By John J. Raspanti
“Only thing I can do is keep doing winning”
In the course of a boxing career that began 20 years ago, Amir Mansour has captured IBF North American heavyweight title, the WBF Intercontinental title, the Pennsylvania crown, and last month, after defeating the favored Travis Kaufman, the WBC United States heavyweight championship.
Common sense would indicate that these achievements would earn Mansour a crack at a world championship. Instead, he trains and waits, for the opportunity he believes he’s earned.
“Just give me a shot,” Mansour told me on the phone last week. “The guys that are supposed to fight me are afraid. I guess they want me to turn fifty before they fight me. Deontay Wilder is afraid to fight me. We could have made the fight last year.”
So, as Mansour trains, he waits for the phone to ring. It’s a grueling routine of long hours filled with false hopes.
Two months ago, he faced Kaufmann in what was called a heavyweight title eliminator. Mansour took the word “eliminate” to heart. He had to win if he wanted to stay in contention for heavyweight honors.
Mansour agreed to fight Kauffmann, who entered the match with only one loss in his 31-fight career, in Reading, PA, Kauffmann’s hometown.
Hometown decisions have been a pox on the sport of boxing for years. Writers, like yours truly, have jumped up and down over terrible judging, but nothing changes.
Mansour, like a so many fighters in his position, had no choice but to accept the challenge. He decided to roll the dice.
“It bothered me a little, (fighting in Kauffmann’s hometown) but what can you do?” Mansour said. “I had to fight.”
And fight he did, but, with a few more wrinkles. Mansour boxed and slugged his way to a majority decision victory. His win raised eyebrows.
“Believe it or not, I can fight in several different styles,” said Mansour. “I can make transitions. You have to be able to change up against these guys.”
Mansour fought two of those guys back-to-back. In 2015, he met giant heavyweight Gerald Washington. The winner was told he’d fight for the heavyweight championship. After giving away the early rounds, Mansour battled back and appeared to win the fight. The judges scored the match a draw.
Though there were no official winners that night, it was Washington who fought WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder last February--and was knocked out in the fifth round.
Mansour next faced Dominic Breazeale in Los Angeles. Mansour floored the six-foot-seven-inch Breazeale twice—and was in control until the unthinkable happened. In a freak injury, Mansour bit his own tongue nearly in half.
“Against Breazeale, instead of biting my jaws, I bite both sides of my tongue off,” Mansour said. “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 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. The loss, Mansour’s second in 26 bouts, was the most disappointing of his career. He took full responsibility—explaining that he should have never used a mouthpiece that was later deemed faulty.
Though pounded from pillar to post by Mansour, Breazeale went to England three months ago and boxed IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, who knocked him cold in round seven.
Mansour was left to shake his head and heal. He returned to action two months ago against Kauffmann in what he readily admits was the most important fight of his career.
“I had to get a win,” said Mansour. “I came off of a loss. You can’t have two losses back to back.”
Through it all, the 44-year-old Mansour receives love and support from his family. He regrets his past mistakes—he served time for selling drugs, and wants to give back.
“Most people don’t look at how a family is destroyed by the result of fathers and mothers being incarcerated,” Mansour said during an interview on the "Ringside Boxing Show" last month. “My kids went through some terrible times. They were teased by classmates and even their little cousins. When I came home, I wanted to put a smile on my kids’ faces. I want them to be proud of their father.
“No matter what you’re faced with life - the sun is always going to rise—the light will shine through," he said. “My kids can see daddy fall, but he gets up and shines. You have to be better than what you were. You can come up from any bad situation. Things can turn out to be positive.”
Mansour has certainly proved that hard work and determination can pay off. But what about a title shot?
“Only thing I can do is keep winning,” Mansour said.
Mansour is winning more than fights. He’s winning life.