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.

Naysayers pointed out that, in boxing years, Arguello was older than dirt. Still, the unexpected victory thrust Walker into the international boxing picture.

Last March, Walker won the Arizona state 140-pound championship. Then, in July, he took a 12-round fight on ten days' notice against Francisco "Paco" Cuesta, a tough Mexican veteran.

The bout was supposed to be on the undercard of a nationally televised card in a tent at Gila River Casino. But Walker-Cuesta became the main event shortly before showtime, after fight officials learned that Michael Carbajal's scheduled opponent was scratched for medical reasons.

The promoter informed the packed house of almost 2,000 that ticket refunds were available to anyone who wanted them. After 12 rounds, only about 30 cheapskates asked for their money back.

Walker took a unanimous decision and the Continental Americas title from Cuesta in the action-packed win. For this he earned $5,000, his biggest payday to date.

After Cuesta came the close call in November against Steve Valdez. Mack Walker says his son's poor performance against the inferior Denver fighter had an unintended benefit.

"Top Rank looked at those tapes and said, 'This kid will be a piece of cake for Chavez,'" he says with a chuckle, citing conversations with boxing insiders as evidence. "Talk about twists and turns. That fight was just one of those things that happens. Scott is going to be a whole lot better than that. A whole lot better."

Two weeks before the Chavez fight, Scott Walker saunters into Maxie's Boxing Gym for his late-afternoon workout.

Most of the regulars are present, including Mack Walker, Chuck McGregor, talented 15-year-old amateur Mike Sandoval and heavyweight hopeful Obed Sullivan.

The Pink Cat wears jeans, a tee shirt and a hat on backward that says, "I'm suffering from CRS--Can't Remember Shit." Scott immediately switches the stereo from a rock 'n' roll station to country standby KNIX.

He opens his locker and pulls out his boxing shoes, head protective gear and a box of Kotex. He cuts a maxipad and tapes one half to the palm of each hand. Serves as a hand cushion, he explains.

As Scott steps to the mirror to start his 90-minute session, he engages Sullivan in friendly repartee.

"I got a belt from the WBC, baby, the oldest body in the world," Scott tells the bigger fighter, referring to his Continental Americas title. "That makes me No. 1 in this gym."

Sullivan, who currently holds something called the IBF Inter-Continental Americas title, joins the challenge.

"You're at a subordinate level in this gym and you should know it," Sullivan retorts as he jumps rope. "There's a pecking order here. WBC has you picked as their sacrificial lamb. Chávez is saying, 'I'm gonna let that little sacrificial lamb live 'til February ninth.' That's it."

Scott smiles, and goes to work on theheavy bag, singing along to a twangy tune through his mouthpiece: "I'm in love with you, baby, and I don't even know yourname." He times his punches to theuptempo number, thwack, thwack, boom, thwack, stopping only after Chuck McGregor yells, "Time!"

Scott then steps to the speed bag, mumbling something to himself. Asked to repeat it, he does: "I said I just have to win this thing."

This thing, of course, is his date with Julio Cesar Chavez.
And he knows he has less than a prayer if he doesn't continue his rigorous workouts morning and night until just before fight time. Few, if any, sports are as taxing on the body and spirit.

"The thing about boxing," says Mack Walker as his son climbs into the ring for a sparring session with amateur Jesse Varela, "is that you gotta get hit to learn how not to get hit. It's like trying to get to your car in a rainstorm: You're gonna get to the car eventually, but you're gonna get wet gettin' there."

It helps if your navigational guide is a Chuck McGregor.
"I want you to concentrate on one-two, straight down the tube," the veteran trainer tells Scott as the session starts. "Step angle, left uppercut, right uppercut. Change your angle all the time. You don't want to shoot out the hook without making a little move. You got to freeze him. No freebies."

Despite McGregor's longevity, the Chavez fight is titanic for him, too.
"I surely don't have to tell Scott he's going to be in a tough fight," says McGregor, whose resume includes stints as a police officer and a bartender around his native Chicago. "He's going against one of the toughest guys in the history of boxing. Butas big as it is, you don't want to overstate it."

He interrupts himself briefly.
"Scott, try putting your left foot in between Chavez's and try grabbing his left hand to avoid those liver shots."

McGregor returns to a discussion of his psychological game plan, noting he intentionally called the sparring partner "Chavez" instead of his real name.

"I'm starting to get Chavez-oriented now, starting to put a more serious reality game face on it. You can't be too lax. Chavez hits in the hips, hits low all the time. I'm telling Scott that the first time he does that, Scott is to hit him as hard and as low as possible, to take his balls off. I'm reversing it for him. Julio has never fought a Scott Walker before."

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