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But Breland never became that fighter. Last Friday night, on an undercard in Sacramento, Jorge Vaca of Mexico knocked out Breland in the sixth round of their junior middleweight bout, pummeling him with a series of 26 unanswered blows in the final round. After the fight, Breland announced that he was retiring from boxing. "It's over now," Breland said. "Don't feel sorry for me."
Breland fought 34 times as a professional, winning 30, losing three and drawing one. Besides losing to Vaca, he was knocked out by Marlon Starling and Aaron Davis, both underdogs. Although he won the WBA welterweight title twice, the losses to Starling and Davis branded Breland as a man who, when tested, would cave in. A couple of months ago, Breland's trainer, Emanuel Steward, said of his pupil, "Something is missing."
What Breland was missing was a need to fight. "There's nothing for him to fight against," says Carol Griffin, who taught Breland social studies and who still receives calls from him on Mother's Day. "His family is a truly nice family that cared. He has parents who struggled and worked to give six kids what they could. He's not angry at the world."
Nothing could remake Breland's past and fill him with the compelling rage that fight fans sensed was not within him. For most of his professional career, Breland heard boos from the spectators, primarily because he left lesser fighters standing. "They want from me what they can't have," Breland says of the people whose ardor had turned to disdain. "Greatness."
Plugs on Plugs
British jockeys may be able to rent out space on their pants
Racing purists can buck and snort all they want, but the notion of jockeys wearing advertising, rejected so far by tracks in the U.S., could soon become a reality in Great Britain. The Jockey Club, the sport's governing body in Britain, can still say neigh, but backers of the idea say they hope to see British jockeys displaying advertising logos on the legs of their breeches by early next year.
According to Peter Scudamore, one of Britain's top jockeys, copresident of the Jockeys' Association and a sponsor of the proposal, "The Jockey Club has stressed the need for racing to generate more money within the industry, and this seems an obvious way of achieving that goal." The association's plan calls for some of the profits to be divided among members of the group, but much of the money would be used to finance track improvements and educational programs for jockeys.
If this idea can catch on in stolid old England, how long will it be before it appears in the colonies? Gary Nutting, a writer for The Sporting Life, a British turf newspaper, says, "To be honest with you, it rather seems like something that would have been done in the States by now." With attendance at U.S. tracks dwindling, it may not be long before jockeys in the U.S. start wearing ads for Jockey underwear on their jockey outerwear.