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Published: Sunday, 5/21/2006

A WBO champ, at least for a while

In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Donald Emmons recently talked with Monroe native Bronco McKart about his recent return to the ring after a 19-month hiatus.

Bronco Banyon McKart looks good. More importantly, the former professional junior-middleweight champion feels good these days.

McKart, the well-conditioned 35-year-old, fought his first pro bout in more than a year just over a week ago when he defeated Jose Spearman by unanimous decision in an eight-round super-lightweight bout at the Sports Arena.

With 54 pro fights (48-6, 31 knockouts) to his name, McKart returns to the ring with a renewed spirit after spending months dealing with some issues in court. He resolved some contractual matters with boxing promoter Don King during that time and he has also been dealing with going through a divorce.

McKart's first fight since losing a 12-round decision to Travis Simms in a light-middleweight match Oct. 2, 2004, was a step in the right direction. It produced a sense of normalcy for McKart, who began his pro boxing career in 1992.

McKart admits the clock is ticking regarding his chance to win another title. It's been 10 years (March 1, 1996) since he KO'd Santos Cardona in the ninth round of a light-middleweight bout to become a WBO champion. He suffered a disappointing loss to Winky Wright only a few months later to lose his title and all that comes with being a champion.

Nevertheless, he remains a champion to his loyal supporters in Monroe, particularly his three children - daughters Whitleigh, 17, and Brooklyn, 6, and son Banyon, 8.

"ABOUT THREE OR four days before the fight [against Jose Spearman] I said to my girlfriend, 'I'm kind of nervous because I'm moving up to 168, fighting a bigger guy and I haven't seen him lately and I don't know what he's doing and how he's looking.' I was taking a risky fight, but I think with my overall performance I was satisfied. I wasn't pleased. I think if I was a little sharper I would have stopped him in six rounds."

"[DURING THE 19-month layoff] I was in a contractual thing with Don King and I was in the mist of a divorce - all kind of personal things going on in my life. Boxing is a sport that's 75 percent mental, 25 percent physical. I didn't want to go into the ring not 100 percent all the way around. Some fights fell through but I stayed in the gym for 19 months. I worked out in the gym and I wasn't out of shape. I think my body showed that the other night."

"[RETIREMENT] CROSSED MY mind, but I watched these guys like Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas and I felt like with one or two more fights I could beat these guys right now. I said, 'What the heck, I still have that fire in me and 10 years from now it might consume me.' But I'd want to know that I did all I could do and gave it my best and went for what I can receive, which is that championship. I can live with that and whatever happens."

"I THINK DEVIN [Vargas] has a lot of talent. I think he has a chance to really do something. He's got the ability and the skills, but I don't know if he has the work ethic and the discipline to make it. It doesn't show on his body."

"I'VE NEVER BEEN out of shape since 1992. I may have not always been in top shape, but I've never been out of shape. I feel like right now I can take on any 21 or 22-year-old anywhere and put them through a workout and I guarantee I'll break them down."

"I DON'T DRINK. I don't smoke. I don't do drugs. I don't party and I try to eat right. I'm not going to lie, I eat junk food after my fights. After my fight on Saturday I've been eating horribly. I do that for five or six days and then I'll stop. Then I'll go back to running, doing sit-ups and push-ups. It's hard to get in shape, but it's easy to stay in shape. That's the thing, I keep myself ready to go."

"THE FIRST FIGHT [against Winky Wright] I'll still tell you I won that fight. I shouldn't have ever left that ring without my title. For a month I woke up thinking they're going to call me and tell me, 'OK, Bronco, the joke's over.' Or one of those judges is going to come out and admit they took some money. The second fight was the best fight he fought against me. He fought a good fight and I give him credit for that one. The third fight I lost on a disqualification for low blows. He's dominated everybody else he's fought. He never dominated me."

"I ALWAYS DREAMED about being a world champion and about making the money that goes along with it. When I lost my world title to Winky Wright the first time we fought, if I beat that guy that night my next fight I was going to be set [financially]. Now he's got it all. That fight was it."

"THIS IS HOME. Monroe is home. I love it. My family is here. My children are here. My friends are here. They treat me good here. I can walk into a clothing store and say, 'I like that jacket right there, but I didn't bring any cash with me, can I just take it and come back tomorrow.' They'll say, 'Go ahead, champ.' People here know my word is good. I've always called it a modern-day Mayberry."

"I FIGURE I'D like to be in a major fight by the end of this year. If not, within one year. I've got a one-year window."

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302.



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