Shawn Meeks is not quite ready to inherit the earth, but he is ready to take the $50,000 top prize in this year's FX Toughman Competition.
Meeks, 25, will begin his quest Sept. 28-29 with a couple of light heavyweight bouts in an elimination tournament at Harrah's in Cherokee. Should he come out on top as planned, he will then be one of 64 contestants to compete in the Toughman quarterfinals in Mississippi in November.
Two wins there will earn him a berth in the Toughman "Sweet 16" to be held in Detroit in February of 2001.
Four wins there will net him the event's golden fleece - a check for $50,000.
Meeks, part owner of a local car detailing business in Newport, plans on using the winnings to start a professional boxing career.
Yes, it will be a tough row to hoe just to make it to Detroit. And, yes, Meeks knows wins in the Toughman series are no guarantee, because you usually don't know who your opponent is ahead of time.
But Meeks has been down this road before.
Just last year, he posted a 54-0 record en route to making it to Detroit, where he advanced to the semifinals. There he lost a questionable split decision. Further adding salt to the wound was the fact that his opponent went on to capture the title - and the $50,000 prize money.
"I beat him and beat him bad, and everybody knows it who watched that fight,'' Meeks said. "They robbed me. That's all there was to it."
Instead of getting mad, Meeks decided to get even.
"Last year, I wasn't even in shape,'' he said. "I was still smoking and I didn't hardly work out at all.
This year, I've been working out like crazy. I quit smoking, I've been running three to five miles a day, and I've been working out for two to three hours every day. It's been hard, but I'm in the best shape of my life. I don't feel like anybody can beat me."
So far, they haven't. Meeks, a southpaw, has been tuning up for this year's Toughman Competition by fighting at area events like the King of the Hill in Kingsport. So far, he's 21-0, with 18 of his wins by knockout.
"I'm a southpaw, which gives me an advantage to begin with because most guys haven't fought against a left-hander before,'' he said. "But I've also developed a right hook I didn't have last year, and that's become a knockout punch for me."
Meeks is honest about how his interest in boxing got started.
" I was a mean kid and was always getting in fights,'' he said. "Finally I decided it wasn't worth getting in trouble all the time. I decided if I was going to fight, I may as well make some money at it."
When he saw the Toughman Series being advertised on FX, he knew what his next step would be.
Meeks, who co-owns Downtown Detail at 404 E. Broadway in Newport with his friend, Jimmy Caro, sold his Lexus last year for $8,000 in order to finance his fighting.
He's planning on paying his own way again this year, but is willing to accept donations along the way from anyone willing to sponsor his efforts.
"I figure if I win, I can buy a new Lexus,'' he said.
But Meeks is motivated by more than money. A divorcee with two children -a son and a daughter - Meeks has custody of his son, Shawn Jr., and, like most parents, wants to provide for him the best he's able.
"He's tough, like me," Meeks said of 8-year old Shawn Jr., who is currently playing football for the Edgemont Jaguars Grasscutters team. "He goes with me to all my bouts and sits right there at ringside. He wants to learn how to box, and I'm teaching him. But I'm also teaching him it's wrong to fight for no reason. I tell him to keep his fighting in the ring, and so far, he's doing a good job. He's ten times better than I was at his age.
"I want to be a motivator for him. He sees me being successful at boxing, but I got started late. That's why I want to get him going early."
Meeks said if his planned pro career as a boxer pans out, he would one day like to open a local gym.
"I'm a smart boxer, which is why I don't get hit much,'' he said. "I feel like I've got a lot of knowledge I could share with kids and teach them how to box."
His elimination bouts in Cherokee will be televised by FX on a taped-delay basis, probably in the next three to four weeks. The "Sweet 16", however, is shown live by FX, and the Toughman Competition has proven to be a very popular venue for the network, which is one many cable packages carry, but not the one locally. To see FX in this area, one needs a satellite dish.
"I don't have one, but I have friends that do and they taped a lot of my bouts last year," Meeks said. "That way I could go back and study them."
As for Meeks, winning this year's Toughman Competition would be the start of a fulfilling a long-time dream.
"I'm not really money hungry, but working 40 or 50 hours a week for a couple of hundred dollars just isn't for me,'' he said. "I know its OK for a lot of people, but it's not for me. I want to get into professional boxing and make some big money and be able to give my kids everything they want."
Meeks is not only smart in the ring, but he knows a long boxing career is not in his long-term best interest.
"I don't want to wind up like those guys you see now who stayed in it too long and can hardly talk or have had brain damage or whatever'' he said. "My plan is to get in, make as much as I can, and get out before I'm 30 so I can enjoy life and enjoy my kids."
Subscribe to The Newport Plain Talk by clicking SUBSCRIBE.
Sign up for Breaking News emails from The Newport Plain Talk by clicking EMAIL ALERTS and inputting
your email address next to "Add Me" near the top right corner.