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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS/Former pro boxer hopes to revive sport in his hometown

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - After a stellar career as a professional boxer that included a world championship belt, Grant High graduate Steve Forbes is back in town, pondering how to bring more fights to Portland.One of the greats in Portland boxing history is back in town, and he's a man on a mission.

Steve "Two Pound" Forbes wants to make his sport live again in his hometown.

"I want to bring boxing back here," says Forbes, 40, who moved from Las Vegas to Portland last December.

Forbes and his girlfriend — Banks native and Portland resident Christina Lunzman — intend to create a promotional firm that will stage boxing cards in a region that has been drastically underserved in recent years. They have a website (2poundsports.com) but no facility. They're seeking investors who want to put Portland on the national boxing map.

"We want to get a small practice gym, and we want to promote fights in the Portland area," Forbes says. "We want some boxing in this city."

The personable Forbes may be the right guy to get it done. The Grant High grad — who began his amateur career as a youth at Knott Street Community Center — enjoyed a 19-year pro career that peaked when he served as the International Boxing Federation super featherweight world champion from 2000-02. Forbes and the late Denny Moyer are the only two Portlanders ever to hold a world title.

Forbes — who gained his nickname because he weighed two pounds at birth — began his pro career 15-0 and at one point was 32-3. His peak as a fighter may have been in 2008, when he lost back-to-back 12-round unanimous decisions to Oscar de la Hoya and Andre Berto.

For de la Hoya, the Forbes bout was a tuneup for a title rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. For Forbes, "this is the biggest fight any fighter could ever have," he told the Portland Tribune before the match.

De la Hoya prevailed in a competitive fight. Then Forbes took on Berto, the reigning world welterweight champion, who ran his record to 23-0 by besting Forbes.

Forbes had to move up in weight class to fight de la Hoya at 150 pounds and Berto at 147.

"I was at my best at 130," Forbes says.

But Forbes probably gained his most notoriety by making it the finals of the "Contender II" reality series in 2006. He says he learned much about boxing and television promotion from that experience, which he believes will serve him well in his current endeavor.

Forbes finished his pro career with a 35-14 record, ending with a 12-round unanimous decision defeat at age 37 to Antonio Orozco, who ran his record to 21-0. Orozco, now 26-0, is the No. 3-ranked junior welterweight in the world.

Throughout his career, the defensive-minded Forbes was knocked down only once — in his penultimate bout against Emmanuel Lartey in 2013. Forbes lost by TKO only once, to Karim Mayfield in 2011. By that time, Forbes was on the down side of his career.

"I was happy with what I accomplished," he says. "Some parts were disappointing. I got distracted along the way by a lot of stuff post-'Contender.' I was going through a divorce at a time when I really needed focus. You have to be mentally prepared to compete, and I wasn't quite there. But that's all part of it. I did a lot of good things."

Forbes left Portland after high school in 1995 to begin his pro career, living in Las Vegas until 2003. He moved back to Portland from 2003-06, then resided in Detroit from 2006-12. He lived in Los Angeles from 2012-15 and in Vegas from 2015 before returning to Portland late last year.

"He came up for a visit around Christmas and never went back," Lunzman says. "It's been really nice having him home again."

"It feels good to be back," Forbes says. "Oregon is different in some ways from when I lived here before, but everything is still mellow."

Forbes' beloved grandmother, Mary Overstreet, died in Portland last year.

"Before she passed, she said, 'Whatever you're doing in Vegas, you can do here. This is your hometown,'" Forbes says. "I thought about what she said. She was right."

There was much to draw Forbes to Portland. His mother, Phyllis Forbes, lives here, along with a sister and brother, "and all my cousins and aunts and uncles," he says. Also, the oldest of his three children — 20-year-old daughter Sentierra Forbes — is in Portland. (Forbes' other two children, Kayden,10, and Mariana, 8, live in Michigan with their mother.)

For now, Forbes is teaching boxing to mixed-martial arts fighters at Gracie Barra in Southeast Portland. Forbes puts a group of MMA artists through a one-hour boxing class three days a week.

"We work on counterpunching, how to move, how to handle certain things in the ring," he says. "MMA fighters are using boxing more because it can help them win. You see a lot of them straight up now, punching."

Among those learning boxing skills from Forbes are Chael Sonnen, a Milwaukie native who wrestled at the University of Oregon and is now an accomplished MMA fighter, and Dayton native Paige VanZant, a world-ranked MMA women's fighter.

"I've always liked MMA," Forbes says. "It sometimes gets a little crazy. But these fighters, they listen. They know it's all about having a plan."

Forbes hasn't worked with any straight boxers yet since returning to his hometown. He'd like to, of course.

"Boxing taught me discipline, and to be focused," he says. "Set a goal, then go out and accomplish it. It also taught me to not listen to negativity."

Locally, Forbes mentions a gym in Hillsboro owned by the Estrada family, featuring boxers Eric, Omar and Diana Estrada. Diana, 18, is one of the top junior amateur female boxers in the country. Other than that, not much is going on. Forbes would love to change that.

He thinks the boxing industry "is in a really good place" nationally, even with the lack of name-brand heavyweights, who carry most of the interest from the sport's fans.

"NBC and CBS are carrying more fights," he says. "They have a lot of promotions going on. Some good fights coming up by the end of the year. I'd like to see more in the heavyweight division, though. That would help American boxing."

Forbes picks Mayweather Jr. to knock out MMA star Conor McGregor in their highly acclaimed boxing match on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.

McGregor has a size advantage, "but Floyd has fought bigger guys his whole career," Forbes says. "He's going to be a lot of trouble to deal with. McGregor is going to see things he has never seen. If Floyd doesn't stop McGregor, he'll feel bad about it."

Forbes has a unique perspective on Mayweather Jr. They have sparred "hundreds of rounds" over the years. Before Mayweather's last fight, a 12-round unanimous decision over Andre Berto in 2015, Forbes was in Mayweather's training camp. "I sparred with him more than any other boxer," Forbes says.

When Forbes fought de la Hoya in 2008, Forbes was trained by Jeff Mayweather, the uncle of Floyd Jr. For that fight, de la Hoya was trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr., the father of Floyd Jr. Forbes also trained under another uncle of Floyd Jr., Roger Mayweather, at times during his career.

Forbes believes boxing has gotten away from its roots.

"Boxing can learn something from MMA, which puts on small shows everywhere in addition to the bigger shows," he says. "Boxing has gotten so greedy. MMA doesn't try to do everything big, which means they keep a lot of work out there for MMA fighters.

"Boxing has become smaller on the national scene, but there are some purists who want to see only boxing. In Vegas, it will never die."

Do recent studies showing the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and brain damage in contact sports such as football and boxing concern Forbes?

"A little bit, they do," he says. "I never worried about any of that stuff for me. I was always more of a defensive fighter. I took some big shots, but I was always aware to be safe. I wouldn't return to the gym too early after a fight.

"They're doing what they can to make it safer. I like the stricter testing they have now, the base (brain) tests and the eye testing. Those are good things to have in place."

During his pro career, Forbes fought only three times in Oregon, including once on the undercard of a Mayweather Jr. bout at the Rose Garden.

"Three fights out of 49," Forbes says. "I always felt a little sad about that. I should have had more fights in my home state."

Forbes wants more opportunities for Oregon-bred boxers. He wants to train youngsters to become champions. He wants to put on smaller shows at places like the Portland and Salem armories and the Milwaukie Elks Club, then graduate to a major card at Moda Center.

He hopes a major investor or two who will show interest in his current endeavor, too. "Two Pound" would like to spark a revival of the sport in his hometown. He hopes he'll get that chance.

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@kerryeggersTRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Steve Forbes (right), who has sparred many times with boxers such as Floyd Mayweather Jr., now works out in Portland with various athletes, helping MMA star Chael Sonnen (left) and others with their form.

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