Jaidon Codrington, a former Northern USOEC boxer, has endured a dramatic three-year professional career. The 23-year-old has been a Golden Gloves champion and has an 18-2 pro record with every fight ending in a knock-out.
In Boston Garden for the finale of ESPN’s “The Contender,” Codrington stepped into the squared circle to battle against Sakio Bika for $750,000 and “The Contender” title.
When the bell rang, the two fighters came out of their respective corners showing their power and strength. Each man fell to the mat early in the first round and the fierce pace would continue through the fight.
“A lot of my fights end in dramatic fashion,” Codrington said. “I just feel like I gave everybody in the world a little piece of me and showed them what I was all about.”
Codrington is known in the boxing realm for throwing devastatingly powerful punches. This often leads him to fight more with his heart then with his head and may have contributed to his downfall against Bika, who won “The Contender” title by technical knockout in the eighth round.
“I think more heart really brought me down. Sakio is so strong. Being in the ring with him is like being in the ring with a gorilla,” Codrington said. “Overall, it was a rewarding experience and I learned a lot about myself.”
Former coaches, teammates, friends and legends of the sport praised him for his resilience. The host of the show, former welterweight champion, Sugar Ray Leonard said both fighters fought with the true mindset of real warriors and real contenders.
“Unbelievable. It’s going to be fight of the year, mark my words,” said Al Mitchell, Codrington’s former coach USOEC boxing coach. “[Codrington] tried to bang with [Bika] like he always does. Jaidon always had a big heart and he likes to fight and that is what hurt him.”
Codrington may have lost the battle but the war was another learning experience for the modern day gladiator.
“I got a lot more confidence and I learned a lot of things about myself, boxing-wise,” he said.
Living and learning
Before going on the main stage at the Garden and on national television in 150 countries, Codrington was a member of the USOEC boxing program at NMU from 2002-2003.
Codrington said he left his family in New York in order pursue his dream of boxing.
From his time at NMU, Codrington said he most remembers the early morning runs and ensuing team breakfasts.
“The team was very close and that is what it was all about: togetherness,” Codrington said.
One of the traditions the USOEC boxing team has is calling themselves the “bad boys of Marquette.” This name represents who they are, why they fight, where they come from and how they live.
“It didn’t matter if you were roommates or not. If anyone was in trouble we were always right there for each other,” said Codrington’s USOEC roommate Jose Villarreal. “Jaidon was like everybody else on that team.”
Codrington left Northern in 2003 to further pursue a professional career. The 2004 Olympic year was up and his career went in a different direction.
Looking back now, Codrington said Mitchell’s coaching greatly influenced where he is today.
“At times [Mitchell] can be annoying, but that is because he is old school,” Codrington said. “I love Al to death and I’m very happy that I got to experience [the USOEC] with him.”
Codrington went back to New York and trained for three years until he turned professional and started his career.
Becoming a contender
In June 2006, Codrington had his first professional bout and defeated Kadir Kadri in the third round.
This bout was followed a series of nine knock-outs over the course of 14 months for Codrington. He was an up-and-coming star, but his career was soon up against the ropes once again.
On Nov. 4, 2005, Codrington stepped over the ropes and into the biggest fight of his career as he prepared to face Allen Green on national television.
As the opening bell sounded, Codrington was pummeled by Green showering Codrington with an onslaught of punches and knocking him out just 18 seconds into the fight.
“It was hard to rebound from that both mentally and physically, but you got to believe in yourself,” Codrington said. “Because I believed in myself and I believed in my ability, I got through it.”
After the Green fight, Codrington continued his career and went on to win seven more professional fights. He had some experience under his belt but felt he needed more so he decided to become a contender.
“I was at a stage in my career when I couldn’t make too much money. I wasn’t ready to fight the professional champions,” Codrington said. “My career was in the hole, so I had to make a choice. I made the choice to become a household name.”
Fighting for his life
Codrington arrived at the training camp of “The Contender” in Los Angeles on Aug. 2. He knew he had a challenge in front of him but could never imagine it would be this difficult.
On Aug. 11 he received a phone call from his family with the news that his father, Jamesy Codrington, had died.
“It was really difficult,” Codrington said. “You never know how strong you are until you have no choice but to be strong.”
With his back to the ropes once again, Codrington decided to stay and fight. He said it would have been what his family-especially his father-would have wanted.
“Choosing to stay was by far my hardest fight,” Codrington said. “It was very motivating for me. To take that pain and turn it to motivation and just go full-force straight ahead.”
With the memory of his father, Codrington was able to fight his way through two fighters to the finale, where he was praised for his passion.
“Win, lose or draw, I just fought my heart out and that is what it is all about at the end of the day,” Codrington said. “I think my father is proud of what I’ve done.”
Codrington’s dramatic career has brought him from the city streets of Queens N.Y. to the snowy roads in Marquette, and landed him in the middle of the ring in Boston Garden in a premiere event. Now Codrington feels it’s back to square one.
“Overall, I feel like it made me a better fighter but now I go back to the drawing board,” Codrington said.
Codrington said he wants to work more on jabbing and refine his technique instead of his signature powerful punches. He feels that if he can do that, a rematch is in his future.
“There must be a rematch,” he said. “Everything I did was for a reason and [the experience] makes me feel like training harder and doing it again.”
Going the distance on “The Contender” has been life-changing for a boxer whose still-young career has progressed to a new stage.
“The experience with the people I met in events like ‘The Contender’ or training at Northern were more valuable than a win would ever be,” Codrington said. “I feel like as long as I took part in this, I haven’t lost. I’ve won.”