick up a cruiserweight belt or two (and then perhaps parlay that into a more lucrative run at heavyweight) believes his best is still yet to come.
“I turned professional at 18 so I feel like right now with the experience accompanied with my youth, which I still have, I’m ready to go.”
August 2, 2013