Boxers eye Vicksburg as location for camp

Published 9:16 am Monday, January 16, 2017

Four former heavyweight boxing champions visited Vicksburg this weekend, but it might not have been the last time the city’s residents will see a couple of them.

Riddick Bowe and Ray Mercer, along with former sparring partner Jonathan Felton, said they are hoping to conduct a training camp for young fighters in Vicksburg later this year.

No firm details have been set, but Felton said tryouts and the camp would be held some time in the spring. Vicksburg does not have an entrenched boxing culture or tradition, but Felton believes there are enough athletes in the area to start one.

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“You have a lot of natural athletes in Vicksburg, whether it’s football or basketball or baseball. The talent is there. You just need to cultivate it,” Felton said. “Me being a former sparring partner of both of these champions, I feel I can give back to the youth of Vicksburg and the surrounding areas in Mississippi. I definitely know there’s some champions out here. They just need to be taught and shown in the right area.”

Bowe and Mercer, along with former champions Evander Holyfield and James Toney, were in Vicksburg Friday and Saturday for a round of appearances at Ameristar Casino and to serve as grand marshals for the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

Bowe and Mercer are behind the training camp idea.

“We’re going to come down here and show these cats how to do it,” Bowe said. “Another thing that’s really important is we want to mentor these kids and keep them out of trouble, and teach them the right way.”

Felton said having a couple of big names backing the camp will give it added credibility.

Bowe held the WBC, IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight championships at various points from 1992-96 and has a career record of 43-1. Mercer was the gold medalist at the 1988 Summer Olympics and later held the WBO heavyweight championship for nearly a year in 1991. He retired with a record of 36-7-1.

“Ray Mercer was the last USA Olympic gold medalist. That says something. You don’t have a whole bunch of gold medalists. That speaks to his values and all the experience he has shown,” Felton said. “And me, working out with him, sparring with him, I know what it takes to make it.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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