Boxer takes fight against breast cancer into ring
Updated: July 16, 2010, 14:25
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.(AP) Call him pretty in pink and Lenroy "Cam'' Thompson will just smile.
Heckle him for wearing pink trunks, pink headgear and a pink T-shirt in the boxing ring and he'll laugh.
The 21-year-old super-heavyweight from Lenexa, Kan., is seeking his second title at the USA boxing national championships Saturday night and has found a unique way to promote both himself and the fight against breast cancer.
He fights his opponents decked out in light pink trunks adorned with the cause's signature pink ribbon, pink headgear and a pink T-shirt that reads "Fighting is a lot easier when your opponent isn't cancer.''
He sells shirts outside the ring to raise funds and he also goes to mixed martial arts fights and sets up shop hawking T-shirts that have all the fighting disciplines from jujitsu to kick boxing listed on one side with a giant pink X over them and the M.M.A. initials standing for Much More Awareness written on the other side. Beneath, is his motto: "Team CAM: Get a mam, ma'am.''
He's adding black tank tops with pink writing to his clothing line for guys who don't dare don the pink.
Thompson doesn't have any relatives who have had breast cancer. He said he was inspired to go pink after fighting at a breast cancer awareness tournament in Tampa, Fla., a few years ago.
His awareness campaign has drawn both dollars and dispute. He was admonished at the national championships to cover up another of his sayings, this one stitched into his shorts that reads "I (heart) boobs.''
The officials allowed Thompson to put white athletic tape over the last word during his semifinal win over O'Jayland Brown on Thursday night, and he'll do the same when he fights Danny Kelly of Washington D.C., in the finals.
"Every woman knows what the breast cancer symbol is,'' Thompson said. "Now, the guys, I put something on my shorts to draw more attention. I've never had a problem with it before. I figure guys will find that funny and women will know what I'm doing, so I've got everything covered.''
Except for the children.
Angel Villarreal, national chief of officials for USA Boxing, said minors in the stands might not understand the nuance of Thompson's message and mistake it as misogynistic.
"Everybody in the sport knows he's bringing great awareness to the breast cancer cause and we support him, but the kids in the audience might not get it and their parents might find it offensive,'' Villarreal said.
Ultimately, Thompson said he didn't mind the flap.
"If I wear all pink, I draw attention and what I want is attention,'' Thompson said.
His pink attire has been a big hit with fans - once the crowd figures it out.
"This is kind of a double-edged sword because you can make fun of me because I'm wearing pink, but then you have a mother,'' Thompson said. "So, they can't quite say anything.''
Thompson, who fights at 217 pounds and is almost always smaller and quicker than his beefier opponents, has found a following he figures he never would have attracted were it not for the pink attire.
"I wasn't the most-liked fighter in the world because of my fighting style. I run a lot and I just avoid being hit. I'm a super-heavyweight. Everyone expects us to knock people out. I don't knock people out. I don't hit hard. I score points. People don't like that.
"After this, I'm a much more liked person.''
Thompson said none of his opponents has ever given him grief for wearing pink.
"I dare 'em,'' he said. "I dare 'em.''
Flyweight Rau'shee Warren, a two-time Olympian and the headliner at these championships, said Thompson has the admiration of fellow fighters not just for his prowess in the ring but his signature color scheme.
"Hey, that's something we all should be doing, fighting for something,'' Warren said. "Everybody should have a reason for fighting.''
Thompson has no designs on ever going pro. But he does plan for a lifetime in boxing.
When he's not fighting or hawking T-shirts, he serves as a personal trainer and boxing coach and also works as a special projects director at Ringside, the boxing equipment manufacturer outside Kansas City.
He said he wants to put on a boxing event he hopes will raise $40,000 in donations.
"In 10 years, I want to be able to say I raised $1 million to fight breast cancer,'' Thompson said.