Davis puts his dream back in focus After eye surgery, middleweight returns

September 16, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

The inherent risk of being a professional boxer is a topic veteran trainer Adrian Davis of Laurel preaches with firsthand knowledge to his fighting sons, Victor and Demetrius, who are middleweights.

A hard-punching welterweight contender in the 1970s, Adrian, who once fought three main events in a 10-day span, began to suffer blurred vision and ultimately lost the sight in his left eye.

"I was a victim of non-technology," he said. "I wound up with eight holes in my retina. If they had been performing laser-beam surgery back then, I probably would have kept my sight and continued fighting."

Eighteen months ago, Victor Davis, coming off a knockout victory over Baltimore's Vincent Pettway and promised a title shot against then International Boxing Federation welterweight champion Simon Brown, began seeing spots in front of his right eye.

"I knew all the warning signs," his father said. "I wasn't going to take any chances with my son's eyes. I took Victor to [surgeon] Donald Rogell, who diagnosed his problem as a detached retina."

Victor underwent corrective surgery in February 1991 and was ordered not to lift a glove for at least a year. He returned to the gym last spring. Victor received the approval of Rogell and Maryland Athletic Commission ophthalmologist Leeds Katzen to launch his ring comeback tomorrow against Levon Rouse (3-9-1), of Kingston, N.C., at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.

"I told Victor that fighting again was a reasonable thing to do," Rogell said. "Anyone who boxes obviously runs a risk of an eye injury, but his risk isn't any worse than the next guy."

But Adrian Davis is trying to keep his son's risks to a minimum after his long layoff. He spurned a $15,000 offer from promoter Don King for Victor to fight a tougher opponent on the undercard of the Terry Norris-Simon Brown junior middle weight championship show in Las Vegas on Sept. 26. Instead, Victor will receive $1,500 from local matchmaker Josh Hall to fight Rouse.

"It's not a question of money," Adrian said. "The big purses will come with time. We wanted to minimize the risks for Victor after such a long time away from the ring."

It has been as much a mental as physical struggle for Victor in putting his boxing career together again. Sugar Ray Leonard's successful return from eye surgery to championship status in the '80s helped keep his own dream alive.

"In the last year and a half, I lost everything -- my apartment, my friends and all the money I saved from fighting professionally for six years," he said. "I found out who my real friends were once I stopped fighting.

"Boxing was my whole life. All I dreamed about was becoming a champion. Now I was back on the streets, with nothing to keep my mind occupied and running with the wrong kind of crowd.

"A lot of guys I counted as friends wound up dead or in jail. I was lucky I didn't get into any serious trouble. But I was going crazy with nothing to do but pray I'd get to fight again."

Victor, 25, would hang in the shadows of his father's modern "Round One" gym in Cheverly watching brother Demetrius and undefeated lightweight contender Sharmba Mitchell go through their training regimens. But that ended when the gym's mortgage was foreclosed earlier this year.

When doctors permitted him to resume training six months ago, Victor felt reborn, traveling to gyms in Crofton and Pasadena, or wherever he could find sparring partners.

"I'm much more mature and serious about fighting now than before my eye surgery," he said. "I used to listen to the crowd and my friends, trying to turn every fight into a war, showboating, dropping my hands and getting hit with a lot of hard shots.

"Now I'm listening to my father, moving and boxing and taking less chances. I'm not worried about my eye. It's just that I've gotten a lot smarter."

Also, a lot heavier. At one point during his layoff, Victor ballooned to 182 pounds, or cruiserweight size.

"I'm down to 167 now, and I should have no trouble making junior middleweight [154] if I stay busy by fighting every month," he said. "By next spring, I should be right back in title contention."

At last, Victor Davis' boxing future is slowly coming back in focus.

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