LENOX -- A trip to Cracker Barrel, a case of mistaken identity, and a game of checkers led to a June match that could be the last fight of local boxer Todd Poulton's career.
When Poulton went to the Myrtle Beach, S.C., restaurant, he thought he stumbled upon a chance meeting with former heavyweight boxer George Foreman. It was not Foreman; it was, however, one-time heavyweight champion James "Bonecrusher" Smith.
"I had no idea I was going to run into this guy," Poulton said. "When I saw him, I said this is my chance."
After introducing himself to the former champion, Poulton let Smith know that he was a boxer as well.
Poulton said Smith was skeptical of him at first, but, after looking him up online, Smith confirmed that Poulton was in fact who he said he was.
"He asked me to do a three-round exhibition," Smith said. "I said, ‘Todd, do you have any experience?' "
Poulton said no, but that he was a celebrity boxer.
Smith replied, "I'm the first person to take Mike Tyson 12 rounds, when he was a fighter, not a biter. You could get hurt."
Poulton was not deterred, and the fight was soon set for June 14. After coming up with an agreement that the fight would benefit Smith's charity Cham pion for Kids, and his Do Right Challenge and summer camp, Smith agreed to the fight on one condition: Poulton had to beat him in a game of checkers.
Poulton won the game, and the fight was official.
Upon hearing that Poulton set up the fight, friend and sparring partner Mike Wilks of Pittsfield was surprised, but he said that's part of Poulton's take-on-all-comers personality.
"This has been a lifelong dream for Todd to box," Wilks said. "I know Todd's got a good heart, and he's always doing things for other people. This is his way of giving back a little bit."
Poulton's celebrity boxing career has taken him into the ring with former Major League Baseball player Jose Canseco, and former WWE wrestler Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake.
Poulton's friends and family know he'll take on all challengers, but his father James Poulton will not mind when Todd hangs up his gloves after his fight against Bonecrusher.
"He promised before that his last fight was going to be his last fight," James said. "His mother and I have been going through this since he started. ... There's always a risk factor in any combative sport. I hope they keep it cool, and have a nice program."
The fight will cap a three-day event for Smith's charity, which begins June 12 with a book writing seminar, followed by sessions led by former NFL and NBA athletes.
The proceeds to the fight go to Smith's charity, but Poulton is actively raising funds for his Knocking Out Mental Illness charity as well.
When Poulton finally hangs up his gloves, he said he'll continue to work with local youth such as Golden Gloves youth fighter Kyntrell Daniels of Pittsfield, teaching boxing, and working with promoter A.J. Vittone to promote his own promotion company, Team Poulton.
When the final towel is thrown in, Poulton said he wants to be remembered for his work in the community.
"I come across as the face tattoo guy, maybe he's nuts, but my heart is in the right place," he said. "It's always about charity."
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