Deeper Than Boxing
Boxing is very different from most sports. A fighter may have a team of people around him, but when it comes down to it, it is only him and his opponent in the ring. In the world of sports, many athletes fear being independent. Claude Staten, Jr., 28-year-old bantamweight boxer from Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York, stands alone.
In a recent interview, I asked the boxer known as Claudie Boy what steered him in the direction of boxing. Boxing is very generational. Most fighters have fathers that were boxers, and have been in the sport their whole lives. Well, Claudie Boy was raised by his grandmother. His mother had him at the young age of fourteen, and could not take care of him. He dropped out of high school in his freshman year. As a teen, Staten served 5 years on probation and 40 days at Rikers Island for drug charges. He sold drugs to try to move his grandmother and himself out of one bedroom, where they shared a twin-sized bed and into an apartment. He felt that he had to. I wondered when was it that he chose boxing and why. After getting out of jail, Claudie said that he knew that he had to do something different. He had always watched boxing. He loved Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker and watched old tapes of Sugar Ray Robinson. So, Staten changed his devotion. Instead, he redirected all of his energy to boxing. More than anything, he felt like boxing gave him control on his life. “It's not like football, where your teammate can fumble the ball and cost the game. Or basketball, where a guy can blow the game winning shot, and the same thing in baseball. Boxing doesn’t give you something that you didn’t work for. I can control my destiny.” said Staten.
Not only did Staten elect to control his destiny in the ring, but also outside of it. He handles all of his promotion, endorsements and contracts. On his own, Staten researches and selects his opponents, and does his own financial backing. Claudie Boy is a one-man team.
In 2012, Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions announced that they would be bring fights to the newly-built Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Claude took the opportunity, himself, to speak directly with the promotion execs and sell himself as a fighter that should be on the undercard. He was able to negotiate a deal where he had to sell $10,000 in tickets or he was to be dropped from the fight. Well, in only nine days, Claudie Boy had already sold $14,000 in tickets. He went on to make his professional debut in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York in March of 2013. Staten fought on the undercard for the bout that featured Bernard Hopkins's legendary fight that made him the oldest fighter in history to win a major boxing title. Claude Staten, Jr. made his own history that night, too.
There are great difficulties in being the athlete and the manager, but Claude has overcome those challenges, thus far. He sees managing his own career as his way of being true to himself like his inspiration, Allen Iverson. Staten had the pleasure of meeting Iverson in Atlanta, GA over dinner. He was amazed by how after all of these years, Iverson remained true to himself (even still wearing the 4XL baggy sweats, durag and fitted cap). Well, that's what made Allen Iverson a cultural icon, and that's also a goal of Staten's.
“To be a champion, in my opinion, is to be a cultural icon.”
Although Staten grew up on the East Coast, he has been living in Los Angeles, California since 2012. A part of his daily routine is to go jogging during the early mornings and late nights in downtown Los Angeles. There he became familiar with the ridiculous amount of homeless people in a section called Skid Row. "I hate to see people homeless," said Staten. "I didn't have much but I knew that I had to do something to help them." he continued. An amateur at the time, Claudie Boy spoke with a restaurant owner about gaining access to a restaurant depot where he could buy food at wholesale prices. With that, he provided thousands of sandwiches, donated hundreds of t-shirts and pairs of sneakers, and even had local barbers give free haircuts to the homeless. In the vicious winter of 2014, he teamed up with a local Brooklyn church to provide hot soup for the homeless in New York. "I'm comfortable with the homeless. I feel like in order for me to stay grounded, I need to be around them to make that impact." Stated said.
Mustaf: So, what are your goals in boxing? And what do you plan to accomplish outside of boxing?
Staten: So to be notable in the boxing world….It’s to stay unbeaten for my whole career. And obviously to be a champion. You have to say that or no one will take you serious, if you don’t. But, it’s deeper than just winning a world title or championship belt. I mean, is it good to win a belt, the hardware? Yes. Do people pride themselves too much on that? Yeah. “I want to win a belt. I want to win a world title.” That’s the general consensus of how you know that you’ve made it. That’s bullshit. So, if I was to say that my main goal is to be a world champion, I’d be halfway lying to you. But, that’s what any fighter will say. To be a champion is not defined by a belt, a piece of hardware. To be a champion, in my opinion, is to be a cultural icon. And to change my life by accumulating enough finances, enough money to change my life and my loved ones’ lives, and to help people. That’s a champion. So I’m boxing to accumulate financial stability. Obviously, I would love to make billions of dollars and push my brand and my package to make as much money as possible, and hopefully, if it’s in the cards for me, to develop myself into a cultural icon, in my own right. That’s what I’m boxing for. That’s why I say it’s deeper than boxing. Boxing was my distraction from destruction. Maybe I’d be…I’m pretty sure I’d be in jail by now if it wasn’t for boxing. So, it’s deep for me in why I chose this.
After a strong debut followed by a draw, both in his hometown, Claudie Boy took a two-year break from the sport. Not only did Staten learn the news that he was the father to a baby girl, but his beloved grandmother was also diagnosed with early stages of dementia. “I owe my grandma everything," he explained. "I hold her down and take care of her with all of the things she needs, but I still feel that I haven’t done enough for her that she deserves. She’s 80. So, I feel like I’m racing against time to do that. I love that woman. And when life hit me, life hit me and I couldn’t box.”
There is more to life than just boxing for Staten. Although he values his career as a professional fighter, he refers to boxing as the vehicle to get him to where he wants to be in life.
This past summer, Claude made his return to the ring, defeating his opponent by knockout, at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. That outing was followed up by another win by knocking his opponent out cold, only twenty-five seconds into the first round! Claudie Boy Staten looks to compete in at least another fight before the year's end. One thing for sure is that regardless of the outcome, this guy is a true People's Champ.