With his 4-year-old daughter on top of his shoulders, Chauncy Welliver walked the halls of Rogers High School on Monday, reminiscing.
He pointed out the old principal’s office – a place he tried to avoid during his one year as a student there. Now he loves to visit Principal Lori Wyborney’s office in the remodeled section of the high school.
“It makes me see the change in myself,” he said of being in Rogers. “I’m not a kid anymore.”
It’s a tour the 35-year-old Welliver clearly enjoys giving, in a place he enjoys giving back to: a high school that he attended – albeit for only his freshman year before dropping out – in the Hillyard neighborhood that gave him not just a boxing nickname but, now, a purpose.
“I love that I came from here,” Welliver said. “It made me who I am as a man now.”
Later, at the new location of his BoxFit gym near the Northtown Mall, Welliver wondered aloud whether Saturday’s fight at the Coeur d’Alene Casino would be his last. He is scheduled to fight Eric Hempstead (8-0-0) after a bout with his original opponent, Afa Tatupu, fell apart.
“He’s a big, strong man,” Welliver said of Hempstead, who is from Anaconda, Montana. “He’s coming to win.”
Once ranked as high as No. 5 in the world by the WBC, Welliver admitted he is past his prime. But after he knocked out his most recent opponent in a July fight in Butte, 34 seconds into the bout, Welliver (56-12-5) wanted to fight again.
“I’m not making a comeback, and there’s no big light at the end of the tunnel,” Welliver said.
By his own admission, he loves promoting himself as much as he likes promoting his boxers, and so he’s back in the ring as the co-main event on a seven-fight card.
The other main event features Spokane’s Sean Quinnett (5-3-0), who trains with Welliver, and New Zealander Santos Pakau (28-8-2), who lived with Welliver for a short time in Spokane.
Pat Ferguson (13-0-1), also from Spokane, is also on the card. He’ll fight Miguel Cubos (11-18-0) in a rematch of their fight in June in Phoenix, which Ferguson won by unanimous decision.
Ferguson said he is eager to fight Cubos again.
“I am feeling good about the rematch because I was not impressed by my performance last time,” Ferguson said. “I was not able to fight like I usually do.”
Back at the gym, Welliver stood in front of a wall of framed photos of the boxers he has trained. Part of why he is hosting the event at the CdA Casino is that he wants to provide these local boxers with a venue, with opportunities to see where their careers could go.
“Every kid, on his first day of basketball, plans to go to the NBA. Let’s give him something to look forward to,” Welliver said. “I want kids to see a professional boxing match.”
Welliver is proud of Hillyard. He sees that other Spokane neighborhoods have athletes who have gone on to stardom: Ryne Sandberg from North Central, Adam Morrison from Mead and Mark Rypien from Shadle Park.
Rypien first met Welliver when he attended a fight about 17 years ago at the same venue of this weekend’s fights, and he has followed Welliver’s career ever since. He said he admires what Welliver is doing for his neighborhood.
“The Hillyard Hammer has gone back to his neighborhood and invested in the youth there, like all of us who want to do that in our hometown,” Rypien said. “It’s been great to see him come full circle.”
This fight will definitely be different for Welliver because Lemyn, his 4-year-old daughter, will be there. She has never seen him fight, in person or on YouTube. He wondered how she will react.
“Is she gonna cry? How will she feel about her dad getting hit in the face?” Welliver asked.
He’s not sure. But after fighting in nine countries in the past decade, he hopes to pack the House of Fury and is eager to fight in his home region for the first time since 2007.
No matter the outcome, he will continue to train at BoxFit.
“I aspire to be Mark Rypien,” Welliver said. “For what he is to Spokane, maybe I can be that to Hillyard, within my community.”
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