Humble Champion Rebuilds Anew
Humility was always his trademark, even as an International Boxing Organization world champion. “Willy Wise is a story that makes even a cynical old boxing columnist enjoy the sport,” said Las Vegas Review-Journalist columnist Royce Feour following Wise’s 1999 upset over Julio Cesar Chavez as he prepared for his bout with Sugar Shane Mosley. As other fighters were able to fully focus on training, preparation and seeking the next opportunity, Wise had to balance the dream to which he had dedicated his entire youth with taking of a young family and an ill child. Yet, he never lost his zeal for the sport, neither his aspiration for greater victories. “My biggest regret is that I didn’t fight more often. But, given the challenges with which my family was faced at the time, I can’t really even regret that decision,” said Wise. In spite of working full-time on a forklift and heading to the gym in the evening, he still managed to pull out a subsequent bout with Shane Mosley which he lost. “Coming from where I came from, I have led an amazing life. I’ve traveled to many countries, met many great people, all the while doing what I love most, boxing.”
Today, the humble champion is 43 and living in Alabama where he hopes to start again. “Every athlete has to face life after their body is no longer able to play. It takes some longer to deal with that change than others, but everybody faces it. I fought for over more than 20 years, it’s all I’ve ever really known. I came to the place that I had to say okay, what’s next?” In the wake of the recent death of Denver Broncos’, wide receiver Kenny McKinley, many in the sports world are wondering the same thing. How does an athlete who has programmed his mind and body to do one thing since childhood, before the brain even had a chance to consider other options, become re-programmed later in life? Ever the optimist, Wise doesn’t even question that it can be done. “I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t go through a slump for a minute. But I love boxing and if I can’t do it, I can help someone else to accomplish their goal and follow their dream.”
Alabama was only one of a handful of states left that did not have a Boxing Commission until 2009. “I didn’t intend to move to Alabama, but that makes for a great opportunity for us both as I make the transition to train and promote boxing. I want to play a role in restoring the beauty to the game over the barbarism that has been out there for a while now. I have dedicated my life to this sport and I have the scars to prove it.” Wise has inquired of the Commission in a tentative request for several 2011 dates to schedule professional and amateur bouts in the state. “We’re happy to have him in the state,” said Casey Sears of the Alabama Boxing Commission.
Wise is also seeking to put together his first professional team to reside in Alabama at his residential camp in St. Clair County. “I get calls from guys all over the country. I tell them, if you don’t want it, don’t waste my time. You bring the love for the sport, I’ll give you the passion to win with good training. When I train, I run beside you, work out beside you and discipline myself with you. This is not just a sport, it can be your livelihood, but don’t play with it.” All things considered, this is not the guy to count out.