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Bernard Fernandez: Chambers is America's heavyweight hope

EDDIE CHAMBERS intends to celebrate the Fourth of July in the traditional way, which is to say with fireworks and some flag-waving. It's just that he'll be doing it in the ring, and far away from home.

EDDIE CHAMBERS intends to celebrate the Fourth of July in the traditional way, which is to say with fireworks and some flag-waving. It's just that he'll be doing it in the ring, and far away from home.

Hamburgers may or may not be on a grill anywhere near the Color Line Arena in Hamburg, Germany, but the Pittsburgh-born, Philadelphia-based fighter said he will take the occasion of the United States' 233rd birthday to spectacularly demonstrate that at least one American heavyweight is capable of taking a lead position in what long has been considered boxing's most prestigious division.

"A lot of people say the best U.S. hope among heavyweights is Chris Arreola. I disagree. I say it's me," said Chambers (34-1, 18 KOs), who squares off with Russia's Alexander Dimitrenko (29-0, 19 KOs) in a WBO elimination bout, the winner of which becomes the mandatory contender to WBO/IBF titlist Wladimir Klitschko (53-3, 47 KOs), of Ukraine, who is widely considered to be the best heavyweight in the world - at least by those who don't think his older brother, WBC titlist Vitali Klitschko, is more deserving of that designation.

Wladimir Klitschko presumably strengthened his case for occupying the top spot Saturday with an efficient, 10th-round stoppage of Uzbekistan's Ruslan Chagaev, the WBA heavyweight champ "in recess," before a sellout crowd of 61,000-plus in a soccer stadium in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. That fight was seen on an incredible 58.4 percent of all the televisions in use in Germany during its time slot.

There might not be any country where boxing is an easier sell now than in Germany, which is why Chambers is headed back to Deutschland, the site of his only professional defeat. Money talks, and no U.S. TV outlet expressed a serious interest in televising Chambers-Dimitrenko here, there or anywhere.

But by going into an hostile environment and knocking off one of the Eastern Europeans who currently dominate the heavyweight landscape, Chambers, 27, and his manager-trainer, Philly's Rob Murray Sr., hope to demonstrate to HBO and Showtime that "Fast Eddie" is an American big man worthy of their backing. At the very least, Team Chambers intends to return to these shores on a victorious note, which was not the case following Chambers' 12-round, unanimous-decision loss to Russia's Alex Povetkin on Jan. 26, 2008, in Berlin.

In that bout, Chambers had his moments early, but thereafter fought with a curious lack of urgency, which allowed Povetkin to come on in the middle and later rounds.

Chambers replaced his father, Eddie Chambers Sr., as his trainer after that bout with his manager, Murray, who learned some cheesesteak-and-scrapple-flavored tricks of the trade by observing such legendary Philadelphia cornermen as Yank Durham and Sam Solomon. This will be Murray's fifth outing with Chambers in a dual capacity.

"We talk all the time about what went wrong in the Povetkin fight," Murray said. "It's the one that got away. Eddie's mistake was that he prepared for a fight, but not the fight. Nobody in his corner that night knew what buttons to push.

"If I had been in the corner for the Povetkin fight, I would have pushed the right buttons."

Some of those buttons already have been pushed, during Chambers' training camp in the Poconos. Chambers, who weighed 219 1/2 pounds for the Povetkin fight, has gotten down as low as 205 in camp and he said he will enter the ring against Dimitrenko no higher than 211, which would be his lowest weight since Feb. 10, 2006, when he was 211 for a bout with Andrew Greeley at the Blue Horizon.

"Eddie's not only the underdog, he's undersized," Murray noted. "He's fighting for short money. We're going over there to take on these big Russians that nobody else wants to fight. But we're not ducking anybody.

"This is a guy who wants to be the heavyweight champion of the world, not just the heavyweight champion of Pittsburgh or Philadelphia or the state of Pennsylvania. To do that, he has to kick the door down. He's going to do it, too. After Eddie beats Dimitrenko, we want to fight Povetkin again and then both of the Klitschkos."

That's a pretty ambitious agenda for someone who has logged 51.4 percent of his pro bouts at the Blue Horizon, where he is 18-0.

Not always beautiful

So stunningly attractive that she once was featured in a Playboy magazine pictorial, Mia St. John understands that some fight fans never have taken her seriously. She was derided by critics as the "Bunny Boxer," a bit of eye candy who gained prominence as the lead-in to some of Oscar De La Hoya's pay-per-view bouts in the mid- to late 1990s.

"I knew how they were marketing me. I don't blame them. I was what you'd call a willing victim," St. John, who turns 42 tomorrow, said during an appearance in Philadelphia last week to promote her new fitness book, "The Knockout Workout."

But life wasn't always lovely for St. John, a divorced, Mexican-American mother of two. In her latest instructional tome, St. John reveals that for years she battled alcoholism and bulimia, the result, she said, of self-esteem issues stemming from a childhood spent with a father who was "an angry and oftentimes violent drunk."

She never used to refer to her ugly past, but now that St. John (45-10-2, 18 KOs) is nearing the end of her boxing career - she is only 2-4 in her last six bouts- she said it's important to let women know that it's not the diet but the mind-set that can set them free.

"Diets don't work, because it's not about the food," said St. John. "It's about how you feel on the inside. Unless you learn to love yourself for exactly who you are, you're never going to stop the cycle of overeating."

Punch lines

Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall is the setting for "Latin Fury 9" on Saturday night, the main event of which has Puerto Rico's Juan Manuel Lopez (25-0, 23 KOs) defending his WBO super bantamweight championship against Olivier Lontchi (18-0, 8 KOs), of Montreal . . . Hall of Famer Pernell Whitaker makes his debut as the trainer of former IBF lightweight champion Paul Spadafora when Spadafora (41-0-1, 16 KOs) squares off against Ivan Bustos (25-12-3, 8 KOs) in a 10-round junior welterweight bout tomorrow night in Spadafora's hometown of Pittsburgh. *

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