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Eye on the prize

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The words weren't as significant as who they were coming from.

Don King, who could take a half hour at the drive-through window of the local fast food restaurant, shook his head at Edison Miranda's verbosity.

Don King.

"That boy can talk," King said softly as he was preparing to leave the FedEx Forum after a news conference dominated by a Miranda rant at middleweight champion Jermain Taylor followed by an even more emotional response from Taylor. "I haven't seen too much like that.

"But you know what he did? He set himself up. Now, he's got to perform. You don't get up there and do what he did, threaten and say you're going to do this and that, and then go out there and barely win a decision. He talked the talk, now he's got to walk the walk. He's got to fight now."

Miranda, 26, fights unbeaten Kelly Pavlik on Saturday for the right to challenge for the middleweight title.

The Miranda-Pavlik fight is nominally the opening attraction on the HBO-televised card in deference to Taylor's status as champion, but the so-called main event between Taylor and super welterweight belt holder Cory Spinks figures to be a letdown after the anticipated Miranda-Pavlik slugfest.

Miranda has become the center of attention not only because of his power and frequently outrageous comments ("I'll lift him upside down and shake the money out of his pockets," he said of Taylor), but also because of the story of survival that was his youth.

He was born in poverty in Colombia to a 14-year-old who abandoned him in the first month of his life. He was shuttled from relatives to friends for a few years until no one was willing to take him in. He was homeless as an 8-year-old and would work in the plantation or yucca fields during the day, occasionally would sweep the streets and then sleep wherever he could find shelter.

At 12, he was working in construction. By the time he was 14, he was also a cattle butcher.

He had plenty of nights he thought he wouldn't see the morning's light. He was frequently afraid, almost always hungry and usually alone. It was in those hours by himself, he says, that he discovered a relationship with God.

"I should be dead, I really should be," Miranda said. "But God was always there for me. I realized He had special plans for me. He's always taken care of me."

Miranda believes he began fighting as a result of divine intervention. He went to sleep one night – alone on the streets, as usual – and dreamed that he was a boxer. The next morning, he was walking the streets in search of a way to make a few bucks when he ran into Jorge Garcia, who asked him to come into the gym and try to box.

He barely knew how to take a stance and didn't have the first clue about how to put together his punches, but from the first time he boxed, he was a two-fisted knockout artist.

Miranda snaps his arms like whips and creates exceptional power. He's refined his technique greatly since then, but the power was always natural.

"They say they're going to fight him one way, but then when they get hit for the first time, all the game plans they had are changed," said Jose Bonilla, Miranda's trainer. "Everything he throws hurts you."

Miranda is 28-1 with 24 knockouts and his only loss was a controversial decision in Germany to IBF champion Arthur Abraham in which Miranda had five points deducted for fouls. Miranda broke Abraham's jaw in two places, the injury requiring the insertion of two titanium rods and 22 screws to fix it.

Pavlik is 30-0 with 27 knockouts, though he has faced a lesser level of competition than Miranda.

Miranda was so focused on Taylor during Thursday's news conference, saying at one point, "After I beat you, I'll make you my sparring partner" that he all but ignored Pavlik. But Pavlik promoter Bob Arum, who is quick to erupt at the perception of a slight, had nothing but praise for Miranda.

"The guy comes to fight and he throws punches that mean something," Arum said. "And he helps sell the fight. That's what we need. Fights like this and kids like this are what boxing needs now.

"You see all these fights where a guy moves up a class or two to take on a champion and you have to spin and do all this to try to sell it. But you don't have to do anything with these guys because they're real fighters. After hearing Miranda talk and seeing him fight once, how could you not want to see him again?"

Miranda promised that Taylor would see him again, vowing he'd dispose of Pavlik and then take the championship from Taylor.

It was pro wrestling hype at its best, and Miranda is as good as it gets.

And after Miranda's rant against Taylor on Thursday, his promoter, Leon Margules, was beaming. Margules has been accused of writing Miranda's lines, but he said Miranda's performance on Thursday is what he sees every day.

"Now you know it's not me," Margules said laughing. "This kid is a promoter's dream. You don't have to ask him to sell a fight. He just torques himself up and goes. He's got so much energy and he goes and goes and goes. But the good thing about him is he's the same way in the ring as he is outside of it."