The Rise and Rise of Chris Colbert
“I’m just going to fasten my seat belt and get ready for this ride”
Exclusive interview by Ian Aldous: In 2017, streaming giant Netflix released a boxing documentary film entitled, CounterPunch. It followed the fortunes of pugilists at three markedly different stages in their respective careers. Peter Quillin was the veteran professional world champion; Cam F Awesome was the longtime amateur chasing his dream of Olympic qualification, and then there was Chris Colbert. He was the standout amateur from Brooklyn who had just turned pro.
Now, in 2020, he’s no longer a prospect, but a world-ranked contender and holder of an interim world championship at 130lbs.
The sixth of ten siblings didn’t pick boxing. He was just fortunate that life chose a path for him to find what he would proceed to excel at.
“Growing up, I was a kid that used to fight a lot. I feel like boxing chose me, I didn’t really choose it. I had a decent amateur background,” the undefeated twenty-four year-old said with a hint of humility. “My record was like 103-3.”
During that time he won a slew of national championships and even qualified for the 2016 Olympics at the tender age of eighteen. The switch-hitter, to the surprise of many, chose to forego his shot at amateur glory. He wanted the rewards that only a pro career can garner.
“I was the first American to qualify for the Olympics in 2016, but I won so early in the beginning of 2015 – I didn’t want to wait until 2016 to fight. All that time wasted for nothing. So, I decided to go pro.”
It was also abundantly clear to Colbert who the powers-that-be in U.S amateur boxing wanted as their bantamweight representative. They had seemingly anointed future WBO featherweight world champion Shakur Stevenson as their pick.
“They already had who they wanted to be on the Olympic team no matter how many times he lost or what tribulations he had to get through to get to it,” Colbert explained. “I’m not for the politics. I like fair game and if I can’t get that – I don’t want to do it at all.”
The tumultuous world of professional boxing beckoned for the man then-nicknamed ‘Lil B-Hop’ after the legendary multi-time world champion from Philadelphia who needs no introduction. The Netflix film-makers were on hand to document this, helping Colbert gain valuable recognition.
“That was super-dope. It really pushed my career to the next level,” he said. “A lot of famous people seen it and they notice me when they see me. A lot of people notice me when they see me because of that alone. Shout out to Netflix and my boy, Jay Bulger, the director.”
During the movie, one particular subject, after witnessing his debut pro bout, speaks of how Colbert fought like a young Mayweather. Not only has he been compared to one of the greatest to ever box; Ray Mancini also noted, on commentary during one of his more recent fights, how Colbert reminded him of Pernell Whittaker.
“I think that’s dope because they’re two of the top fighters on my pound-for-pound list. Those are two of my top fighters – ever, period, Pernell Whittaker, Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather. To be compared to them is an honour and I take that with open arms. Hopefully I can live up to that and keep doing what I do.”
2019 was the year that Colbert really began to gain substantial momentum in the paid ranks with two excellent stoppage wins, including a highlight-reel first-round KO of former world title challenger, Miguel Beltran Jr. He’s rising to every challenge asked of him whilst manager of champions, Al Haymon is looking after everything else.
“Al Haymon looks out for me inside and outside of the ring,” he said. “He gives me great advice and calls me to check up on me to make sure I’m good. I got a great team behind me. I can’t complain. I’m just going to fasten my seat belt and get ready for this ride we about to go on. I ain’t stopping here.”
Colbert’s litmus test arrived on January 18th this year in the form of the awkward and tricky former WBA super-featherweight champion, Jezzrel Corrales. The Panamanian held constantly and engaged infrequently. Despite it being a relative dud for fans, it was purely a case of getting the ‘W’ and remaining undefeated.
“I felt like it was difficult because I made it difficult. He was definitely a crafty, young veteran with a great record. People will say he put me to the test, but I feel like I put myself to the test. I overcame it and beat him by unanimous decision. I didn’t feel like I landed not one clean punch. If I’d landed one clean punch; I’d have knocked him out.”
During the chess battle with Corrales, commentators Lennox Lewis and Joe Goossen proclaimed that they believe Colbert is already equipped for a potential fight with four-division world champion and holder of the full WBA super-featherweight world championship, Leo Santa Cruz.
“We can’t really focus on each other right now because we both got tasks ahead of us,” he told me. “If he gets past this Saturday (interview was conducted prior to Davis vs. Santa Cruz) coming up and if I get past my ‘test’, let’s do it. I’m ready.”
Now, 14-0 and ranked #1 by the WBA at 130lbs, Colbert will headline on Showtime for the very first time. Another Panamanian, this time Jaime Arboleda, will attempt to halt the Colbert express train on November 28th. The man no longer known as ‘Lil B-Hop’, but ‘Prime Time’ expects to put on a memorable performance.
“I feel like there’s levels to this boxing game and he’s definitely not on my level. I’m just going to go out there and show that to the world. I’m definitely coming all guns loaded.”
“Be prepared to see a dominating performance. It’s Prime Time on Showtime. Make sure you tune in if you’re a fan or a hater, it don’t matter. Just watch me.”
Colbert expects to move up to lightweight, “within two years or a year-and-a-half” as he experiences a growth spurt and will inevitably outgrow 130lbs. Until then, he’ll be impeccably prepared by trainer Aureliano Sosa as he continues his assault on the super-featherweight division.
“People are going to hate. They never give you the respect you deserve. I’m used to it though. I’m just going to roll with those punches and do what I do best. One day they’re going to have to respect it. They didn’t like Floyd, right?”
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