Booker puts troubled youth behind him
Shawn Smith speaks to undefeated super welterweight prospect Chordale Booker, who has found purpose and direction in boxing after a troubled youth...
Chordale Booker remembers his first day in a boxing gym like it was yesterday. It’s one of his most vivid memories, both for how difficult and how enlightening it was.
“My arms were so tired, I had muscles cramping up I hadn't even felt before,” Chordale told me through hysterical laughter. “It was a new experience but I didn't want to give up. I was so happy with how hard it was. I wanted to see if I could still keep doing it.”
So he did. Day after day the Stamford, Connecticut native turned Brooklynite returned to the gym. He had long been an admirer of the sport, soaking in every book and televised fight he could get his hands on. He fell in love with the effort of Marvin Hagler, as well as the grace and elegance of Pernell Whitaker.
Booker wears his influences on his proverbial sleeve. A natural southpaw, he has tried to emulate the likes of Whitaker, using movement and speed to inflict damage on opponents.
Now 6-0, Booker will put his undefeated record on the line during Lee Baxter Promotions’ 'Light Em Up' event on 20 April at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, Ontario. He’ll fight Mexican Humberto Flores.
It hasn’t been an easy ride to the professional ranks for Booker, who has seen his share of heartbreak and anxiety throughout his early years.
In middle school, he desperately wanted to take up boxing, but Stamford didn’t offer a gym close to his home. Whatever was brewing inside the young man ended up on the streets instead of in a gym, leading to trouble.
“In high school, I was getting into some fights and some trouble, then I decided that I was going to be a boxer after high school; I was playing basketball in high school so I didn't want to mess with that. As soon as I graduated, I got arrested two days out of high school, then I went straight to the gym. I didn’t want to spend my time getting in trouble anymore.”
Booker is open and honest about his checkered past, saying he “had a lot of charges,” which include “two counts of firearm charges, narcotics charges with an attempt to sell, marijuana charges with attempt to sell”.
He was falling into a pattern that is all too common for young men without a vision for the future.
“That was hard for me because I was so young,” Booker said. “In that moment, I told myself it would never happen again. I knew that my life could be taken away from me. It was something that I really wanted to never happen again.”
Growing up in the era of Floyd Mayweather, Booker envisioned himself having a career like the great Mayweather did, going undefeated and going down as one of the best ever.
His first amateur opponent had other ideas.
“Before I had my first fight, I told myself I was going to be undefeated like Floyd Mayweather; I got into my first fight and lost. I started crying, I couldn't believe I lost my first fight. I was nothing like Floyd,” Booker said, laughing about it now. “I went home and told myself that I had to win so many fights that I forget about the loss. Once I got to the point I was winning, 14 in a row before I lost again. That's when I knew I had something. I told myself that even though I lost again it was more about what I do after. That's when I knew I could do this."
Booker won fight after fight, tournament after tournament, including the 2015 Golden Gloves championship, a 2014 USA Elite Men’s silver medal and a 2013 Elite Men’s bronze medal and - once he caught the eye of USA Boxing - a number one ranking amongst U.S. amateur middleweights.
In 2015, just six years after taking up boxing, Booker fought at the Olympic trials in an attempt to earn a spot on the national team.
He lost that fight to Charles Conwell, who went on to represent the USA at the Olympics.
Booker described the defeat as “one of the hardest losses I’ve had to take”, because he felt like he won.
“As soon as I lost, I knew I was done [with the amateurs],” Booker said. “I was fed up, I knew it was my time to go. My only dream was to be number one in the country. That helped me get to the qualification spot. Not too many people get to say they went to the Olympics. For me to have the opportunity to compete in Olympic trials, it was great. I just knew it was time.”
Booker wasn’t interested in sticking around on the amateur scene for another four years, instead turning his attention to the pro ranks.
To date, it’s been a flawless transition. The 6-0 super welterweight southpaw has looked excellent as a professional so far and will quickly be looking towards moving up the rankings. He’s already made a regular habit of sparring with former world champions Shawn Porter, Luis Collazo and Demetrius Andrade.
“I feel like I'm not too far off,” Booker said when asked how far he is from the top of the division. “I don't want to rush myself, I want to get enough fights as a pro so that I'm comfortable. I'm taking my time to learn how to go deep into a fight. I know I'm not too far off.”