Witherspoon set to make pro debut tomorrow

THE BALTIMORE SUN

If heavyweight Chazz Witherspoon beats up on James Daniels in their scheduled four-rounder tomorrow night, he can recommend a prescription for pain relief.

Nicknamed "The Mensa with Muscle," the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Witherspoon expects to graduate with a degree in pharmaceutical marketing in May from St. Joseph's University, where he is on an academic scholarship.

But first, the 23-year-old has elected to graduate into the professional boxing ranks. He will make his debut in a fight that takes place at the Washington Convention Center on the undercard of a main event between former World Boxing Organization 140-pound champion DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley and Darryll Tyson.

If Witherspoon's last name sounds familiar, it may be because he is the second cousin of former world champion Tim Witherspoon. With his solid background and athletic talent, the young fighter could be just what the doctor ordered for a heavyweight division devoid of star power.

"I know boxing needs someone with character and good qualities that can extend beyond the boxing ring and just be a good person in general. I am an athlete, and I [will] have a degree. I could be a role model for other kids," said Witherspoon, who is managed by Shelly Finkel and promoted by Gary Shaw.

A talented athlete, Witherspoon had a 3.8 grade-point average at Paulsboro (N.J.) High, where he also starred as a power forward, averaging 21 points.

Witherspoon turned down basketball scholarship offers to attend St. Joseph's, and soon found himself drawn into boxing. He stopped all five opponents to win the 201-pound bracket of the 2004 National Golden Gloves, but he had to settle for a role as a U.S. Olympic alternate after losing to Devin Vargas in the last round of the Olympic trials.

"In light of the current steroids scandal, perhaps it is a good time for someone like me to step forward and make a statement, to break stereotypes on boxers specifically and athletes in general," Witherspoon said. "I am ready to accept that responsibility."

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