Steve Bunce on Boxing: Tyson Fury's uncle breathes life into Fast Eddie to revive an endangered species: the great American heavyweight
Thursday 08 May 2014
In 2010 a heavyweight fighter from Philadelphia called Fast Eddie Chambers added his name to the long list of American men bludgeoned at the fists of Wladimir Klitschko.
On the night in Düsseldorf, Chambers conceded nearly three stone in weight, six inches in height and still survived until the last five seconds of the 12th round. Chambers was fearless in defeat, facing certain pain but using his boxing wits, often the rarest commodity in the sport's extreme division, to last into the final round before a left to the temple collapsed his resistance.
Fast Eddie was dubbed Fastfood Eddie because it looked like his conditioning had more to do with fried chicken than roadwork, but the way he handled the imperious Wladimir demonstrated that he was a very good fighter.
There was something familiar about the way Chambers went about his business, something in the way he moved, threw his shots, retreated and covered up. It was simple: Chambers is one of last of the American heavyweights, an endangered species in the top division.
"I was taught by the old masters I watched in the Philly gyms and by my father," said Chambers. "We would watch old films of the great boxers and I would look at what they did. In the gyms I was surrounded by men that had been at the heart and soul of boxing for a long, long time. They brought me up in boxing."
Chambers had started to box in Pittsburgh and moved to Philadelphia after nine fights when a local fight figure saw him box and noticed something in the way Chambers moved.
In Philadelphia he fought and won 17 consecutive fights at the Blue Horizon, arguably the fight game's most iconic venue. Chambers was learning and fighting the old way in front of blue-collar fans who knew what they were watching for their $15 or $20 entry fee. It was an apprenticeship from the Fifties, make no mistake.
There were world title eliminators that he won and lost against good fighters in Germany and then came the Klitschko night. "He was too big for me then," admitted Chambers. It was after the Klitschko loss that Eddie's boxing life started to fall apart.
On 13 January, Chambers arrived at a mixed martial arts gym near Cannes; he was in bad condition, both flabby in the gut and in the head. However, Chambers was on a one-way mission, a bold move to turn his boxing life around, and he had flown in to join the travelling Fury clan at their French retreat.
"It was obvious how good Eddie was from the very first day," said Peter Fury, who trains unbeaten heavyweights Tyson Fury, his nephew, and Hughie Fury, his son, and a growing list of other fighters. "He made sacrifices to join us and he is still making those sacrifices by staying here with us." Chambers has not yet gone home and now lives near the Fury gym in Bolton.
When Chambers arrived at Fury's French base he had lost three of his previous four fights, was confused about his weight and becoming equally desolate and disillusioned with a business that quickly forgets its losers.
He was just another one of the Americans who had failed against a Klitschko and was not in the mix for any future eliminators; Chambers was one fight away from oblivion – and he knew it.
"My career was in intensive care," said the 32-year-old. "Joining up with Peter saved my life; I was ready to walk away from the sport before sitting down with Peter. It is that simple."
Chambers started to change shape immediately as diet and dedication – two factors that were missing in a decade of decline by America's best heavyweights – helped to structure his training. The boxers worked on solitary beach runs, long days in the converted gym and a lot of open sparring sessions.
In March, Chambers fought and won. He did the same the following month and will box for a third time under Fury's control on 17 May in Leeds. "Eddie will get another shot at the world title," said Fury. "We have still not seen the best of Eddie, not by a long way."
This Saturday in Los Angeles the vacant WBC heavyweight title will be fought for by local man Chris Arreola and Las Vegas-based Haitian Bermane Stiverne. It is possibly the start of an American heavyweight renaissance, and Chambers is likely to be heavily involved in that.
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