James Page was a solid welterweight in the mid-to-late 1990s who held the WBA title for a while from 1998 until he was stripped in 2000. On the surface, he was a talented easy-going guy who always smiled and had a nice word for a familiar face.
Trouble, though, always bubbled beneath the surface with Page. Part of Page's back story when he was champion was that he was trying to turn his life around after fighting drug issues and a checkered past that included two jail stints.
When Page was released last year, he announced his intention to fight again, at the advanced age of 42. His return was precipitated by the same one that brings so many boxers back, a need for money and no other means of earning a living.
He lost his comeback fight on Nov. 17, when he was knocked out in the second round by Rahman Mustafa Yusobov. But earlier this year, the FBI began to look at him as a suspect in a string of back robberies in Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Antioch, Oakley, Lafayette and Emeryville, Calif.
He was arrested on Monday in Oakland, according to the San Jose Mercury News, bringing his story, sadly, full circle. Page spoke to Mercury News reporter David DeBolt in jail on Tuesday, though he wouldn't discuss his case.
It's something I got to fight. I'll have my day in court.
In the video interview above, which he gave on Sept. 7 while training in Oakland, he said he wanted to get straight so he could regain a welterweight title.
Anyone who follows boxing even a little knew that was a ludicrous thought. At 42 years old and after nearly 12 years off, it would have been miraculous if Page had been able to beat low-skilled fighters, let alone return to championship form.
Commissions have to begin taking a more difficult stance when considering license applications from older fighters such as Page, who are looking to return to the sport after a lengthy absence.
There is little barrier to entry for a potential boxer getting a license. If a fighter can pass the medical tests and show at least a modicum of skill, he's generally allowed to fight. The lack of ability would keep the same athlete out of, say, the NBA or the NFL, but in boxing, there is always a low-level opponent to fight.
Commissioners generally approve the applications of fighters like Page, even though it rarely turns out well. Page was knocked out in the second round by Yusobov, who entered the fight with Page with an 8-9 record.
The good news is, Page wasn't seriously injured in that bout. The bad news, of course, is that the FBI believes he's returned to the life of crime that has kept him behind bars much of his adult life.
Hopefully, though, Page's case will at least cause athletic commissions to be more cautious for licensing fighters in similar situations. Denying a license would at least prevent a potential in-ring tragedy.
Out-of-the ring, boxing doesn't provide any sort of safety net for those who struggle to adapt to the real world. It's a problem that's not going to go away any time soon.
- Sports & Recreation