<
>

Cook gets life back after fatal bar fight

LAPORTE, Ind. -- A former Golden Gloves champion who killed
a man in a bar fight six years ago will make his professional
boxing debut Friday night.

"I've worked hard to try and get my life back in order and
boxing has served to focus my energy on something positive," said
Jason Cook, who was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to five
years in a work-release program. He is currently on probation.

"I did a stupid thing and it's something I'll always have to
live with," Cook told The Times of Munster.

Cook got into a fight with Stephen Lake outside a LaPorte bar on
May 20, 2001, and "one good punch" snapped Lake's neck, said
attorney Kim DeWitt, who prosecuted the case.

"[The fight] was something that I should have done a better job
of walking away from," the 28-year-old Cook said. "I tried
several times to walk away from him, but it ended up happening. And
the result was that someone died and I paid the price for my
mistake."

Since then, Cook has spoken to school groups about the dangers
of substance and alcohol abuse and attended Alcoholics Anonymous
meetings. He said the meetings, which were part of his sentencing
conditions, have helped him get his life together.

Cook, 42-8 as an amateur, won the Chicago Golden Gloves
heavyweight championship in 2003 and was runner-up as a light
heavyweight last year.

His opponent in the One In A Million Inc. program Friday night
at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville has not been announced.

"I feel like this is my time to turn professional," he said.
"I've met all the aspects of my parole and now One In A Million is
willing to take a chance on me. I'm grateful for the opportunity
and I hope to make the most of my career."