Pink Cat, Underdog

Scott Walker is the longest of long shots to beat boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez. But the skinny Mesa fighter who calls himself "The Pink Cat" isn't about to miss his golden opportunity.

Chavez owns three limousines, three Corvettes, two Grand Marquises, two Lincolns, two Suburbans, two antique Fords, a Cougar, a Jaguar, a Lamborghini, a Mustang and a Stealth. Walker owns a 1974 Ford pickup with a broken radio.

Chavez has an entourage, replete with sycophants. Walker has his family, girlfriend, trainer and a few pals.

Chavez won his first professional fight on February 5, 1980. That year, 10-year-old Scott Walker won a tap-dancing contest in Oklahoma, collecting an Electric Light Orchestra recording as booty.

Chavez stands to collect $9 million if he and De la Hoya win February 9. Walker's largest boxing payday has been $5,000.

Chavez probably had never heard of Walker until he signed to fight him. Mack Walker has a framed poster of Chavez on a wall of his small office.

Mexico's president, Ernesto Zedillo, reportedly sought Chavez's blessing before he announced his candidacy. No one seeks Walker's blessing for anything.

Chavez has put several world-class fighters in hospitals. Walker occasionally knocks someone off his feet.

No one in boxing history had been undefeated for longer than Chavez--an incredible 14 years and 91 fights--before Frankie Randall beat him in January 1994. Walker lost his pro debut.

On paper, Walker's odds of beating Chavez are similar to those of the Arizona Cardinals playing in a Super Bowl. But, unlikely as it sounds, he does have some things going for him:

He's in the best boxing shape of his life, physically and mentally. Trainer Chuck McGregor says Walker has been honing his ring techniques, becoming ever more sophisticated between the ropes.

And there's something else that doesn't show up on paper: Walker has a huge heart and a cool demeanor, a mix that poses interesting intangibles on this, the cusp of his moment in boxing's spotlight.

He seems oddly unaffected by the thought of fighting a true boxing legend on worldwide television.

"I know it's a once in a lifetime," Walker says calmly, "but I'm not fighting God. He's great, but he's a person just like me. It hurts him when he gets hit, and it feels good when he hits someone."

Walker's face is unmarked after 25 professional fights and 142 amateur contests, but that's deceptive. He has endured harsh punishment in the ring--a broken eardrum, bruised kidneys, the usual assortment of cuts.

Walker knows that every fighter he faces aches to kick his pretty-boy white butt from here to eternity. But he's never pulled a Roberto Duranlike "no mas" during a fight, choosing instead to gut it out against more experienced, aggressive and stronger men.

Against Chavez, such courage may prove a blessing or a curse.
"Scott doesn't look at boxing as a macho thing," says trainer McGregor, "but he's genuinely fearless. He tries to impress his skill upon opponents, not his will. Rough guys don't faze him. Chavez will give him elbows, head butts, low blows, but I'm thinking he has a real chance to win. If things don't go well--put it this way--I'll stop the damned thing before he gets hurt."

The Pink Cat can't remember life before boxing.
"I say to myself, 'What did I do when I was 5 years old?'" muses Walker as he sits in the rented home he shares with a roommate. "I've tried to bring it back, but I can't."

Behind him on a living-room wall is a trio of posters: Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and his look-alike, James Dean. Walker favors books and magazines on fishing, not boxing. A handwritten list of his original songs is tacked to another wall.

He selects a beat-up cowboy hat and steps into his backyard to check on his 12 pit bull puppies and their patient mother, Thelma. Always short of money, he plans to sell the purebred pups as soon as possible.

Walker's only job these days is boxing. The Dobson High School graduate took a few classes at Mesa Community College last semester, but he doesn't hold educational goals. He admits he hasn't given much thought to life after boxing.

He knows what he doesn't want to do, and that is to work for his parents at their furniture store.

"I love my parents," he says, "and I wouldn't be doing this right now if they hadn't sacrificed so much for me. But I've got to find my own way."

He sees his way as the highway.
"I'd like to buy a nice vehicle for starters," he says, "then go head up north toward Alaska, across Canada, then down the East Coast into the South when it gets cold. I'll be fishing and camping out everywhere, playing my guitar, having a beer."

Though he's genuinely easygoing, Walker gets worked up when he relates his struggles for boxing respect.

"People don't know what it's like to have to hunt for fights," he says. "I've fought on a few days' notice ... and I've fought guys that weren't handpicked tomato cans. Michael [Carbajal] got set up like a king because he did so well in the Olympics. No one has handed me anything. I don't have a sugar daddy. I just have a family and a trainer and some friends who have stuck with me."

For Walker, that constitutes a diatribe. He smiles to break the momentarily bitter mood, then takes a different tack.

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