By John J. Raspanti
Amir “Hardcore” Mansour will be fighting for more than an opponent on March 17--he’ll be battling for respect.
Nothing has been given to the 44-year-old heavyweight contender.
He’s earned everything through hard work and dedication.
Boxing has been his lifeline. His urge to fight started in the fourth grade. His mother said no.
Mansour listened to her and gave it up.
At 16, spending time in a youth facility, Mansour finally got a chance to lace up the gloves. He was considered just a kid at the time. They called him ’Youngin’
He joined the boxing team and immediately found success.
Soon, the older folks changed his nickname from ‘Youngin’ to ‘Hardcore.’ That one stuck. The cuts, bruises, and occasional bloody nose didn’t bother him because Amir Mansour had found his calling.
Mansour, born in New Jersey, began his professional career in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, PA.
He was 25, and raw.
“When I turned pro, I didn’t have any amateur fights,” Mansour told this writer on the phone a few years ago.(”) "It was on-the-job training. I didn’t have all that abuse before heading into pro ranks. Most people don’t understand that.”
Mansour was undefeated in nine fights when everything changed. Arrested for selling drugs, he was sent to prison.
The time away from his family was difficult.
“Of course, I have some regrets, “said Mansour. “I sat in a prison cell for eight years. My youngest son was born while I was in prison. That’s terrible to grow up like that. All my sons suffered because of my actions.
“It’s a huge regret, but you can’t go through life sulking and feeling sorry for yourself. I don’t allow it to define who I am as a person. I won’t allow it to dictate where I go. I have to rise above that situation and be the person that I know I truly am.”
Rise above it he did. Mansour was 38 when he was released from prison. He’ll soon turn 45.
“My age isn’t a factor, Man. My performance is,” said Mansour matter-of-factly.
2011 was a big year for Mansour. He captured the Intercontinental WBF heavyweight title by starching Raymond Ochieng in the opening round, and a few months later, the IBF and WBO belts. He snatched the USBA title two years later.
Lots of hardware but still no world title shot. Mansour felt disrespected. His fights are never boring.
He always brings it, but some don’t appreciate his style.
“I don’t get the respect I deserve as a fighter,” Mansour said. “The fans love me. I don’t think I’ve got my due from the organizations. That is what it is. It’s strange,”
Mansour soldiered on. His final appearance in 2014 was against Fred Kassi. He made it memorable one. Mansour stalked Kassi for six rounds. He connected with some hard shots, but the homerun blow didn’t land until the next round.
Mansour fired a hard left that missed. Kassi relaxed. Big mistake. His follow-up, a wicked right hook, landed flush. Kassi hung in the air for a millisecond, and then toppled face down to the canvas.
He didn’t move for five minutes.
Mansour has an impressive record of 22 wins in 24 fights, with 16 knockouts. His first career loss was to Steve Cunningham, whom he floored twice during the contest. His second loss was much more disappointing.
A year ago, Mansour had top-rated contender Dominic Breazeale ready to go. He had floored the six-foot-seven-inch Breazeale twice and was pounding him from pillar to post. Then the unthinkable happened.
In a freak injury, Mansour bit his own tongue nearly in half.
“I had a mouthpiece—but for some reason I kept biting my own mouth up,” Mansour said. “I’d bit my own jaws. I’ve always done that. Against Kassi, you can hear ring announcer B.J. Penn mentioning my blood. It wasn’t because of punches. It was me biting my jaws.
“Against Breazeale, instead of biting my jaws, I bite both sides of my tongue off. I dealt with the pain. With all the adrenaline—you really don’t feel much when you’re fighting. But my tongue was really swelling up.”
Mansour opened his mouth wide to get some air. He tried breathing through his nose, but a cold hampered that plan.
“From the second round until the fifth, I literally fought while holding my breath,” Mansour said. “I knew something was really wrong when they took my mouthpiece out. I felt like I had two of them in my mouth.”
Mansour found out after the bout that he bit through an artery. He had swallowed blood at an alarming rate.
The fight was stopped after round five. Mansour was sick after the match and had to have his stomach pumped.
He takes complete responsibility for his loss.
“I can’t complain,” Mansour said. “It was a stupid mistake I made with my mouthpiece—and while not paying attention, he caught me.”
Mansour learned his lesson. After he recovered, he visited his dentist who created a mouthguard just for him.
Mansour will be fighting Travis Kauffman March 17.
“I’ve seen Kaufman fight many times,” said Mansour. “He’s a good fighter. He comes to rock. He did a good job against Chris Areola. He showed he can go strong for ten rounds.”
Kaufmann has lost once in his 31 bouts. He can punch, having scored 23 knockouts. The venue is the Santander Arena in Reading, PA, Kaufmann’s hometown.
All Mansour wants is a level playing field. He plans on testing Kaufmann’s resolve from the start.
“Anybody that gets in the ring with me has to be ready go hard,” Mansour said. “That’s just the fighter that I am. It’s as simple as that. Either go hard or go home.”
Word is that a win could earn Mansour a shot at the heavyweight championship of the world.
“My dream is to fight for a world title. I’d like to fight (Deontay) Wilder. I can’t say I’m fighting for the money,’ cause I’m not making any money. I’m doing it because I absolutely love fighting.”
Just one more win, and possibly, Amir Mansour will get his shot at world championship honors.