Even at the height of his success as a heavyweight -- which included 30 straight wins to open his career and a title shot against Wladimir Klitschko in 2010 -- many in boxing looked at Eddie Chambers and wondered what he was doing in the division. Rarely was Chambers more than 10 or 15 pounds over the 200-pound cruiserweight limit and sometimes, like in his last fight, a decision defeat to Tomasz Adamek, he was just a couple of pounds past it. A fighter with Chambers' hand speed and skill, some in the industry reasoned, could do some real damage in a smaller, albeit less popular, division.
On Saturday night, Chambers (36-3) will finally cut the extra weight when he makes his cruiserweight debut against Thabiso Mchunu (13-1) at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT (NBC Sports Network, 10:30 pm).
"I've been thinking about [moving down] for a long time," Chambers said. "I always thought that if I could fight guys my own size, I'd have the opportunities and the upper hand."
Moving down in weight can often present challenges. Roy Jones was never the same after dropping back down to light heavyweight after one fight at heavyweight in 2003. Former heavyweight champion Chris Byrd was knocked out by Shaun George after dropping 36-1/2 pounds to get to the light heavyweight limit in 2008. In both cases, the fighters looked sluggish at the lower weight.
On a recent conference call, Chambers said he was having no issues managing his weight.
"At cruiserweight, I feel as comfortable as I did at heavyweight," Chambers said. "My last fight with Adamek, I was (only) at 202. So the transition should be seamless. As far as the experience I had at heavyweight, obviously that will serve me well, however, when you move down a weight class, the guys tend to be a little more elusive and a little more coordinated. No one is going to have a speed advantage over me, but they are slightly faster (than heavyweights). So I have to prepare to be faster as well."
Main Events, which signed Chambers shortly after the loss to Adamek, did so with the intention of elevating him to a cruiserweight title fight, quickly. Main Events CEO Kathy Duva told SI.com that while ideally she would like to lure a title holder to the U.S. -- most of the top ranked cruiserweights are based in Europe -- Chambers made it clear to her that "he has no trepidation fighting overseas. He is happy to go there."
"Our gameplan was to bring Eddie to cruiserweight to see if he could dominate the division, because we all think he can," said Duva. "The goal is to get that title."
First though, he will have to get past Mchunu, an untested power puncher.
"We'll be prepared," said Chambers trainer, James Ali Bashir. "This fight is probably one where there's going to be an aggressive guy (Mchunu) against a smooth boxer (Chambers). But we will be prepared to face off against any opposition that they might bring. Most of [Mchunu's] fights have been in South Africa, and he hasn't faced the kind of versatility that he'll be facing with Eddie Chambers."
-- Chris Mannix