For about a month, Travis Walker lost sight of why he started boxing in the first place.
He had just dispatched club fighter Stacy Frazier in a stay-busy affair in Atlanta last year, and decided for the first time as a professional he would take it easy, have fun and let himself go a little.
After netting four wins in eight months, why not?
Then his phone rang, with an offer to face THE RING’s No. 5-rated heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev waiting on the other end.
“Since the beginning of my career, I told myself to always be ready in case I got that last minute call,” said Walker. He had given up football and started boxing in high school, and stuck with it because it was the best workout he ever had in his life and he “loves a good workout.”
He hadn’t had many of those recently.
Walker took the Pulev fight on less than a month’s notice and dropped a 12-round decision. “I told myself I’d never come into a fight out of shape again, after that Pulev fight,” he said. “So I kept myself in shape. I would’ve stopped Pulev in four rounds if I would’ve been in shape.”
“The Freight Train” didn’t want to just chug along through fights anymore, so he dropped seven pounds, and then Kali Meehan in the sixth round in February.
And this time, when an even bigger offer came to face RING No. 3-rated heavyweight Tomasz Adamek next Saturday on WealthTV, he was fit and ready.
“I think very highly of Adamek, but as long as I hold my ground and be a smarter boxer than I’ve ever been, I don’t think there’s too much Adamek can do,” Walker told RingTV.com.
The fact that he hasn’t always been the smartest boxer in the ring has allowed him to remain unusually active throughout his career (five fights in 2011, seven fights in 2009). Promoters know they can count on Walker for an exciting tilt, and television outlets do as well.
“He’s one of the most exciting heavyweights in the world,” said WealthTV president Charles Herring of Walker. “He’s serious about winning this fight. I think there may be an upset.”
While he hasn’t appeared on American screens in four years, he produced three heavyweight closet classics — once against Chris Arreola on HBO and twice against TJ Wilson on Showtime.
“That’s just my nature. I don’t believe in losing. And if I’m gonna lose, it’s gonna be a hell of a fight. I don’t believe in giving up, and I’m always going to come to fight,” said Walker (39-7-1, 31 knockouts).
In Adamek (46-2, 28 KOs), he’ll square off with a true television and box office darling. The Polish-born warrior has relocated to New Jersey, where he has had rousing affairs in front of raucous crowds and beneath TV lights as a light heavyweight, cruiserweight and now as a heavyweight.
However, the majority of those wars came below 200 pounds, against the likes of Paul Briggs and Steve Cunningham. Not since his majority decision win over Arreola in 2010 has Adamek been in a slugfest as a heavyweight, opting to use his hand and foot speed to maneuver his way around larger opponents.
Ironically, Walker says it was his bout with Arreola in 2008 that helped him mature as a fighter.
“I used my jab, but I didn’t stay behind my jab. I got excited. Arreola was a much smarter boxer than me at the time. But through the years, I’ve learned a lot. How to stay calm in a fight, stay relaxed in a fight, and not force the knockout. Let the knockout come,” said Walker, 33, of Houston.
While he might not be forcing knockouts these days, he’s still focused on them, as his toe-to-toe thriller with Alex Leapai and steamrolling of Meehan would suggest.
At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he can stand and bang with the best of them, and if he’s lucky, might have a willing participant next weekend.
“You never know, the Adamek of old might show up, I’ve gotta be prepared for anything,” said Walker. “I have to stick my jab. If I don’t stick my jab in this fight, I’ve lost the fight.”
Ultimately, it will again come down to how smart Walker wants to be.
And sometimes, being smart just isn’t as much fun.
Photo / Bryan Crowe-Fightwireimages.com
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman