Ninety minutes after North Augusta's Jacob Hudson squeezed out a two-tiebreaker Goodwill Games semifinal win over a more experienced Russian boxer, the phone rang in his coach's New York hotel room.
Tom Moraetes answered, and saying hello was boxing mega-mogul Shelley Finkel, the man in charge of resurrecting Mike Tyson's career and aiding Evander Holyfield and Pernell Whitaker's rise to boxing's elite. When a man like this calls, you listen very closely and take notes with your blood if you have to.
Finkel watched Hudson battle on HBO that night, commented about his aggressiveness, praised his demeanor and continued to fill Moraetes' ears with compliments. Next thing Finkel wondered was when Hudson would be fighting for dollars instead of medals, and if he was thinking about turning pro, remember to think of Finkel, too.
Combine a national title at 132 pounds with a surprising silver in last month's international showcase and it equals a whole new frontier of questions for this 19-year-old prodigy from Moraetes' Augusta Boxing Club.
Let the courtship and recruiting among the boxing pariahs begin.
"I'm not just going to jump on the first bandwagon that comes along," a resting Hudson said Tuesday in between bouts with his truck's faulty engine and training for his daily fishing trip.
"We've got plenty of time to sort it all out. I'm waiting for the right offer. And when I get it, I'm gone."
That's right, Hudson may have thrown his last punch for free.
The country's top-ranked amateur at the lightweight level, and the finest chance for Augusta to be represented in Sydney for the 2000 Summer Games, is leaning heavily toward joining the pro ranks.
"The right offer" is one that, as Moraetes puts it, would come from a manager proving he would "take care" of Hudson. We're talking six figures here for a signing bonus, with a fast track toward a world title shot.
"There's a greater chance of Jacob being a world champion in August of 2000 than to be in the Olympics in Sydney," said Moraetes, Hudson's coach since he started swatting punching bags at age 8.
Hudson's face is fresh and humble in a tainted sport looking to refurbish its image from the ear-biting, racketeering and other thuggish blights that have transformed this sweet science into a destructive lab experiment.
And while not in the glamour heavyweight division, fellow lightweights Oscar De Le Hoya, Julio Ceasar Chavez and Roberto Duran have blazed a path for Hudson to follow.
"Jacob could be 15-0 as a pro without breaking a sweat," Moraetes said. "Short of him getting a big, big bonus, a bonus where you know they're going to take care of you, I'm for Jacob staying an amateur. But really, medals and ribbons can get old after a while."
As an amateur, all Hudson has to look forward to is the Sydney Games, and even then that could be a remote possibility. A change in international boxing has lumped the American team into more of a hemispheric representation, meaning we won't send a team of 12 U.S. boxers, instead they'll have to compete with other nations for similar spots.
Asked to put a statistical number on Hudson's chances of making the Olympic team, Moraetes says they're at best 25 percent. Those are odds that Hudson does not want to gamble with.
"Making the Olympics has always been a dream of mine," Hudson said. "But honestly, I'm sick of USA Boxing. Not them personally, I'm just ready for something different."
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