Virginia's Lange installs patience in his corner

Shunning distractions, fighter plots his course


January 26, 2000|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In a special issue of Cosmopolitan last summer titled "All About Men," Jimmy Lange was selected as the state of Virginia's most eligible bachelor.

The slender, junior middleweight from Great Falls, who looks like a taller version of Brad Pitt, was photographed sans shirt with boxing gloves. The publicity blurb may have branded him a hunk and helped his social life, but Lange, 22, has more important things on his mind.

"All that stuff can come later," said Lange, who is scheduled to meet journeyman Ed Goins in a six-round bout at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie tomorrow night. "Right now, I'm trying to concentrate on boxing and becoming a title contender."

Lange has taken a number of steps in that direction in his two years as a professional boxer. He has compiled a 10-1-1 record and won a sizable fan following with his punching power that has resulted in eight knockouts.

Two weeks ago, at a boxing banquet at Washington's Convention Center, Lange was recognized for his box office potential more than his sex appeal. He was voted the D.C.-Maryland area's Rookie of the Year."

Junior welterweight champion Sharmba Mitchell, whose title match with Reggie Green was voted fight of the year, half-apologized for the award after spotting Lange in the audience.

"Believe me, I couldn't have fought like this guy did, bloody and all," said Mitchell, who witnessed Lange's four-round brawl with James Johnson last May.

Lange fought the last three rounds with blood streaming down his face, the result of a butt that opened a gash over his right eye. The crowd applauded his courage, but he had to settle for a draw.

Lange, you might say, was born to fight in much the same way as Tiger Woods was destined to play golf. Lange's father, John, a plumber who once fought as an amateur, began taking his son to a gym in Falls Church when he was 6 years old.

The boy showed a natural aptitude for boxing, but his father never rushed him, making sure he was ready to turn pro before turning over the teaching to veteran trainer Pepe Correa, who helped guide Simon Brown and Maurice Blocker to world titles.

"I've brought him along real slow," said John Lange, who serves as his manager. "This isn't a sport for Jimmy. He's got his sights firmly set on what he wants-- a championship belt."

His father has invested in his son's boxing future by allowing him to concentrate solely on his ring career.

"Patience, that's the key," the fighter said. "I know I have a long way to go, and I'm working every day to improve. When my chance finally comes, I don't want to just fight for the title, I want to win it."

Lange, who chose former middleweight king Marvin Hagler as his role model because of Hagler's work ethic and the way he carried himself in and out of the ring, has had the benefit of training and sparring with middleweight champion William Joppy and contenders Green and Jabba Bryan.

"All these guys have really helped me improve my skills," he said. "They don't try to turn our workouts into gym wars. They're real pros, and the experience of working with them is unbelievable."

It is all happening very fast for Jimmy Lange, but he has managed to keep his feet firmly on the ground.

"The most important thing to me is that Jimmy knows exactly who he is," his father said. "He recognizes when he's had a good or bad night in the ring. But the thing I watch for is that he stays a class act the way he handles himself. So far, I'm proud to say, he hasn't once disappointed me."

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