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By Jake Donovan

If you want something done right, do it yourself. It shouldn't have to be that way for boxers, not when they have promoters and managers supposedly handling the business side of their careers. But it was a painful lesson Vernon Forrest was forced to learn the hard way, while coming up through the ranks, and again on the comeback trail.

Life has come full circle in the squared circle for Forrest, who despite remaining promotionally independent for the past four years, is still in the mix at and around the junior middleweight division. He has the chance to get one step closer toward the top when he travels to Tacoma, WA this weekend, where he will face Carlos Baldomir in a battle of former linear welterweight champions (Saturday, HBO, 10:15PM ET/PT).

How he got here, and the stage on which he'll perform this weekend, isn't quite what Vernon had in mind when he returned to the ring two years ago, or even last year after his disputed points win over Ike Quartey on HBO's World Championship Boxing series. The normal pecking order, even for comebacking fighters, is to work out the kinks on the Boxing After Dark level before advancing to WCB. But with the 154-lb. division rapidly thinning out and television days becoming sparse, the former welterweight king will take what he can get, especially when limited to one ring appearance per year.

"It's always good to fight on HBO," says Forrest. "It's been a long time since I've fought on Boxing After Dark, but it's still television, and it's still a major fight. I'm just happy I'm able to fight. I'd like to be busier, but things are otherwise working out OK."

The bout received an upgrade, as far as hardware goes. Initially scheduled as a junior middleweight eliminator, the bout is now for a vacant alphabet title, as its previous owner, Floyd Mayweather Jr., elected to move back down to the welterweight division.

Mayweather is not alone in the move, as all of the top junior middleweights have been moving up or down in the past year or so, including its most notable (read: lucrative) participant. While many figured Mayweather's stint to be one-and-done, nobody suspected that the man he defeated, Oscar de la Hoya, would follow him back down in weight.

Shane Mosley , against whom Forrest owns the two biggest wins of his career, dropped back down to welterweight earlier this year following his pair of wins over Fernando Vargas, who himself has moved up to middleweight for what he claims to be his farewell fight. That bout will come against Ricardo Mayorga, the only man to claim a win in the pro ranks over Forrest, but who has enjoyed little success since then, winning only two of his past five.

Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks pursued middleweight dollars and titles against Jermain Taylor, both coming up short. Ouma has decided for the moment to hang around at 160, facing unbeaten Sergio Mora in September, while Spinks, who still possesses hardware at 154, waits for anyone at any weight to return his phone calls before deciding his next move.

What does all of that mean to Vernon Forrest? Not a damn thing.

"I couldn't care less what anyone else plans on doing tomorrow, next week or next year. As far as I'm concerned right now, the baddest man on the planet - especially at 154 lb – is Baldomir. After I beat him, then I'll take a look around and see who I want next. I make my own decisions, and it's not dependent on who else is around."

Such is the life when you call your own shots, which for just the past two years has been the case for. Having long been saddled – or as Forrest would consider it, imprisoned – with Main Events, Forrest decided to trim the fat, and deal only with renowned advisor Al Haymon. Since 2005, Forrest has dealt directly with the networks, rather than waiting for the phone to ring, hoping it was his promoter with good news.

Most fighters employ managers and promoters to relieve themselves of the business side of the game. For Forrest, it was just the opposite, as he is more at ease now that he is in control of his own destiny.

"Truthfully, I've been on my own since 1999," remarks Forrest, suggesting that his former promoter, Main Events, did a poor job of actually promoting him. "When you have no confidence in your fighter, then the fighter senses it and feeds off of it. Main Events never believed in me, and that made it frustrating for me for so long."

At least for the first nine years of his pro career, where Forrest remained anonymous while limited to the regional cable circuit or appearing in PPV preliminary bouts. His first break came late in 2001, though hardly due to his promoter's efforts. HBO was pushing for a bout between then-undefeated pound-for-pound entrant Shane Mosley and junior middleweight titlist Winky Wright. Mosley had become a staple of the network, but was the subject of growing criticism after squandering all of the momentum that came from his career-defining win over Oscar de la Hoya. The pressure was on the Mosley camp to secure a notable bout.

When Wright passed, Forrest quickly jumped in, knowing this was the fight that would finally lead to the prosperity and notoriety he felt his career long deserved. As was the case in the amateurs, Forrest proved to have Mosley's number in the pro ranks. A pair of 2nd round knockdowns – the only two times Shane has ever tasted the canvas – paved the way for a lopsided win. Shane came closer, but fell just short in the rematch, cementing Forrest's claim as the baddest welterweight on the planet.

The good fortunes didn't last long, however. He suffered the first loss of his career in his very next fight, a 3 rd round TKO loss to Ricardo Mayorga a year almost to the day of his own career-defining win over Mosley. Forrest adjusted in the rematch, but wound up on the wrong side of a 12-round majority decision. Many in attendance and watching at home felt Forrest did enough to regain his title, but the judges felt otherwise.

In an instant, Forrest's career became a country song: in the span of six months, he lost his title, pound-for-pound ranking, a lucrative HBO contract, his promoter – and ultimately, two years of his pro career.

Forrest considers the latter two to be a blessing in disguise, even if he has yet to, and perhaps never will, heal 100%.

"It is what it is; I just make the best of whatever the situation is," says Forrest, who's become well-adapted to coping with adversity in and out of the ring. "The injuries kept me out of the ring, but also led to my freedom. I had to wait until it healed enough to where I could return, but it allowed me to become independent, to call my own shots and take the fights I knew would lead me back to a world title.

"I've won big fights while not being 100%, so why should I make it an issue now? All I care about is winning a world championship again. I've never complained about my health after winning and won't start now. My health is a non-issue."

What could be viewed as an issue is Forrest's rate of activity, or lack thereof. After fighting twice within the first four months of his comeback, ATL's finest has only appeared once since then prior to this weekend. That bout came 51 weeks ago, when he scored a unanimous decision against fellow comebacker Ike Quartey, a verdict that left the crowd at MSG's The Theatre in dismay, and the media split on whether or not it was the right call. (For the record, yours truly scored it 95-94 for Forrest).

The only split Forrest felt was a headache, in disbelief over the claim that he received a gift.

"Lemme get one thing straight," explains Forrest. "When I fought Ike, I fought in his promoters' hometown, and won a fight I wasn't supposed to win. Even with a (bogus) point deduction, I still won on Lou DiBella's card, in Lou DiBella's backyard.

"When I say a loss was controversial, people treat it like a non-issue. When I win a fight like that, then all of a sudden it's controversy."

Quartey's promoter, Lou DiBella, treated the fight like a win for his fighter, and secured the next big fight that was available. That came against Winky Wright, as Quartey traveled to Wright's hometown, only to suffer two knockdowns en route to a lopsided points loss.

Forrest hasn't fought since then, having to wait until the end of spring before even being offered his next prime-time slot, which comes this weekend against Baldomir. But then, Forrest wasn't in a position of desperation for his next opportunity to come.

"Like I said, I won and awaited my next big opportunity. Quartey's promoter ran around yelling like his guy won, but what did he do? Took him down to Florida, got his ass whooped and has nothing to show for it. Here I am fighting for a title, and no matter what anyone think happened last year, Quartey is still behind me and will be further back after (this weekend).

"I'd rather sit on that win and fight for a world title, then to lose and get beat for nothing."

Even with a potential title coming out of this weekend, just how far Forrest advances remains to be seen. While Baldomir is no gimme – just ask Zab Judah and Arturo Gatti, much of the luster from his Cinderella story was removed following his lopsided points loss to Floyd Mayweather last November. But it's not instant gratification Forrest in search of, just the ability to still jockey for positioning after this weekend. Vernon knows it will take 100% of whatever he has to remain in the hunt.

"Baldomir is solid fighter. Long before he came and snuck up on Zab, he was known as a spoiler, but still overlooked by everyone. Now he's a world-class fighter. Winning a title changes you. Even with the loss to Floyd, my man will come to fight. He tasted success and wants to regain that status. Like he showed last year, and really throughout his career against other contenders, if you don't bring your A-game, he beats you. I need to bring my A-game."

What Forrest also hopes to bring is a major fight to Georgia. The original plans called for this fight to land in Atlanta, but were since changed and relocated on the opposite side of the country. As he's done throughout his career, Forrest takes the good with the bad, and focuses on the task at hand.

"I was really hoping for a homecoming for this fight, but that's the way things go. In the end, it's still four corners and a ring, no matter where they put it. I'll just have to win this one on the road, and bring the title back home in my first defense. Whenever it happens, I know the ATL will love to have me back home. Come July 28, I'm back on top, and ain't nobody telling me when and where I need to be. My name is always mentioned when the biggest fights from '47 to '60 are discussed. What does that tell you?"

That Vernon Forrest is still relevant, and on his own terms.

IF YOU KNEW… THEN WHY DID YOU ORDER IT?

If people knew all along that this past weekend's fight between Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright would be less than scintillating, then why did they order it? Furthermore, why are they complaining afterward that the bout turned out exactly as expected? For what it's worth, the fight was what I expected it to be, an intriguing, if awkward, tactical battle, even if I was dead wrong on picking the winner.

One lesson learned from the PPV was the importance of a strong supporting cast. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schafer commented in the past, particularly with the record-setting Floyd Mayweather-Oscar de la Hoya telecast, that when you offer a strong main event, who appears on the undercard is irrelevant. Could you imagine if Hopkins-Wright had the Mayweather-de la Hoya undercard? People would then have the right to complain about not getting their moneys worth. Jorge Linares' domination of Oscar Larios and the fantastic lightweight war between Michael Katsidis and Czar Amonsot might not have completely justified the price of admission, but at least made you feel less guilty about parting with whatever you spent in order to watch the card.

Speaking of Katsidis-Amonsot, some quick observations from the Fight of the Year contender:

- A huge sigh of relief upon hearing that subsequent tests negated initial reports that Amonsot suffered a small subdural hematoma following the fight. It would be a shame for the 21-year young Amonsot to offer the fight of his life, only to see his career end on that note. That said, here's to hoping his handlers plan for a lengthy rest period before reloading and returning.

- Two fights in 2007, and two Fight of the Year candidates in the end, both of which he emerged victorious. What more will it take for Katsidis to secure a contract, or at least prime time slots, with a major network?

- While he's a thrill a second, what Katsidis isn't, is a major player in the lightweight division – yet. Much of the talk following last weekend's war surrounded a possible early 2008 showdown with Juan Diaz, providing Juan emerge victorious over Julio Diaz later this year. In my humble opinion, such a move would be career suicide. Katsidis needs to learn defense – and prove he can bring it against top 10 lightweights – before challenging the division's best.

- When was the last time a fighter was that far ahead on the scorecards late in the fight, yet still on the verge of a medical stoppage and being declared a TKO loser? The amount of damage inflicted on Katsidis' left eye warranted a stoppage, but this was one occasion where fans can applaud the commission bypassing their instinct to err on the side of caution.

- The bout was the exact opposite of the ugly trend of "business fights" that have graced our television screens over the years. But the argument from the business side: such fighters call their own shots and clear at least one comma more come check-cashing time. Katsidis and Amonsot fought for a mere fraction of the average purse that comes with a major PPV headliner, yet are forced to the sidelines for the rest of the year in nursing various injuries. As fans we know what we'd rather see, but sometimes you have to ask yourself in the end who you'd rather be.

And on a completely unrelated topic, congratulations to resurging super middleweight Jameson "Jamie Kang" Bostic, who recently inked with Don King Productions. Bostic has reeled off nine straight wins after sputtering to a 2-3 start to his career. Much as Paul Williams had difficulty securing bouts with his smaller welterweight peers, so too has been the case for the 6'4" southpaw, who has seen potential bouts with Robert Allen, William Joppy and Omar Sheika fall apart at the negotiating table in recent months, all of whom view the Brooklyn-born, Memphis-based boxer-puncher as high-risk low reward.

DKP hopes to change that by keeping Bostic (11-3, 8KO) busy and making him a major – or at least relevant – player in the suddenly red-hot super middleweight division. His debut under the DKP banner is unofficially slated for October in New York City, on the Oleg Maskaev-Samuel Peter Showtime main event at Madison Square Garden.​
 
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