The sport of boxing is littered with stories of inspiration both in and out the ring.
During a recent conversation with Alexandre Choko, creator of “The Future of Boxing”, I picked the first-time author’s brain about what exactly the process of compiling his first piece of literature entailed.
Featuring 55 candid interviews with some of boxing’s most colorful and recognized luminaries throughout its 324 pages, the book serves as an enjoyable read while also offering up an inside look into the passion and persistence that Choko mustered in finding a way to make such a piece a reality.
Choko grew up primarily in Montreal, Quebec while also spending some of his childhood in France. His connection to the sport of boxing was a natural fit given a fighting history on his father’s side that saw most of his admiration bestowed upon his grandfather.
In 1992, at the age of 17, Choko joined TriStar gym, a facility that was very prominent in kickboxing at the time. As his passion for boxing continued to grow, he later found himself trying on his promotional hat, as he estimates having done about 60 shows of amateur and pro boxing cards across Quebec.
Choko ended up purchasing TriStar in 2001 but soon found himself thirsting for more knowledge of the sport that he was so closely connected.
“I realized that the only way for me to learn more about the sport that I loved was to go to school,” Choko would tell me during a recent conversation. “Like trying to find a Harvard of boxing. But, as well you know, it doesn’t exist.”
Not being deterred, Choko remembers taking inspiration from his family, who had all written books about their own vested interests, whether it was architecture, movie posters, or fine wine. And soon the idea of writing his own book came to him, as he became set on finding a way to bring his passion to light.
“I drafted one list of questions back in 2004 that I thought was going to answer not only the quest that I had, but was also going to allow for me to better understand what was their background, how did they get involved in boxing,” Choko stated when reflecting on his initial goal of connecting with some of boxing’s most colorful figures.
“I wanted to know about the human being, and what motivated them to become champions in their own field,” he continued.
After getting connected with his own agent, Ed Brophy from the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Choko eventually got the wheels in motion and found himself immersed on a five-year journey across the globe that saw him coming face to face with past and present legends of the sport who he grew up admiring.
All one has to do is flip through the pages of “The Future of Boxing” to get a sense of just how undaunted Choko was with his quest. Not to be without its star power, the book includes candid one on ones with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Julio Cesar Chavez, George Foreman, Roy Jones Jr., Alexis Arguello, Evander Holyfield, and many others.
Asked what individual surprised him the most during their time together, Choko offered up a surprising response.
“One who recently passed away, Hector Camacho, was so smart in his answers,” Choko revealed. “Because you think of him as flamboyant and this and that. But he was very, very interesting.”
Asked to elaborate on his time interviewing Foreman, Choko seemed to be taken aback by the former two-time heavyweight champion’s lurking presence.
“Honestly, at first I was very intimidated,” Choko admits. “I remember looking at him and when he would frown, you felt like ‘Did I just ask the wrong question or something?’. But he ended up being very, very generous with his thoughts. I mean, this guy just has wisdom. Probably because of the fact that he made a big pause in his career and took the time to reflect on what he wanted in life. He really knows what he’s talking about.”
Included in the book are personal highlights from two iconic figures who passed away last year; boxing historian Bert Sugar and renowned trainer and HBO color analyst Emanuel Steward.
I asked Choko if it was bittersweet to have included them in his book and he seemed to share another side of himself.
“It’s worse than that,” said Choko. “Because, I am saddened. Because those guys became friends. Emanuel Steward would come to my house when he would come to Montreal. Even if he would be walking here in the MGM I would text him and say ‘Emanuel, you look great’ and he would text me back right away ‘Thank you Alex. Always a pleasure’ or ‘You are the best’.”
Sugar was beloved by fight fans across the globe for his affable nature and Choko seems honored to have gotten to know him so well in his later years.
“Bert and I had some very fun moments,” Choko continued. “We had parties in New York, fun times at the Hall of Fame, nice times with my wife and my daughter when they reopened 5th Street Gym in Miami. These guys, especially Bert and Emanuel, really became friends. I guess they valued the work and the effort that I was doing to put this thing together.”
Turning to another experience, Choko spoke with great fondness of his time with one of this generation’s finest talents, Roy Jones Jr.
“Roy Jones, an interview that was supposed to last thirty minutes, I ended up spending the whole day with him,” Choko claimed. “It was very special to be able to witness how he was so generous with his time. Because we went to shelter home and met with some kids. I want the fans to know that all these guys really had their hands on their heart and they were speaking the truth.”
Choko estimates that he traveled over 90,000 miles across the world in compiling the book and that there were no precedents set for any of his interviews. Sometimes the dialogue took place at the International Boxing Hall of Fame while other moments saw him inside of the pugilist’s home, hotel, or even their car.
Having now seen his vision become a reality, Choko admits that his quest is far from over. His future plans will be seeing him promoting the book at various events, just as was the case this past month when he was present inside of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for fight week leading up to Juan Manuel Marquez’s dramatic knockout over Manny Pacquiao in their fourth meeting.
It seems like a daunting task, but after everything he has been through to complete “The Future of Boxing”, Choko seems determined to get the word out.
“This is a self-published book,” Choko explained. “I have nine investors that believed in me. I owed it to them to make it happen and to make sure that we do really well with the book. But most importantly, my mission is to make sure that every boxing fan on earth knows about this book now. They will spend one on one time with their most favorite fighters and learn about the future of our beloved sport.”
The Future of Boxing is available at Futureofboxing.com