NEW YORK -- On the streets of North Philadelphia Malik Scott honed his craft, working, diligently, painstakingly, under the watchful eye of trainer Fred Jenkins at the dusty gym on 26th and Jefferson. His toughness came from the streets, from years of pummeling anyone who dared mock his brother, Jamel Rucker, who battled a bone disorder that affected his gait. "Make fun of him," Scott said with conviction, "and I was going to put my foot in your ass."
His polish came later, after countless hours of work. Scott first came to the gym when he was 12, a tall, rangy would-be fighter who would eventually sprout to 6-foot-5. He took to boxing quickly, falling in love with it, Scott said, and "never cheating on her." At 19, Scott was the No. 1 rated amateur heavyweight, headed to the 2000 Olympic Trials where he was narrowly outpointed in the Finals.
He turned pro soon after, putting together an eight-year, 32-fight winning streak, showcasing smooth skills along the way. He sparred with the likes of Lennox Lewis ("The only fighter who ever beat my ass," Scott said), Joe Hanks and Ola Afolabi, studying them and picking up tricks along the way.
Then, in 2009, he quit.
There were reasons for not fighting, Scott said. Injuries. Promotional issues. A lack of quality fights. But really, he walked. He was done. The passion for the sport had diminished. The fire flickered out.
"I was frustrated at my promoters and my managers," Scott told SI.com. "I was on a lot of rinky-dink shows. I don't want to say they were meaningless fights but they weren't the fights that I wanted. I got frustrated with that. But you know what? I have nobody to point the finger at but myself."
He was idle for three years, waiting, he said, for the fire to come back. "I always knew I wanted to get back into boxing," Scott said. "When I left I was going at 50 percent. Now, I'm going at 150 percent. I knew when I came back I wasn't going to be playing around."
Scott returned in 2012, winning three straight fights against middling opposition. He teamed up with Hall of Fame trainer Jesse Reid, who has pushed him mentally and ironed out his weaknesses. He got hooked on the sport again, too. He started to crave big fights.
On Saturday, Scott (35-0) will look to take a big step towards a heavyweight tile shot many believed he would get long ago when he takes on Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, N.Y. (10:30 pm, NBC Sports Network). Scott isn't the headliner. Glazkov (14-0) is a hyped prospect promoter Main Events is hoping to guide to a title shot. Scott wasn't the first choice -- or second, or third -- either. Main Events practically put a Craigslist ad up looking for opponents before settling on Scott.
Why? The book on Scott is he is boring, that he is not television friendly. It's a label Scott has earned -- he has just 12 knockouts -- and one he doesn't necessarily disagree with.
"I can understand where that criticism comes from," Scott said. "I think at times it's true. To take it personal when people are critical, it's ludicrous. I know how inconsistent my performances have been. My problem is with people who say Malik Scott can't fight at all. You can't go that far. I'm one of the best boxers in the world, especially the heavyweight division."
Scott said his fight with Glazkov won't be boring, if for no other reason than Glazkov won't allow it.
"Glazkov and [trainer] Don Turner are going to bring the fight to me," Scott said. "I'm expecting fireworks. You are going to see two people giving as much as they are taking it. I believe I am the best. I know who I am fighting. I'm expecting catastrophe. I trained my body and my mind to get through this, to go against all these odds."
There is a plan now, Scott said. Win, and move on. Win, and look for bigger challenges. Win, and start eyeballing a Klitschko for a world title shot.
"You look at all the prospects, no one has been in a fight," Scott said. "Bryant Jennings, he beat Bowie Tupou, and we know what Bowie bring to the table. Nothing. Deontay Wilder, he fights nobodies. David Price, he fights nobodies. I should be in a title eliminator in my next fight. After that, a Klitschko. It's title shot, title shot, title shot."
"This Malik Scott would kill the old Malik Scott. This is how I eat, this is how my kids eat. The pride of my name and my family is at stake. If he [Glazkov] is going to take my world, he is going to have to beat my ass. He is not going to have look for me, either. But he is going to have to work for it."
Sergio Martinez-Gennady Golovkin?
The expectation is that if middleweight champion Sergio Martinez beats Martin Murray in April, he will face Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a high profile rematch in the fall. But while Martinez-Chavez II remains a strong option, the chances of seeing Martinez-Golovkin is increasing. According to multiple sources close to Martinez, the middleweight king has expressed strong interest in facing Golovkin in his next fight. His promoter, Lou DiBella, and his advisor, Sampson Lewkowicz, prefer Chavez, who brings millions more to the table. But Martinez -- who has never shied away from a challenge -- has been monitoring Golovkin's rise and is very interested in making the fight.
And here's how it could happen: Take the fight to Argentina. As SI.com reported, Martinez is getting an estimated $5 million from the Argentinean government for staging the Murray fight in Buenos Aires. If it would put up a similar amount for a Golovkin fight, and if Golovkin agreed to fight there, Martinez-Golovkin could happen.
In an email, Golovkin's promoter, K2's Tom Loeffler, offered a succinct response to fighting in Argentina.
"GGG would fight Sergio in his kitchen in Argentina if he wanted to," Loeffler said.
Broner says he blood tested. USADA says he didn't
Last week, while promoting his lightweight title defense against Gavin Rees, Adrien Broner was asked about the need for blood testing in boxing.
"I did it in the DeMarco fight," Broner said. "I'd like to do it every fight. I think it helps keep the game clean."
Later, Broner was asked how many times he was tested before the DeMarco fight.
"Who knows?" Broner said, tapping his arm. "Stick me with the needle. I stick people with the jab."
Boxing desperately needs more top fighters submitting to blood testing, so Broner's position is admirable. If it were true. According to a spokesman for the United States Anti-Doping Agency, USADA did not do any testing for the Broner-DeMarco fight, nor did they collect any samples.
HBO at a crossroads
Without question, the defection of Floyd Mayweather to rival Showtime is a body blow for HBO, which has seen its status as the industry leader in boxing diminished by an aggressive Showtime network that has, at the very least, leveled the playing field. While losing Mayweather is not the nuclear disaster some have painted it to be -- HBO still has a robust stable that includes Manny Pacquiao, Andre Ward and Sergio Martinez, after all -- it certainly has knocked the network off its pedestal and put it into a dogfight.
But losing Mayweather could, and should, be an opportunity. Showtime is accruing stars, sure. But it remains to be seen if they will have the resources to put its stars in big matchups. Lucas Matthysse is one of the most exciting fighters in boxing. In his last fight, on Showtime, he knocked out Mike Dallas, who had no business being in the ring with him. Amir Khan, who defected from HBO last year, fought converted lightweight Carlos Molina in his first fight on Showtime and could fight Julio Diaz, who recently was clobbered by Kendall Holt in a third round knockout, in his next one. That's not to say there won't be megafights on Showtime -- a rematch between Khan and Danny Garcia looms large later this year -- but several industry sources have questioned whether Showtime can sustain this free-spending-on-stars model for the next few years.
What HBO can do is this: Forget about stars. Build stars. And build them through quality matchups. HBO has a sterling reputation when it comes to molding young fighters into marketable ones; Mayweather, Khan and Garcia were all built on HBO. But in recent years HBO has taken a Chamberlain-like appeasement policy with managers and promoters, and the quality of the fights has suffered. Unless you are related to Sakio Bika.
No more. There are plenty of monstrously talented fighters out there, willing to fight anyone, waiting to be molded. Gennady Golovkin is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport, and will fight anyone from 154 to 168-pounds. Sergey Kovalev is a wrecking ball of a light heavyweight -- ask Gabriel Campillo -- with a chilling backstory (he once killed an opponent in the ring) and an engaging personality. Gabriel Rosado stormed through the 154-pound division last year and would make great fights with anyone in it.
Focus on the fights. Forget about the fighters.
Ten Things I Think, and yes I'm ripping off Peter King