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“Bonecrusher” tells students to roll with the punches

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Click to enlarge,  James "Bonecrusher" Smith speaks to students and faculty at the Ha ett campus of Central Carolina Community College about the importance of education during the college's celebration of Black History Month.

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James "Bonecrusher" Smith speaks to students and faculty at the Ha ett campus of Central Carolina ... (more)

02.15.2005Special Events

LILLINGTON, NC--Former heavyweight boxing champion James "Bonecrusher" Smith has fought in packed arenas in Las Vegas, New York and London. On Tuesday, he was in the multipurpose room at the Harnett campus of Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) championing education and perseverance as he spoke to students and faculty as part of the college's celebration of Black History Month.

Since retiring from the boxing ring, Smith, who now resides in Lillington, has thrown his hat into the ring of motivating and helping young people. He started his own nonprofit foundation, Champion for Kids, Inc., to provide mentors and scholarships for high school and at-risk students and spends a lot of time speaking to and encouraging elementary, middle school and high school students.

Smith, who said he, his wife and one of his three children are products of North Carolina community colleges, told his audience of college students that they could succeed despite any obstacles and used his unlikely boxing career as an example.

Smith was 28 years old (the age other boxers had retired at) when he took up professional boxing. "They said I was too old," Smith said of his skeptics at the time. He also had to overcome the fact that he was from North Carolina--not exactly the center of the boxing universe. "I had to blaze a trail and have a lot of confidence." Smith said that tackling challenges gave him confidence and he encouraged the audience to do the same. "You get confidence by doing and getting experience."

Smith, who was the first heavyweight champion to graduate from college, told CCCC students that a crucial part of succeeding is staying committed. Smith got knocked out in his nationally televised professional debut, but with commitment and determination he won his next 14 bouts. "You will get knocked down in life and how successful you are is determined by how many times you get up, brush yourself off and keep at it," he told the students.

Smith's resolve paid off for him. At 33, he knocked out heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon in the first round. Smith told the students they can accomplish their dreams as well if they use education as the foundation. "Whatever you decide to do in life, this is a big step here at Central Carolina.," he told them.

Smith encouraged the students to read, study, be passionate and make smart decisions as they take each step in their lives. "Have a passion about who you are and what you do," he said. "Choices determine success in your life. Make good, positive decisions and good things will happen to you."

The Diversity Committee and Staff Development Department at CCCC helped organize this and other events that will be held throughout February on the campuses of CCCC to celebrate Black History Month.