The Second Generation: Out to prove they're more than just a name!

By Ramon Rodriguez


The Second Generation: Out to prove they're more than just a name!

On July 1, 2006 DiBella Entertainment in association with First Round Promotions will host an exciting fight-card at the Little River Casino in Manistee, Michigan, near Grand Rapids. The show will feature the sons and one relative of famous, former fighters on a special edition of ShoBox. Although ShoBox has typically been broadcast on Friday evenings, this episode will be moved to Saturday, while Showtime Championship Boxing, usually reserved for the first Saturday of the month, will be moved to the following Saturday (July 8). “That night we’ll have a number of the very best young guys fighting. At ringside you’ll see Tim Witherspoon, Buddy McGirt, and Tommy “Hitman” Hearns,” says Lou DiBella of DiBella Entertainment. The show will introduce Chazz Witherspoon, James McGirt Jr., Ronald Hearns, and Jorge Paez Jr. to the boxing public. “This card was really hard to bring together because there’s five different promotional companies involved. The Sycuan tribe promotes Jorge Paez Jr. in partnership with Golden Boy Promotions, Ronald Hearns has First Round Promotions out of Detroit, and James McGirt Jr. is promoted by Artie Pellulo [of Banner Promotions]. Getting one other promoter to do something with you is difficult—five promoters is a feat.”

That night, each of the four fighters will seek to carve their own niche in their respective divisions, with the hopes of being known for their own accomplishments, not those of their famous family members who fought before them. In boxing, having a well-known last name is often a plus for young fighters just starting their careers, as there are usually more opportunities to fight on bigger cards on television. However, as Chazz Witherspoon points out, there can also be a downside.

“You have big shoes to fill and you’re held to a higher level of scrutiny. Being related to someone great in boxing is both a gift and a curse because you’re held to a higher standard. And all the guys who are related to someone who was a great fighter know what I’m talking about—they feel the pressure. If you come in looking bad and you’re related to someone great, you’ll be criticized harsher than someone who isn’t known. It’s also a mental thing because you can’t have any excuses. Someone without the famous last name can fly under the radar till they become great,” says Witherspoon, the cousin of former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon. “I’m still just learning but I’m still always under the microscope. But I’m looking forward to this—that’s why I train hard.”

Since turning pro in late 2004, Chazz “The Mensa Mauler” Witherspoon (12-0, 7 KOs), a former Golden Gloves champ, who faces undefeated Mike Alexander in the main event of the night, has been creating quite the buzz in the heavyweight division as a young prospect with a polite disposition and a tireless work ethic, which his cousin praises.

“Chazz often trains too hard. He wants to box all the time. He just needs time to get better like wine. If there’s a race for the championship, let the other guys race. Chazz will get there. It’ll be a long road but he’ll get there. When he does, people won’t know what to do with a guy like him,” says Tim Witherspoon excitedly.

But Chazz’s dedication in the gym is far from being his only quality. As his cousin Tim quickly points out, Chazz also stands out in the industry because he’s a mature, eloquent, and polite youngster with a college degree from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.  According to Tim, more young men should follow his cousin’s example and obtain a college degree.

“Stay in sports and train hard but get a diploma. Don’t be embarrassed by that like I was. School should be first—legal decisions will be easier to make. You’ll be able to stand on your own two feet. Skills can get you there but you can always fall back on an education. Get that college education,” explains Tim.

But even with his school smarts, Chazz hopes he can develop into a boxer whose greatest attribute is his intelligence inside the ring.

An education helps me to a certain extent but under the pressure some men crumble because your life is on the line. There are lots of great boxers that didn’t have a college degree. You could be a genius but if you can’t perform under the strain, it’ll do you no good,” says Chazz. “I’m learning to analyze and make on the job decisions as the fight goes on. You need to learn to make necessary changes. Hindsight is 20-20 and I don’t want to look back on something and say, ‘I should’ve done this or that.’ My corner can tell me things, but I want to see them for myself. You have to be multi-dimensional in boxing.”

And what could be better than learning how to be a multi-dimensional fighter under a former champ and decorated trainer who just so happens to be your father? Just ask James McGirt Jr., whose father Buddy McGirt is recognized as one of the premier trainers in the business.

“My father wants me to be the best so he’s harder on me than all the other guys in the gym. He’s ten times harder,” says McGirt Jr. (11-0, 7 KOs), who is tabbed to face Stephan Pryor, the son of all-time great Aaron Pryor, in a middleweight bout. “Yeah I get mad sometimes in the back of my mind, and walk out of the gym to get my scream on, but I know it’s because my father wants me to succeed. At the end of the day I tell him I love him. I have too much respect for my father to tell him that I’d go work with somebody else.”

Though the McGirts have a wonderful chemistry together, it took a long time for Buddy to actually agree to train his son. “I never wanted my son to box. I wanted him to play basketball. I used to always ignore him when he tried to do boxing road work. But one day he called me in Las Vegas and told me he made the Sunshine State Games. I thought he made the basketball team but he told me it was for boxing. Then he won the gold medal. So I started going to his fights and he did well. When he told me he wanted to turn pro, I told him he had to come with me. I told him we had to do it together the right way,” says Buddy McGirt.

And Buddy understands that the right way means that nothing is absolute. What works for one fighter may not necessarily work for another. To ever try to force the issue will only strain the father-son relationship, which Buddy claims is what unravels many father-son teams.

“Sometimes fathers expect their kids to pick it up the way they did. Some things won’t be picked up as quick and parents don’t know how to separate that. The problem I had at the beginning was my son is 6’2’’ and a southpaw and he was trying to fight like me, but I’m 5’6’’ and right handed,” says Buddy laughing. “People are different and boxing is serious—it’s mano a mano. It’s something you don’t play. You can’t call timeout and go to the bench. But my son has come a long way and I’m more comfortable now than ever.”

While the McGirts’ fighting styles may be totally different, Ronald Hearns shares that of his father’s, the legendary Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, a pound-for-pound great who many pundits consider one of the hardest punchers in the history of the sport. But Ronald (8-0, 6 KOs) who takes on middleweight Hector Hernandez, says it’s not intentional. It may just be something he picked up after excitedly watching his fighter crush fighter after fighter for three decades.

“It was great when my father was coming up, knowing he had tremendous knockout power. We both have the same jab and right hand. I have a better left hook to the head. My father had a better one to the body. I guess I watched him so much, I incorporated his style. We’re built the same way so people expect me to go out and do the things he did. I’ve only been boxing for two and a half years, so I’m still learning, but the similarities are there once you see me fight,” says Ronald. “I’m just excited to be on a card with fellow sons to see how they react to the situations I’ll be in. It’s truly an honor to have our fathers pave the ways for us. Now we have an opportunity to showcase our talent and get out of their shadow a little bit.