Chauncy and the Chocolate Factory
By Richard E. Baker on March 10, 2020
Food chemists love him. Farmers would starve if he was their only client. (Richard E. Baker)
Fans of Spokane heavyweight Chauncy Welliver (57-12-5) are thrilled to see him return to the ring May 30th in Libby, Montana. He has always been a local star, a lovable teddy bear with a honey-eating grin that can sweet talk people into anything. Floyd Patterson, after his second defeat by Sonny Liston, said, “I love boxing, and if there was no money in it I’d stick to it anyway.” Chauncy has suffered the same disease. He has attempted many ways to make money in the game, but usually falls short. He seldom gets enough money to promote a fight, occasionally fights for free, and lets boxers train in his gym for nothing. He is so dedicated to the City of Spokane, Washington, that he occasionally does advertising to promote the city—for free. He would be wise to take a few business classes at the local community college. The only way he knows to make any money is in the ring. “I am a fighter,” he says. “It’s the only thing I understand.” Age does not respect such an attitude. This is about his third farewell fight. Like many aging rock stars he can simplify things by booking a final appearance every year until his brains dribble from his nose and run down his broken body. Apparently suicide is a personal choice. Somewhere there must be an entertainment agent that recognizes his potential and can cash in on his talent. The city of Spokane would be wise to hire him—that means to pay him—as a spokesperson.
Chauncy has always been more of a world-class personality rather than a world-class boxer, although he has done better than most. He never appeared to take the sport seriously, in part because he is a huge and fleshy man with sagging muscles and breasts second only to Dolly Parton. Although he can fight, and has remarkably quick hands, he simply does not look like a fighter. This has cost him several big money fights, even championship fights, for decent money. If a champ beat him it would seem as if he had beaten the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man—not much of a victory. If Chauncy won, the former champion would be discredited for life for beating an out-of-shape fat guy. Chauncy has been offered several title fights over the years, but only as a standby should some other suitable and muscled opponent not be found. Unfortunately other opponents, many who did not fight nearly as well as Chauncy, but looked physically better, were always available.
I covered Chauncy’s pro debut fight at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, Washington in 2001. He was an energetic kid who led with his chin and clowned about the ring, but knocked out 1-0 Thomas Enyon in 41 seconds of round 1. Not bad for a kid having fun. That was followed by five more wins against various pickings from the vegetable patch. Chauncy was learning on the job and was quickly gaining a following, more as an oddity than as a boxer. He should have been the first Butterbean. He was a better boxer than the giant legume and had a more charming personality. He could have made a decent living as a boxing novelty act.
I always thought he had some potential. He could not smash a fly with a baseball bat, but he could learn. His punches were arm punches. They were so fast that if he learned to put just a part of his weight behind them he would be devastating. He managed to get better through the years and eventually amassed 23 KO’s. He was also in remarkably good shape for a man whose dietary needs during training consisted of Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, and Twinkies, the healthiest products he would eat. I drove him to many boxing events over the years and our first stop was always the local Mini-Mart where he stocked up on cases of energy drinks, Cheetos, potato chips, various candies, and other foods containing no natural ingredients. In all the years I have known him I have never seen him eat a single healthy meal. Gummy worms are his favorite protein. Food chemists love him. Farmers would starve with him as their only client.
With dedication, a decent work ethic, and healthy food, he might have become another Adam Kownacki. He had several bright spots during his career and made a few bucks, not enough to put him on easy street but some cash that might have been put aside for when his career ended. Boxers saving money are as rare as politicians telling the truth or Harvey Weinstein being innocent of sexual misconduct.
He beat Bert Cooper (38-23) and Moyoyo Mensah (21-8-1) in 2012, Chad Van Sickle (21-5-3) and Galen Brown twice in 2011, and Daniel Tai (15-4-2) in 2010, He even beat the rising star King Ipitan (19-4-1) the same year, knocking him down to serfdom. His last two comeback fights were against 7-0 Eric Hempstead, who came out of retirement to box his friend Chauncy a week before the bout, and Ruben Roundstone (0-2) who was so broke he ran out of gas on the way to the fight.
Prior to that he had lost five straight bouts. He failed to win a round in his loss to Alexander Ustinov (29-1) and the local Russian media said it was the “Fifth loss in past two years for faded overweight New Zealand heavyweight Welliver, who fails to win a round.” (Every big guy outside of Russia is from New Zealand.) He even lost to 6-0 Sonny Williams and to Sherman Williams (34-11-2), a credible fight, followed by a loss to 4-0 Kyotaro Fujimoto, an embarrassing loss.
Welliver has never lacked for guts. He broke his arm in the second round in his loss to Billy Wright (41-4-0) and fought for several more rounds before, under his protests, his corner stopped the fight. His arm hung like a landed salmon, but he still attempted to use it to push upstream.
One of his biggest assets, and failings, is his durable chin. In 74 bouts he has only been KO’d three times. One can beat him in the head with a 4X4 all day long and do no immediate damage. The lasting implications might be something different. He is not as sharp as he once was and if he continues to fight it won’t be long before he thinks he is a can-can dancer in Paris—a really BIG can-can dancer.
The problem with getting older isn’t with getting older—it is with enthusiasm, or the lack of it. One grows tired of work, especially monotonous rote work. Most artists have that problem. Hundreds of thousands of punches are thrown to become a decent boxer; hundreds of thousands of notes played to become a musician; hundreds of thousands of brush strokes to become a painter. Not practicing may not hurt many artists, but is deadly to athletes. I called Chauncy several times to learn more about his plans. Every time I called he was out doing road work so some enthusiasm remains. For a 37-year- old boxer who weighs 380 pounds, that is determination.
When I finally reached him he explained his reasoning for taking the fight. He remains a sly fellow. He says he wants the toughest opponent he can get for the Libby fight. Of course that is just P.R. He is too smart a cookie for that. He wants someone he can beat. If he wins he hopes to fight, and beat, 19-0 Chris Lovejoy. A win would place him for one last big shot. Last year he was offered a fight with Trevor Bryon. He now wants to accept that fight and stage the bout in Spokane. “Imagine,” he said. “That’s the Super Bowl of boxing right in my hometown.”
Maybe he can pull it off. One thing is certain, what might be pie in the sky for some people is just a snack to Chauncy, crust and all.