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Former CPCC student boxes in title fight

By: David Scott, Charlotte Observer
Saturday, November 11, 2006

A long journey to the title fight
Dateline: New York 

When Charlotte's Calvin Brock steps through the ropes and into the ring
tonight at Madison Square Garden amid the bright lights of a world
heavyweight championship fight, he might recall a gloomy January
afternoon in Wilmington 19 years ago.

That day was the first step of a long trek for Brock, who will fight champion Wladimir Klitschko for the International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organization titles at the Garden.

Brock, 31, didn't get to this point by traveling a boxer's stereotypical, hardscrabble route. He was reared in middle-class Charlotte, with an education from UNC Charlotte and a first job uptown at Bank of America. He is married to a law student at Duke University. He even did some tap dancing on the way.

Brock was 12 in 1987 and had just fought - and lost - the first bout of his career. Before pulling out of Wilmington and on to U.S. 74 for the four-hour drive home to the Hampshire Hills neighborhood in northeast Charlotte, Brock and his father, Calvance, stopped at a Shoney's to eat.

The fight hadn't gone well. Brock, who had taken up the sport six months earlier, trained mostly by himself, going to the gym six days a week to shadow box and work on the heavy bag and speed bag. He had only a few sparring sessions.

When he stepped into the ring for the three-round amateur match in Wilmington, his inexperience showed. He stumbled around, losing his balance. He absorbed blow after blow, landing few of his own wild swings.

Later, Calvance looked across the table at Shoney's and said to his son: "I think you'd better quit, Calvin. You need to find something else to do."

"I'm not quitting," Calvin said. "And I don't like getting hit all the time."

Calvin kept on.

"I don't know what it was inside me," Brock said recently at his training camp in rural Pennsylvania. "There was something about boxing that made me work. It gave me that dream of being champion."

With Calvance serving as his coach, Calvin slowly developed into an adequate, then highly successful, amateur boxer. Father and son would spend hours at the Charlotte Boxing Academy, working on boxing fundamentals and fitness.

"I could see the desire and the heart," Calvance said. "That's what kept him going."

After losing his first six fights, Brock finally started to win. By the time he was 19, he had won several regional and national tournaments.

Brock wasn't afraid to use unorthodox training methods. One of his idols was actor/dancer Gregory Hines. So Brock began to tap dance, which helped his footwork and conditioning.

He doesn't tap dance as much anymore, but had a portable dance floor leaned against the wall at his training camp in Pennsylvania, just in case.

As Brock's amateur career began to flourish, he was also thinking about life outside of boxing. After graduating from West Charlotte High, he attended Central Piedmont Community College for two years before transferring UNCC. Balancing his studies with his fight schedule, Brock earned a degree in finance in 1999.

He then went uptown to work for nine months at Bank of America, where his job as a call-center analyst earned him the nickname "The Boxing Banker."

But Brock needed to focus on his next goal: the Olympics. He won a place on the 2000 U.S. team in Sydney, Australia, but lost his first-round match.

Since turning pro after the Olympics, Brock has won all 29 of his fights, 22 by knockout.

His first pro fight was at an Indian casino near Elgin, Ill. Brock, who is fighting for a reported $1.2 million tonight, received $1,500 for that bout, which he won by technical knockout against Zebjelee Kimbrough.

"That night in the back room getting dressed behind a curtain I did think `Here you are lacing on these gloves to fight a guy when you have a college education,' " Brock told HBO's Ron Borges. "But even that night I knew nothing else would make me happy."

Brock's most impressive pro victory came in 2005 when he won a decision against Jameel McCline, a fighter ranked in the top 10 at the time. Brock won despite being knocked down in the seventh round and came out of it eager for a shot at the championship.

"I just beat the biggest heavyweight in the top 10, a guy who fought for a world title and I believe I deserve a world title shot," Brock said at the time. "Who else you want me to beat, King Kong or Godzilla?"

Brock's shot at the title came after a deal between Klitschko and World Boxing Organization champ Shannon Briggs fell through. Klitschko has repeatedly said Brock is the best challenger available.

He has done it with a style that isn't easy to define. Not a devastating puncher, Brock relies on superior footwork (where the tap dancing comes in handy), good defensive skills and the ability to stay out of trouble.

When Brock isn't training - he spent seven weeks in Pennsylvania preparing for this week's fight - he lives in a townhouse in NoDa and stays involved in the community. He and his wife of 16 months, Yolanda, also own a home in Durham, where she will soon get her law degree at Duke.

Brock has spoken at area schools. He is part of the mentoring program at the Greater Charlotte unit of the national black group 100 Black Men. He sometimes ushers church-goers at the Victory Christian Center.

Calvin and Yolanda met at a boxing match at Cricket Arena. It wasn't until their fourth date, while sitting in the Belk Theater watching the musical "Miss Saigon," that Yolanda understood Brock's commitment to winning a world championship.

"I already knew he was pretty serious about boxing," she said. "That was his passion. There was a mysteriousness to that, but he believed God called him to do this. He's been faithful to it."

Brock vs. Klitschko
The fight: Charlotte's Calvin Brock (29-0, 20 KOs) vs. Ukraine's
Wladimir Klitschko (46-3, 41 KOs)
The stakes: The International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organization's world heavyweight titles
When: Saturday, Nov. 11, 10 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

Calvin Brock
Age: 31
Education: Devonshire Hills Elementary; Cochrane Middle, West Charlotte
High; Central Piedmont Community College; UNC Charlotte.
Degree: Finance (1999).
Amateur record: 147-38.
Pro record: 29-0 (22 knockouts).

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Editors' note: Unfortunately, Brock lost his match for the title. He was knocked-out in the 7th round in a very close match. For a full account of the fight, click here and read about it on Fight News.