By Ray Kilgore
Cerreso Fort seems to have it all: an athletic body, power, good looks,
and dedication. Can it get any better? Yes! He's tried other sports, but
found boxing to be his one love and is willing to give fans entertainment
that will keep them coming for more.
A Hollywood story
Cerreso Fort is only 19 but his life reads like a Hollywood script. His
mother was 15 when she gave birth to him, and when he was 2 weeks old,
they were homeless because she refused to follow house rules and listen.
Her defiance at home carried over into the streets, and she got a reputation
as being able to "hang with the bad-boys." Fort's mother engaged
in criminal activity until it finally caught up with her, and she was
placed in jail; but she faced bigger problems than jail when authorities
had difficulties finding a home for Fort.
Usually when a child is removed from their parents, they are placed on
a "24-hour police hold" and Child Protective services are called.
The routine is to place the child in shelter pending the first court appearance.
Fort was lucky! Police officers called his grandmother (on his mother's
side) to ask if she was willing to care for him. She said NO!
Authorities then called Fort's grandmother, Pearl (on his father's side)
but she hadn't a clue who the baby was. The only grandson she knew was
Fort's older brother, now 23, and plays college basketball. Pearl told
officers she didn't have a 2 week old grandson, and hung up the phone.
They called again, this time telling her
if she wasn't interested in caring for Fort, he would be turned over to
Chicago's Social Services department, and placed in foster care; Pearl
(not knowing if Fort was really her grandson) didn't like the thought
of any child being placed in foster care, and came and got him an hour
Fort's still amazed how his parents neglected to tell Pearl about him,
but he's more thankful she took the risk and picked him up. "I don't
know what would have happened if I ended up in foster care. I just don't
know what would have happened" says a reflective Fort.
Pearl raised Fort until he was age 10, and then sent him to MN to live
with his aunt. "She [ Pearl ] made me move to save my life."
Save his life from Chicago's rough neighborhoods and from Fort himself
because his aggressive behavior of fighting 13 year olds at age 8 could
have lead to bigger problems.
The "argument" that changed his life
One day while driving home, Fort and his aunt got into an argument about
something he doesn't recall. "She was yelling at me, and I really
didn't want to hear it" says the talkative boxer. In the mist of
her "yelling," his aunt, for no unknown reason, blurted out
"there's a boxing gym" as they drove by B.T. Bombers. Fort admits
he wasn't interested in boxing after listening to her aunt's "yelling."
But several weeks later, Fort and his friend Roosevelt, and Roosevelt's
friend went into B.T. Bombers, a gym owned by Clem Tucker. Fort recalls
the gym being extremely hot, but also found what Tucker was showing him
in terms of boxing interesting. Tucker told the boys if they came to the
gym for a month straight, they could go with him to a boxing tournament
Fort was excited about the trip, but it was short-lived when his aunt
told him Florida was out of the question. Fort told her he was quitting
boxing, and stayed away from the gym for two weeks. For reasons unknown
to him Fort went back to the gym for two weeks straight prompting his
aunt to first see he was determined to box, and change her mind about
the trip to Florida.
Fort talks as if going to Florida happened last night. "Man they
had three rings and it was intense boxing" he says with an excited
voice. He contends he was getting his feet wet in the sport, and didn't
understand the difference between "star" fighters from and "regular"
boxers as evident by his meeting with former champ Zab Judah at the Florida
tournament "I met Zab and thought he would be my opponent so I wasn't
interested in meeting him. I am looking at him [Judah], as if we were
going to be fighting soon."
It wasn't until months later when Fort was watching Showtime boxing that
he realized who Judah was. "I was like 'that's the guy I met'"
he says laughing. "I didn't know I was just getting into boxing."
The making of a solid boxer
Ever sense Fort took up boxing at age 13, he's been on a mission to be
the best. He lost a "disputed decision" to current Olympic hopeful
Daniel Jacobs several months ago, but says many fans told him they felt
he (Fort) won. It was reported by the Pioneer Press in 2001 that local
coaches were attempting to "lure" Fort from coach Tucker because
of Fort's natural talent for the sport.
Fort says he has over 70 bouts with six defeats, and several months ago,
he went to a New York gym to "advance" his boxing skills by
adding other weapons namely the jab. Fort paid for his own bus ticket,
but also learned there's a big difference between MN and NY when it comes
to boxing. Some NY boxers have sponsors and can focus on the game full-time,
while Fort and other boxers hold full-time jobs and box after work. But
Fort doesn't let that get him down. "Just because they can box full-time
doesn't mean they're better than me" he says with a smile.
Fort plans to fight this week at the Golden Gloves tournament, and advance
to the nationals at the end of this month. But he's really looking forward
to the day he turns pro because he feels the pros will fit his style better.
But coach Johnson feels differently, "You have grown [expletive]
men at his weight division. You don't put a kid with boy power into the
ring with men. That's crazy!" Johnson plans to turn Fort pro in two
years, but as Johnson says this, the look on Fort's face suggests he and
Johnson may have many private talks about this issue.
Fort is almost too good to be true: he's every writer's/ reporter's dream
interview in terms of talking openly, he's learned to put life difficulties
into perspective, he works full-time and then goes to the gym for three
hours, and says when he "makes it in boxing" he plans to buy
his grandmother Pearl a nice home. It's too early to know if Fort will
become a great boxer and fighter, but it isn't too early to say he's a
young man that overcame a lot, and can take comfort in knowing he's given
boxing a good name by showing that a kid from difficult circumstances
can find that one love that give them reason to fight another day.
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