PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                                         February 27, 2009


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Former Blue Horizon staple of the mid-90s, Charles Tschorniawsky, a.k.a. Chucky T, lost his comeback fight Friday night (02/27) after a four year layoff. Chucky was an amateur standout and a popular pro attraction back in the day, but on this night he was in against a young undefeated up-and-comer from Pittsburgh named Jesse Lubash, and he literally came up short against his younger, heavier and much taller foe. After landing a few shots of his own, Chucky was trapped on the ropes and halted in round two. T's trainer Billy Briscoe signaled for the stoppage, and the referee complied at 1:22 of the round. Lubash left with a 10-0 (6 KO) record and the first major name on his resume.

For Chucky T, it was a long road back. Beginning in June, he earnestly worked his high-mileage body back into fighting shape while waiting for the call to fight again. When that call finally came, Lubash seemed like a cruel choice as a comeback opponent after four years. But it was a fight, and that's what Chucky wanted. T has been in the ring since he was a little, little kid. So this was just another fight, and at worst, another loss. Such is the lot in life for a former local star.

There would have been a time when the match would have been made with Chucky's interests in mind, back when he was one of the best amateur prospects in the country; back when he'd put together a 20-2-1 run to start his career; back when he was beating guys like Ivan Robinson and Troy Fletcher, and back when he was a ticket-selling, main event fighter. But those days are long gone. Instead Chucky T was the opponent in this match, which was clearly made to benefit a new potential boxing star. That is the classic arc of this sport - from golden boy to whipping boy.

No one could have felt good about his chances going in. I certainly didn't. But Chucky wanted to fight again. And for a while, that desire renewed him and everyone around him. For the last seven or eight months, while Chucky steadily worked his way back into shape, and looked better and better doing it, there was a real feeling of possibility in the stuffy air of the Allegheny Recreation Center. An actual glimmer of hope had entered the place, and it was palpable - especially at a hard-luck gym like the Allegheny, which is so in need of a positive narrative to help keep it, and everyone in it, going.

The Allegheny Rec Center is a place full of tough boxers who have either exhausted every one of their options, or have yet to be given their first real opportunity. The young ones who rise to a new level, usually leave for greener pastures - sometimes to return when those pastures don't pan out. But the majority of boxers there are old pros looking to get back on track. Most of their time is spent forgetting the past and focusing on the immediate future of the next fight. That next fight that could bring their record one notch closer to the .500 mark. That next fight that could prove that they are a better fighter than the story that their record tells. That next fight that could confirm to each of them that their past missteps were caused by bad matchmaking, bad promotion, and bad or no management. The Allegheny is a place with a very basic, no frills dream - survival and if possible, redemption.

In the center of it all is Billy Briscoe, who runs the gym with a complicated mix of old-school knowledge and modern Rube Goldberg wizardry. He makes due with no budget, much hand-fashioned equipment, and more opinions about boxing than you'll find anywhere else in the city. Mentored by the late great Wesley Mouzon, and himself schooling the hard-punching, perhaps retired boxer Jose Medina in the ways of fight training, Billy Briscoe keeps plugging forward and providing a place for everyone who has nowhere else to go. And he keeps trying to make something good happen.

So when Chucky T decided to go back to work, of course he came to the Allegheny, and to Billy, who is also his brother-in-law. And for several months while Allegheny Rec star Gabe Rosado was away at training camp with Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley, Chucky T took on the hopes and dreams of the stable. He breathed life into the gym and slowly and steadily transformed from a pudgy ex-fighter to a real semblance of his former fighting self. So the emotions were swirling at the gym and that old "comeback sentiment" started to build while everyone waited for Chucky's elusive return fight to be scheduled. Dreams can easily take root when the test is not yet at hand. Such was the case with this one.

Successful comebacks are unlikely, but as long as they are off in the distance, they can work their magic on us all and remind us of the very stuff that makes up much of boxing's allure. The investment in the fighters we care about is a powerful drug to all of us with a weakness for this heart-breaking sport. No matter how unrealistic the dream, it can captivate every single one of us.

And so it was at the Allegheny - until Chucky's fight was finally set. From the moment his bout had a date and his opponent was decided, our hope turned to concern. 

Everything about the match seemed wrong - especially for a first fight back. I think everyone felt that way. But the job of the fighter is to prepare for the battle and go through with the fight. And that is exactly what Chucky did. He is a rough and tumble guy who I am sure has no fear of any opponent. But Chucky T has been at this game for a long time, and he knows how it works. And I sensed he saw the writing on the wall.

He left the ring Friday night at 24-10-1, with 14 KOs, and with his boxing future once again in doubt. Of course he probably shouldn't fight again, but of course he probably will. However, perhaps the sport's killing kindness - the overly tough first step back, the wages of time, and the quality of his opponent will be enough of a wake-up call to keep Chucky retired for good. He was once a very good prospect who always gave the fans their money's worth. He was exciting to watch, and was many a boxing buff's favorite fighter. To all of us who saw him in his prime, he will always be that same talented kid who almost made it to the top, and no comeback fights will change that. He doesn't need to risk anything else in the boxing ring. Chucky T has done his job.

Now the baton passes to some other fighter, perhaps from the Allegheny Rec Center, who can chase his dream and make us all remember why we love this game so much, while we put out of our minds, at least for the moment, the number that this sport eventually does to just about everyone we love who gets involved with it.





John DiSanto - February 27, 2009