Annapolis resident Boyor Chew hesitates when asked his age, as wouldany 28-year-old boxer still a few days shy of making his professional debut.
"Do I have to say?" he asks, before deciding 28 isn't so old for a one-time amateur fighter who's been out of the ring for nearly five years.
"My body hasn't been abused all that time," he says. "I've been pretty much preserved."
On Wednesday, the man also known as Sugar Boy will put his body on the line as part of the seven-fight card at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie.
Chew is scheduled to meet Aaron Thompson of Laurel in a four-round middleweight bout, ending his "retirement" from a sport he dedicated himself to for 16 years.
He begantraining six months ago, putting his now 166-pound frame through a grueling series of early morning runs and exercises. He's been doing about 200 push-ups and 350 sit-ups a day, and last Wednesday sparred 10 rounds at the Harding-Lowry gymnasium in Pasadena.
Whatever ringrust existed has since flaked away.
"Everything's been falling into place for me," he says. "Plus, I've come back wiser."
Wiser than in his amateur days, when he slugged his way to 42 wins against only three losses. He's become a more tactical fighter, which he hopes will serve him well against the myriad of younger opponents waiting inthe wings.
"I don't just go out there and start throwing punches.I make them count," he says. "I used to have knockout power, and I still have it, too. But I'm fighting more with my head than with brutestrength."
He's happy to be fighting at all after the added responsibilities of a marriage seven years ago led to his departure from the ring.
Working part time in his own construction business, Chew began hanging out with boxing colleagues Vincent Pettway and Annapolis' George Pindell during their workout sessions.
"They led me on to wanting to come back. Going to the gym and seeing what they were doing, I knew I still had the stamina and youth to do the same thing," he says.
Chew sought the help of trainer Charlie Hollaway, who says the fighter is in "tip-top shape." And still packing a heck of a punch.
"He's been beating up everybody in the gym," Hollaway says. "He's been outstanding so far. I expect him to beat the guy."
Chew likens his comeback to that of his idol, Sugar Ray Leonard, the inspiration behind the nickname he chose over "Boyor the Destroyer." But will he be as successful as the former world champion, who stunned boxing experts by defeating Marvelous Marvin Hagler after a long layoff?
"I would like to win, but I'm not going to predict no knockout," he says. "If it comes in 10 or 20 seconds, I'll take it, but if the fight goes four rounds, and I look forward to going four, then that's fine, too.
"I've got some good people sparring with me. If I can take their punishment, I can deal with Aaron Thompson. I'm very confident."
And a touch nervous.
"If I didn't have butterflys, I wouldn't be human," he says. "But it's good to be back in the spotlight again."
Headlining Wednesday's card is Baltimore welterweight EddieVan Kirk, who will meet Anthony "Doc" Ross of Virginia in the night's lone eight-rounder.
Other bouts are Gerry Walker (Baltimore) vs.Rodney Byrd (Washington), six rounds, middleweight; Joe Hamilton (Baltimore) vs. Carlton West (Virginia), four rounds, heavyweight; ChrisLucas (Rockville) vs. Ray Goddard (Washington), four rounds, welterweight; Robert Taylor (Baltimore) vs. Antonio Jackson (Rockville), four rounds, welterweight; and Cecil Simms (Baltimore) vs. Wayne McClanan (Virginia), four rounds, light heavyweight.
The Hamilton-West fight is a rematch, with West surviving a first-round knockdown to win by decision in August.
Two fighters with local ties who were scheduled to appear have withdrawn for medical reasons.
Pasadena light heavyweight Carson McCourry, who scored a first-round knockout of James Jones in August, is recovering from a broken collarbone. And junior welterweight Mark Padeletti, who trains at the Harding-Lowry gym, has the flu.
Tickets still are available and can be obtained by calling 760-2699.