Sound For Sound: Conwell’s Quest For a Crown May End in a Big Cat Week
Sound For Sound is a recurring column that further explores the relationship of rhythm and boxing by celebrating the music that influences and motivates fighters as they prepare for, and to excel under, the game’s brightest of lights
Undefeated 154-pound prospect Charles Conwell moves on atop ShoBox show originally intended for co-main event with his brother; his hunt for a crown must continue on solo for now
In the wake of the recent Charlo twin’s successful Showtime Pay-Per-View event, a Lions Only Promotions first, I had planned to shine some light on a pair of Ohio half-brothers in Charles Conwell and the eldest of two Isaiah Steen. The Cleveland siblings expected to be co-headlining tomorrow night’s ShoBox: The New Generation card, but the loss of Steen’s scheduled fight with Kalvin Henderson took the line-up from four fights to just three.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the previous plans for the brothers to fight in co-main events of a canceled April ShoBox. Tomorrow night on Showtime Conwell will face fellow undefeated Super Welterweight prospect Wendy Toussaint at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.
Last June one of hip hop’s fastest rising stars, Benny The Butcher, dropped a 7-track EP called The Plugs I Met. The project oozed with Benny’s ambition. In addition to feature verses by his normal Griselda Records brethren – half-brothers Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine – the Buffalo emcee recruited renowned artists like Pusha T and the incomparable Black Thought. The latter joined Benny on the EP’s first single “Kings For Crowns.”
Leave it up to the late DJ Shay – an elder member of the Griselda/BSF family who passed away in August – to dig into the crates and snatch a bluesy sample from Al Green’s 1972 record “Look What You Done For Me.”
Trading bars with a lyricist the caliber of Thought graduated Benny to a new level of emcee, solidifying him as a contender among the elite voices in New York rap. Coronation was definitely Benny’s modus operandi.
I’m tempted to delve into Benny’s lead-off verse such as, “I sat back, a vet, and watched beginners winnin’ my belts/
Burned my bridges, came back a good swimmer like Phelps…” But, due to The Butcher’s penchant for graphically detailing the exploits of his prior life with razor sharp versus of his self-proclaimed “coke rap”, I won’t tie those to a young fighter with Olympic pedigree. I’ll stick with Black Thought’s highly-skilled rag-to-riches musings on the second verse of the song.
Conwell (12-0, 9 KOs) is the IBF’s No. 9-ranked Super Welterweight. The 22-year old represented the U.S. at the Rio Games in 2016 as the culmination of an impressive run as an amateur. The 10-round fight with Toussaint (12-0, 5 KOs) marks his second appearance on ShoBox, he defeated Roque “Rocky” Zapata via unanimous decision in a six-rounder on the series back in 2017.
“Since my last ShoBox appearance three years ago, I’ve matured a lot as a fighter. I’m more comfortable inside the ring and going longer rounds. I’ve developed as an all-around fighter. A lot of challenges have been thrown my way but it’s nothing that I can’t overcome. I’ve been able to adjust, get over it and keep moving up.
“I think I need a couple more fights, a couple more good wins under my belt against some formidable opponents, and looking good doing it, and I’ll be considered a top-10 type of contender. I think I need two more fights.
Any image we took, not a father was in the picture
There was times, not a bite nor swallow was in the kitchen
Real n—-s made a industry out of they intuition
Facin’ the darkest outcome, sprintin’ to outrun the reaper
Trying not to be the food in the mouth of the beast
For whom the bell tolls
Crown kings in Adidas suits and shell toes
We had to throw a lot of body blows and elbows
I know that I’m facing an undefeated, 12-0 fighter. He fought in the bubble, I know that. He’s a slim, tall type of guy who has length, and he’s athletic. I’ve just seen one of his fights. He has a little awkwardness and he throws some loopy shots that I need to be aware of.
We was blue-black, stuck in the glue trap
I had to pull my own self up by the bootstrap
Where everybody play they own part like a tooth gap
And old heads teach the young hitters to shoot back
I been livin’ proof that the pressure make precious stones
And real Clarence Avants remain lesser known
But anybody who question you, send a message to ’em
I see my seat at the table to be a blessed throne
Triumph and tragedy, his majesty muscle never atrophied
The devil is a casualty, sucker, you’re never catchin’ me
Even though you been after me, motherf—–
You gotta bring a army to harm me, I occupy the capacity up
Last October Conwell found himself standing triumphant in Chicago, Illinois in the midst of tragedy caused by his own hands. In a tough and spirited fight with Patrick Day, a 10th round knockdown scored by Conwell resulted in head injuries that Day succumbed to a few days later.
“With the Patrick Day fight, I’ve just learned to live with it and try to stay positive. Keep positive people and positive energy around me. That’s all I can ever do, stay looking forward and try not to dwell on the past. It’s a very difficult thing for me but you can’t think about it in this sport. You have to continue to be aggressive. My first fight after that tragedy, once somebody punches you in the face it’s not too hard to punch them back – it’s natural. In training, I was a little timid at first but once somebody is in there trying to punch you in the face, it’s easy to be aggressive.
After the Chicago fight Conwell went into exile before eventually sharing his thoughts about the experience in a stirring Instagram post dated October 14. In February he returned to action on a card in Hammond, Indiana and defeated Ramses Agaton after the 30-year old Mexican retired after the fourth rounds.
It’s all love from public housin’ to the Atlas Mountains
I’ve established the average to always bat a thousand
So after butcherin’ this track, it’s back to countin’
The money generated from me leavin’ microphones broke
Probably almost on par with all of Escobar’s coke
When I’m finished, I’ma keep a tennis shoe on y’all throat
Just in case you mention in a interview you want smoke, n—-
“I’ve always been an aggressive fighter. Being a shorter guy, you fight taller guys and you always have to be more aggressive. As I get in there and work with my coaches, I’ve developed different skills – different punches, different defensive moves, different angles, different tricks on the inside – so I’ve always been aggressive and willing to fight on the inside.
In less than 24 hours Conwell climbs those three steps again with the sole objective of taking a step forward in one of boxing’s hottest divisions. Current IBF/WBA/WBC champion Jermell Charlo currently holds three of the four major 154-pound titles – Brazil’s one-loss Patrick Teixeira holds the WBO version. In 2018, Conwell spent time in camp sparring with Detroit, Mich.’s Tony Harrison ahead of him handing Charlo his lone defeat.
Conwell must focus on and get past Toussaint tomorrow in Uncasville, but he has a realistic idea of just how far away he is from challenging for his first crown. In this writer’s March 2019 interview with Harrison the former champion’s praise for Conwell was effusive, but the Haitian firefighter from Long Island does pose a threat to the Olympian’s future plans. Toussaint recently served as the primary sparring partner for Light Heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr. who just won a WBO title eliminator by stopping Eleider Alvarez on August 28. He also has a tie-in to the Charlo twins.
“I sparred with [Sergiy] Derevyanchenko in camp and that was a great experience. He throws a lot of punches and sparring with him was different than anything I’ve experienced. It was very difficult, but I gave him a lot of work, a lot of pressure, and I think it will really help me a lot in this fight and going forward in my career.
Toussaint handily won a decision against Detroit’s Isiah Jones on the same night of Smith’s big win. The ShoBox venue will be crowd-free, but there should be smoke.
The ShoBox event will open with two eight-round Welterweight showdowns as Detroit’s Janelson Figueroa Bocachica (15-0, 10 KOs) takes on fellow Puerto Rico native Nicklaus Flaz (9-1, 7 KOs), and hard-hitting Brandun Lee (19-0, 17 KOs) returns to ShoBox in the telecast opener against Jimmy Williams (16-3-2, 5 KOs).
Barry Tompkins will call the action from ringside with boxing historian Steve Farhood and former world champion Raul Marquez serving as expert analysts. The executive producer is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.
All photos by Amanda Westcott/Showtime
Song lyrics for Benny The Butcher, “Crowns For Kings (Feat. Black Thought)”, The Plugs I Met, Black Soprano Family, 2019, were copied from Genius