Eddie Chambers will compete in his 40th professional fight on Saturday when he takes on little-known South African Thabiso Mchunu in the co-main event of a fight card to be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network at the Mohegan Sun Casino.
That's normally a time when a fighter is starting to run out of options, particularly heavyweights. But after more than 12 years and 40 fights, the boxing world is opening up for Chambers.
He dropped to cruiserweight – a move that would have made sense years ago – and figures to become an instant factor in the 200-pound-and-under division.
Chambers, 31, didn't take the conventional course, but it's one that has the possibility of working out perfectly.
"I'm not trying to say I'm stupid or anything, but if you look at some of the smart guys in boxing over the last few years and look at the way they ran their careers, they graduate [to heavyweight]," Chambers said. "David Haye, [Evander] Holyfield, James Toney, guys like that, they came up through other divisions, and then they went to heavyweight and started a campaign.
"The problem with me was, I knew I could fight at heavyweight, and so I did, and I basically said, 'I don't care [that I'm much smaller than most heavyweights], I'll just go forward and dominate the division at my size.' But this is a different era for heavyweights."
Chambers is a 1970s-sized heavyweight. He's 6 feet 1 inch and his best weight is around 200. Smokin' Joe Frazier was 5-11, 205. Ken Norton was 6-3, 210. Muhammad Ali was 6-3, 215.
But now, the top heavyweights are far bigger. There is almost no fat on Wladimir Klitschko's body, and he's 6-6, 245. His older brother, Vitali, is 6-7, 250. Tony Thompson is 6-5, 255. Tyson Fury is 6-9, 260 and Kubrat Pulev is 6-4, 250.
It's not impossible to beat a guy who is four inches taller and 40 or 50 pounds heavier, but the margin for error is extraordinarily slim.
The top cruiserweights, by comparison, are about Chambers' size. Marco Huck is 6-1, 200. Ola Afolabi is 6-3, 200. Denis Lebedev is 5-11, 200 and Mchunu is only 5-8, 195.
"It's not easy being great at any level," said Chambers, who is 36-3 with 18 knockouts. "I wouldn't want it to be, though. At heavyweight, you're always giving up 30, 40, 50 pounds when you're my size, and that's so tough.
"The cruiserweights are going to be quicker, and maybe on a whole they're going to move better than most of the heavyweights, and that's going to be an adjustment. But getting hit by guys like Klitschko when you're giving up that kind of size can be a problem."
Chambers was knocked out in the waning seconds of the 12th round by Wladimir Klitschko on March 20, 2010.
There is no shame in that – Klitschko has 51 knockouts in 63 pro fights – but Klitschko is a rare breed. He's so athletically gifted that he takes away some of the advantage smaller guys seemingly would have because he's got plenty of quickness and speed himself.
"He's got the perfect mix [of size, speed and athleticism]," Chambers said. "He is too big and hits too hard for the little guys and he's too quick and athletic for the big guys."
That, though, is no longer Chambers' problem. He can now pick on guys his own size and see how he matches in a fair fight.
He's always been a quality boxer, and that will come in handy as he moves down. Promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events said Chambers is the perfect kind of fighter for the division.
"He has a great record and he beat a lot of very good heavyweights," she said. "You've never heard anyone who knows anything about boxing who would say anything bad about his skills. He just wasn't big enough to compete against those monsters that are sitting there at heavyweight.
"I think you could see him quickly become a factor at cruiserweight. There are a lot of good fights out there for him and he matches very well with these guys."
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