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Boxer's biggest opponents? Gambling, drinking and lack of discipline

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Dierry Jean vs. Cleotis Pendarvis
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Dierry Jean, left, defeated Cleotis Pendarvis in his last bout. (Showtime Boxing)

In 2009, Dierry Jean was a young and largely unknown fighter living in Montreal, dreaming as so many young boxers do of one day winning a world title. He'd moved to Canada from Haiti when he was a child after both of his parents died. For much of his life, he fended for himself.

He made the decision that year to allow a film crew to follow him and document his struggles for a movie called "Underdog Plaza" that was released in 2011.

It was, in many ways, a largely unflattering portrait. Jean was portrayed as an undisciplined fighter with gambling and drinking problems who didn't like to train and had turbulent personal relationships.

In one scene, Jean's trainer, Mike Moffa, is driving through the city talking disgustedly about Jean. Moffa said he thought Jean had a drinking problem and wondered aloud whether the time away from his own family was worth it as he tried to straighten out Jean.

Puffing on a cigarette, Moffa says in the film, "I'm scared he's going to throw his life away."

Five years after filming started and almost three years after its release, Jean, 31, is on the verge of fulfilling the dream he repeatedly stated in the movie.

On Saturday at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C., he'll challenge Lamont Peterson for the IBF junior welterweight title in a bout televised nationally on Showtime.

Jean agreed to do the film because he said he wanted people to understand what he's gone through in life.

He's now 25-0 with 17 knockouts and says he's a vastly different man than he was when the film crew chronicled his journey.

"Of course, I was happy to do that," he says of the film. "That's my life. I let the people understand what life for a boxer is like. Everybody has their ups and downs, and their imperfections in life. Nobody is perfect. Nobody goes through their lives without mistakes, or without some trouble.

"I'm a different person. I changed my life since then. I don't gamble no more. I don't drink. I live a better life."

Jean bursts into laughter after saying that, and then he says he wants to amend his comments.

"I said I don't drink no more, but I will tell you what I am going to do after I get home after fighting this guy [Peterson]: I am going to pop the champagne to celebrate accomplishing my dream and winning the title," he said. "One or two weeks of celebrating with the champagne, and then it will be back to the gym and back to the hard life."

Jean has made many boastful comments in the build-up to the bout, and they haven't escaped Peterson's notice.

Peterson has faced a much better level of opposition and he's heard fighters talk trash before. He insists it shows weakness in Jean.

"Guys who know what they can do, they usually don't talk," Peterson said. "They just go out and do it. The ones who are worried, and who aren't sure, they're usually the ones who are talking the loudest."

Jean said he's talking because he's prepared for every eventuality and knows he's going to win. A reporter suggested that Peterson is a good boxer and Jean scoffed.

There is little about Peterson, who is 31-2-1 with 16 knockouts, that impresses Jean.

"Come on," Jean said. "He's not a good boxer. When you back him up, he's not great. He's not the kind of guy who can handle it when someone is putting the pressure on him."

Jean said his troubled life, in which he shuttled to various family members after his parents died, has made him better able to deal with pressure and the high stakes that come with a world title fight.

But he was portrayed frequently as uncommitted in the movie and said his team finally had a talk with him.

His talent, they said, was unquestioned. But talent without effort doesn't do much good against high-level opposition. Jean said he didn't want to blow a longtime dream and made the commitment necessary to be a champion.

"I went through a lot of struggles, and of course it was difficult [to lose my parents]," he said. "But it's all made me stronger. My coaches laid everything out to me. At one point, it was either shape up or ship out.

"I want this so badly, and I'm the best I've ever been. You'll see what happens when I get in there with this guy. You'll see. It's not going to pay to doubt me."

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