Boxing once held a special place in the pantheon of sport. It was revered for its epic clashes between iconic fighters. Today, the sport is desperately in need of a prize fighter that people can connect with. Bermane “B. Ware” Stiverne might just be that fighter.

The sport of boxing is one of the most ancient forms of contest known to civilization. Ancient Greece accepted the discipline as an Olympic game in the year 688 BC. The modern sport of boxing was organised by the United Kingdom. Throughout much of the 20th century, boxing had a string of massive stars that brought the sport global attention. Boxing has long relied upon heavyweight fighters competing in highly-promoted matches to raise awareness and generate millions in revenue.

Today, the sport is struggling to find a heavyweight boxer worthy of being crowned the king of the so-called gentleman’s sport. Thanks to Bermane “B.Ware” Stiverne, that search may be coming to an end.

Born to Brawl

Bermane was born in the city of Plaine-du-Nord in Haiti. He was the youngest of a family of 14 children, with eight sisters and five brothers. When he was 10, the family relocated to Miami, Florida with 12 of his 13 siblings. As a young Haitian living in South Florida, Bermane was the victim of bullying by classmates and other neighborhood children. In an effort to improve his self-confidence and defend himself, he took up karate and kickboxing.
Boxing and football would prove to be his favorite pursuits during his youth. According to Bermane (as told to Bleacher Report), karate and kickboxing were useful pursuits, but “that didn’t work. All the kicks and all that, I didn’t like that. That’s when I pursued football.” He went on to play football in high school, becoming a star linebacker in the process. After high school, he was offered a scholarship from Nick Saban to attend Michigan State University and play football.

A Boxer by Chance

While he was in college at Michigan State, his football career was derailed by a knee injury. With his football career at an end, he returned to Miami and began working as a telemarketer. Boxing, only entered into his life by chance. As a 19-year-old, he was a late arrival to the sport. Many of boxing’s greatest champions have been groomed from a young age to fight in the ring.

Bermane initially used boxing as a way of keeping his weight from getting out of control. On his way home from his job as a telemarketer, he’d stop at a local boxing gym to stay fit. It wasn’t long before his physical abilities and his mental focus proved useful in the boxing ring. While most fans of the sport and trainers don’t see a correlation between football and boxing, Bermane argues otherwise.

He credits his time as a football player with preparing him for a career in the ring. He claims that football aided him because it gave him the focus and attention to detail that he needed.

“The concentration, the training…you’ve got to remember the plays. It’s just like boxing. When you fight, your eyes outside the ring are on the trainer. Whatever he sees and tells you when you get back to the corner, you have to remember.”

Not Just a Slobber-Knocker

Perhaps the most astonishing character trait that Bermane possesses is his cerebral approach to his sport. Most fans think of boxing as a test of physical prowess. Many view it as a sport where two men exchange blows until one of them is no longer standing, or lands more blows than his opponent. Bermane believes otherwise. He believes that success in boxing depends largely upon psychological approach.

His view is that a fighter that cannot focus, listen, and comprehend the training regimens and instructions in the corner (during a bout) is doomed to failure. Without these mental abilities, fighters fail to adapt to an opponent’s strategy changes during the match. For his part, he likes to think of himself as a psychological boxer. In his own words, he is “a laid-back fighter. Once I let my hands go, I don’t let them go for nothing.”

Reluctant Champion

Bermane is blunt and honest when he speaks about his sport. On May 10, 2014, he became the first Haitian-born boxer to win the World Boxing Council heavyweight title when he secured a technical knockout (TKO) victory over Chris Arreola. Now 35, the WBC world champion, and boasting a 24-1-1 record, he is on top of the boxing world. However, it wasn’t that long ago that he was questioning his future in the sport.

When asked about his sport, he is not shy in telling people he’s used to it, but doesn’t love it. He admits that it is hard to focus on the goal of title bouts and prize fights when these events occur just once or twice a year. The rest of his life is dedicated to training and putting in long hours in the gym in the hope of landing the big matches.

There was a point in his career when he considered leaving the sport. After five years as an amateur on the Canadian national team, he went pro. Early on, he amassed a 12-0-0 record in the first two years of professional boxing. Then he was knocked out by a journeyman boxer in 2007. That was followed by five consecutive wins, and then another hurdle. He was held to a draw in 2009 with a boxer who was 17-17-1 in his career.

He has stated that he considered retirement at this point, but decided to continue. As the WBC champion, he holds the title vacated by one of boxing’s last, great heavyweights (Vladimir Klitschko). He is the only boxer other than Klitschko’s brother, Vitali, to hold a prestigious heavyweight crown.

Bermane, who promotes his fights under his nickname “B. Ware,” stands at the peak of the mountain in boxing alongside an established prize fighter in the younger Klitschko. Someday, he may have the opportunity to face the younger Klitschko brother for the undisputed crown in boxing. For the time being, his focus remains on his next opponent. Bermane is expected to face Deontay Wilder in the coming months to defend his WBC crown. Ever the psychological fighter, his focus remains right where it should be. His next fight is the only fight that matters.