Matt “Too Smooth” Godfrey Believes in Second Chances!
Ken Hissner (March 16, 2010) Doghouse Boxing  
When Matt “Too Smooth” Godfrey was in the Olympic trials in 2004 he had a rematch with Devin Vargas after winning the first time the two met. He had been a six time New England Golden Glove champion, 2000 US National champion at 165, 2001 Bronze medalist at the Pan Am Games, 2002 Golden Glove champion at heavyweight, and 2004 US National champion at heavyweight. Though he lost to Aaron Williams three times, he had defeated “Chazz” Witherspoon three times. He brought in a 194-22 record and looked like this would be the year to make the team. In losing to Vargas he became a SECOND alternate on the team.

In turning professional in May of 2004 Godfrey won all his six fights that year with only one opponent having a losing record. The last bout of the year was his first 6 rounder defeating Joe Johnson, 6-5, in the 4th round. It would be six months before he would fight again but won all his four fights in 2005 including Willie Herring, 11-3-3, for the vacant WBC USNBC cruiserweight title over 10 rounds in Providence, his hometown. After a win over Ernest Mateen, 29-11-3, Godfrey defended his title and picked up the NABA title stopping previously unbeaten Shaun George, 11-0-2, in the 1st round. “I was too strong for him,” said Godfrey. Both fighters would appear on ESPN2 in Philly in separate bouts last July. George came in with an 18-2 record and was upset by Chris Henry while Godfrey won his match.

In September of 2006 Godfrey defended both titles and added the WBC Continental Americas title defeating Danny Batchelder over 12 rounds in Hartford. In April of 2007 he was matched with a former amateur teammate Felix Cora, Jr., 18-1-2, with the NABF and NABA titles on the line. “Nazim Richardson helped me get ready for this one,” said Godfrey. It was a blow out over ESPN2 in the 2nd round. The same Richardson is now the trainer of Steve “USS” Cunningham, Godrey’s next opponent. His follow-up fight four months later was not so impressive. He defeated Derrick Brown, 13-2-3, in an NABF defense over 10 rounds. “I made a silly mistake in training,” said Godfrey.

Sometimes when you don’t look good an opportunity will present itself and in March of 2008 it did. Godfrey had to go to Germany to meet Rudolf Kraj, 13-0, and a silver medalist in the Olympics, in a WBC cruiserweight title eliminator. “I didn’t start to press him until the 5th round. He was very strong,” said Godfrey. He would lose over 12 rounds in his only loss to date and hopefully it was a good experience. His promoter Jimmy Burchfield of CES Promotions brought him back in with Emmanuel Nwodo, 22-4, over ESPN2 in August. He found himself on the canvas in the 3rd round against his hard punching opponent, but came back to score a technical stoppage the next round.

Godfrey’s next two opponents had good records but were not of the caliber he needed. He ended 2008 winning every round over Edward Gutierrez, 15-5-1, in North Dakota. In his next fight some eight months later he defeated Shawn Hawk, 18-0-1, in Philly on the show before mentioned. Godfrey easily out boxed the young Hawk but that doesn’t win you fans in a place like Philly. It was like old home week in the dressing room when Virgil Hill the former two division champion walked in along with the other co-feature winner’s manager Bob Spagnola, who handles Chris Henry to congratulate Godfrey. Godfrey was upset with his promoter who was shaking his head, saying “I won didn’t I?” He knew he needed a better opponent than this to get himself back into title contention.

Just two months later his promoter had Godfrey in with Michael Simms, 20-11-2, a former top amateur, who would be fighting in his hometown of Sacramento in this ESPN2 10 rounder. “There was a flash knockdown in the 1st round (obviously cost Godfrey the round) and I would later be thumbed in the eye, but I pulled out the decision (split),” said Godfrey. Being the show was outside didn’t help with the eye injury due to the sun but it was enough to start negotiating for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title with former champion Steve “USS” Cunningham, of Philly in a March 26th showdown. The site has been switched to the Treasure Island, in Las Vegas, from the Bank Atlantic Center, Sunrise, Florida. They will be part of a co-main event along with Cory Spinks defending his IBF light middleweight title against Cornelius “K9” Bundrage.

“Cunningham works behind a jab and does a lot of things right. He is the top contender in the division,” said Godfrey. This could be a chess match. Last July Cunningham, the former IBF champion, defeated the former WBC champion Wayne Braithwaite at the proposed site in Florida in an elimination match. Cunningham’s promoter Don King Productions will be the promoter. ESPN2 will air this twin bill. Cunningham is rated #1 and Godfrey #3 with the #2 slot NOT RATED. Don’t you just love it? It’s been 15 months since Cunningham lost a split decision to Tomasz Adamek. There was never a thought by his promoter to give Cunningham a rematch. Adamek made 2 defenses in 7 months and decided to vacate the title before being forced to fight the #1 contender (Cunningham) for vacate. One of Cunningham’s defenses was against Marco Huck who would later become the WBO champion. Another victim of Cunningham’s in the past, Guillermo Jones hasn’t made any defenses since winning the WBA title some 20 months ago. King promotes both Cunningham and Jones and a match didn’t happen.

“Matt has grown as a fighter a great deal. As a trainer you know your fighter better than anyone else and I have seen first-hand the improvements in him. He’s not the same man he was even last year. In any event, we are working on what we need to do for just one man, Steve Cunningham,” said John Scully. Not only is Scully Godfrey’s trainer, but one who has a good knowledge of other fighters having been there. “I have known Nazim for about 17 years. I even visited him in Philly. I have known Steve for a little while, great guy,” said Scully.

For Godfrey it will be his “second chance” since losing to Kraj some 2 years ago in the WBC eliminator. The title has been vacant for 8 months with the IBF finally putting the best 2 fighters in the division against each other for a change. Both fighters have been title worthy. Zsolt Erdei gave up his WBC title in November and the vacant title is set for June with Krzysztof Wlodarczyk to whom Cunningham defeated for the IBF title against Giacobbe Fragomeni who lost to Erdei in November and drew with Wlodarczyk along with being 40 years old. Huck has the WBO and Jones the WBA titles. It all boils down to the best two cruiserweights in the world will meet on March 26th for the IBF title! Time to end the politics with the WBA, WBO and WBC and the IBF letting Bobby Gunn get the fight with Adamek they have finally seen the light.

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Ken at: kenhissner@yahoo.com

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