Fighting back

Kevin Iole

NEW YORK – Physical pain is part of the job for Anthony Thompson.

The 25-year-old super welterweight boxer has accepted the punishment. The early morning runs that make the lungs burn. The punches that make the nose sting. Thompson understands tolerating such torment is a means to an end.

But the pain Thompson knows goes far beyond what he's experienced in the ring.

He has lost two young daughters to a rare genetic disease called Zellweger Syndrome. When you're still a child yourself and you've lost two of your own to a disorder which has no cure, you want to rage.

Thompson, who fights unbeaten Yuri Foreman on Saturday at Madison Square Garden on an HBO Pay-Per-View card, is a deeply spiritual Hebrew Israelite who said his faith has sustained him through the difficult times.

Now the father of five, he said he accepts his losses as a part of God's plan. No more waking up in the night with tears rolling down his cheeks. No more wanting to scream.

A piece of him is gone forever, he said softly, but added that God doesn't have to explain.

"God has a plan for all of us and even if we don't understand it or like it, we have to accept it," he said.

Thompson's faith has helped him endure tragedy, but for a while, it was hampering his boxing career.

When he signed with Top Rank more than four years ago, promoter Bob Arum was calling him potentially the most gifted fighter ever to come out of Philadelphia. Others had tabbed him as a future pound-for-pound champion. But because of his faith, he was unable to fight on the Shabat, from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.

That cost him a number of bouts and hindered his career.

"I prayed and I realized that God gave me this talent for a reason and that I should take advantage of it and use it," Thompson said. "Promoters couldn't build their businesses around when I could fight."

And so he has agreed to fight on the Shabat, though it's the only time he pays much attention to the sport.

He would never think of leaving home to fly to Las Vegas to sit at ringside for a major card.

"I don't think any fight is worth flying out to Vegas when I have TV and cable at home," Thompson said. "I love Vegas. I just don't like the sacrifice of coming out to watch a fight."

The family man would rather spend the time with his sons, Nadeev, 8; Nadriel, 5; Yahnahyah, 4; Kaootz, 2; and his daughter, Yadeyah, 1, as well as his long-time girlfriend and the mother of his children, Tanisha Allen.

"I don't go out. I just stay in the house, be Mrs. Doubtfire and watch the kids all the time," he said. "My family has to sacrifice for me to do my job and they know that there are times when they have to do without me.

"So when I can be home with them, I am. There's nothing that makes sense for me other than being there and taking care of them."

If his trainer, Derrick Ennis, and manager, Cameron Dunkin, are correct, Thompson's life is about to become more hectic. All it will take is one high-profile fight.

"It's the same situation as (middleweight contender) Kelly Pavlik," Dunkin said. "I kept telling everyone about him, but it took him getting into the ring with someone like (Edison) Miranda that everyone thought was so good before he got his recognition.

"It's the same thing with this kid. He is a great fighter. He does it all. When he gets his chance, you're going to come to me and said, 'Cameron, you were right again.' I know it, because I know talent and I know this kid is a special one."

Thompson said he got confirmation of his abilities when he served as Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s sparring partner as Mayweather prepared to fight Oscar De La Hoya on May 5.

Mayweather would pull Thompson aside after their sessions and encourage him to take his job seriously because of his gifts.

"He would tell me that I could fight and how good I could be and when you hear something like that from someone like Floyd, how can that not really impact your confidence?" Thompson said. "I knew I had ability, but that time I spent with Floyd just reinforced to me that if I dedicate myself and do what I have to do, I can do some memorable things in this business."