Gorman: Boxer Chambers should be hometown hero
A boxer born and bred in Pittsburgh fought for the world heavyweight championship this past Saturday, not that you would have known it living here.
Nary a word was written or spoken about "Fast" Eddie Chambers.
That Chambers stood in the ring against Wladimir Klitschko despite giving up 6 inches in height and reach and 36 pounds shouldn't be ignored in a city with such a rich boxing history.
In a colossal mismatch, Chambers was 11 seconds from going the 12-round distance with the IBF and WBO champion before a crowd of 50,000-plus at Dusseldorf Stadium in Germany. That's when Klitschko caught Chambers with a left hook that knocked him out cold and through the ropes.
Still, Chambers should be celebrated.
He grew up in Lincoln-Lemington, graduated from Westinghouse High School and still considers Pittsburgh his hometown -- even though he has trained in Philadelphia since 2002.
"For nobody to really pay attention to it was a slap, but it was something I was prepared for," Chambers said by phone Thursday. "Because I've been up here so much, I'm claimed as a Philly fighter. But my family and friends say, 'He's still from Pittsburgh.'
"You get overlooked, and it gets frustrating. I do wish in some ways that I could be more of a household name there."
Or at least make the household paper.
Chambers rose to the upper echelon of the heavyweight division, even though he hardly looks the part. He stands a shade over 6-foot and weighs 209 pounds, prompting the following response from the 6-6 1⁄2, 245-pound Klitschko at their pre-fight weigh-in: "A cruiserweight!"
Which makes Chambers' story all the more remarkable.
He grew up in gang territory, but instead of running the streets late at night, he ran them every morning while delivering newspapers.
He grew up here wanting to become a heavyweight champion, but he found he had to move away like Monessen's Michael Moorer, who fought out of Detroit's famed Kronk Gym, to do so.
"Everything I knew was Pittsburgh. I was there for 20 years. I didn't know anything else," said Chambers, who turns 28 on Tuesday. "I didn't want to go, but when I realized the level of competition in a great boxing city like Philadelphia, it was what I had to do to be where I am today."
Chambers became a house fighter out of Philly's famed Blue Horizon Gym, where he compiled an 18-0 record. He always wanted to return for a fight in his hometown, but no local promoters could afford staging such a show.
"No heavyweight around here wanted to fight him, nor could we afford to bring someone in," said Jimmy Cvetic of Iron City Pro Boxing Promotions. "We couldn't afford the purse -- because he was that good. They'd all fight him now, if they could get the payday."
So, Chambers went to Europe. The Klitschko fight was his third in Germany, where Chambers receives rock-star treatment.
After losing a 12-round decision to Alexander Povetkin there in a title eliminator bout in January 2008 -- when Chambers inexplicably stopped throwing punches while leading -- he returned to defeat 6-7, 253-pound Alexander Dimitrenko by majority decision this past July 4 to become a mandatory title challenger.
What bothers Chambers is that he didn't follow his game plan against Klitschko.
He wanted to use his speed and strength to outmaneuver the Ukrainian, and he even picked up Klitschko and slammed him to the canvas in the early rounds to prevent clutching. But Chambers lost his mental edge and spent most of the fight trying to stay out of harm's way.
"There's definitely regret," said Chambers, who earned his first million-dollar paycheck. "My strength and my determination were there. I believe I had some distinctive edges. I just didn't use them in the correct way. The only thing that got his attention was when I lifted him.
"For me, it was a lot of show and no go."
Chambers was losing on every scorecard when he was knocked out, an ending he chalks up as a learning experience and one he hopes to avenge some day. Klitschko suffered three TKO's before winning his belts.
"You look at Wladimir. He's come back after being stopped," Chambers said. "It can be done. It wasn't like I got beat to a bloody pulp. It wasn't that I was overmatched. I just didn't have the right game plan.
"Everything didn't work. I was losing, and there was no way I was going to win that fight without a small miracle. He was a champion and fought like a champion and did what a champion does, which is win."
Chambers shouldn't have to win a world championship to become a hero in his hometown. Not when he already has stood tall against the world's best.