The good fight

Thirty years ago, Curtis Cokes was the world-champion welterweight. Now, he trains young boxers and just wants to be recognized in his hometown.

"He's still not well," Cokes says of Ibeabuchi. "I don't think there's going to be an ending to this story. He's a very selfish person, and nobody can control him but me, and I don't have time to do that. I'm not going to raise any kids no more. This is a business with me."

Cokes dreams of one day having a fighter as talented and as renowned as Oscar De La Hoya or Pernell Whitaker; too often he's been stuck with fighters who have great bodies and empty heads. Bohema is close. Reed needs to grow; time will do much of Cokes' work for him. He says he will retire in four years unless he gets a good boxer in fine form; the last thing he wants to do is start all over again with another project like Reed, in whom Cokes has put so much time, money, and faith.

It was never hard for Curtis Cokes to step out of the ring when his fighting days were over; the money was still there, but he knew the end had come. He could see it in the mirror, written in black, blue, and too much red. He does still dream of becoming trainer of the year some day, of becoming as well-known as Dundee or Eddie Futch or the other legendary corner men. "That would be nice," he says. "Then I would have done everything."

But he's reasonable. For now, he'd just like you to know him as a man who, once upon a time, was the champion of the world.

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