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Old 03-20-11, 03:25 PM
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Jesse James Leija: There is life after Boxing

Published - Mar 20 2011 11:39AM CST
Joseph Herron, San Antonio Boxing Examiner

There comes a time in every fighters life when the human body ceases to perform at its optimum level. After all of the rounds of sparring, all of the surgeries, all of the brutal wars in the ring, a boxer's battered body simply doesnt react the way it is accustomed. It is every prizefighters worst fear, materialized into a harsh reality: the moment when a pugilist has to throw in the towel one final time and forever call it quits. When a boxer is forced to ponder the idea of a life outside of the squared circle, it can be one of the most solemn days of his entire life.

TheTexas Tornado, Jesse James Leija, remembers that day very well.

It was really tough, recollects Leija. The last three years of my career were plagued with injuries. My elbow was shot, which made it impossible to jab, and I had a separated rib, which made taking body shots unbearable.

The former WBC Super Featherweight Champion recalls feeling conflicted throughout his final years of prizefighting.

When I was preparing to fight Kostya Tszyu in 2003, I couldnt spar for four weeks due to various injuries. Also, when preparing for the late Arturo Gatti in what was eventually my final fight, I wasnt able to spar because of nagging injuries, explains the former 2 division champ.

I remember thinking that I couldnt cheat myself like that any longer. I wasnt giving myself a legitimate chance to win anymore against boxings top fighters.

Although fighting became extremely painful, Jesse James Leija continued to give it everything he had during his last several fights. He recalls specifically one of his greatest and most fulfilling moments in the sport.

During my fight with Francisco Bojado, he hit me so many times in my separated rib that I actually considered taking a knee and giving up, remembers Leija. I thought to myself, one more time and Im taking a knee&one more time and Im calling it quits. It was that painful. But I didnt quit and I ended up getting a decision against a fighter who most thought was going to knock me out.

Although he won his fight against the favored Bojado, Jesse James Leija felt that it was becoming too difficult to compete at the top level of the sport.

In the fifth round of my fight with Gatti, I went down with a left hook to the ribs. I knew my body wasnt going to make it through 12 rounds, so I tried for the knockout and ended up getting caught, describes Leija. After that loss, I knew my body just couldnt do it anymore at 38.

After 56 professional bouts over a span of 17 years, Leija decided to call it quits.

Jesse James Leija There is life after Boxing - Road Runner
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