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Marcus Browne, from 'bully' to Olympian

A boxing writer will find himself defending his vocation quite often when making a new acquaintance.

"But ... isn't boxing brutal? Do you ever find yourself wondering if it should exist?" I hear quite regularly soon after shaking a new hand.

And the answer is alway, "Yes ... it can be brutal. But I do believe there is a place for the sport in this society ... because boxing has given thousands upon thousands of youths who were headed for a bad end, and who might have left a wake of carnage and lingering woe in their wake as they trod clumsily and violently on their way, a purpose, a reason for being. There can be a heavy price to pay when you box, but it is by and large a toll taken on oneself, and the toll that would be taken on the street if so many of these kids didn't box is simply immeasurable."

This is not to say that Staten Island's Marcus Browne, the three-time N.Y. Golden Gloves champion who is headed to the London Olympics where he will try to land a gold medal at light heavyweight for himself and his nation, would have been public enemy number one had he not found the ring.

He described himself to me in a recent interview as a "bully," and "a hard-headed, dirty little little kid" and "a troublemaker" and said that he was always looking for fights. But it doesn't take a leap of imagination to comprehend that it was a distinct possibility that the kid who admitted that he used to take advantage of those weaker than him would have graduated to a higher grade of violence and mischief as he got older. "What road I was on I can't tell what my future would hold," he told me. "But I was on a path to destruction."