Deon Nicholson

NORTHPORT, Ala. — Tuscaloosa native Deon Nicholson is known as the Equalizer. His ability to pack a punch with both hands keeps his opponents off guard. That’s why he’s undefeated as a professional boxer, but there are other reasons for his success, like a support system that he took a long time to find.

One thumb swipe on his phone reminds Nicholson of the street life, a life where fighting was the norm.

“When I was young, I kind of had a bad anger problem,” Nicholson said. “I used to fight a lot in the neighborhood.”

Fighting led to trouble, gangs and eventually four years at Draper Correctional Facility near Montgomery.

“I remember when I was in lockup, I was sitting in a cell and basically everything was stripped from me,” Nicholson recalls. “You know, everything was taken from me. I didn’t have nothing.”

What he had was that ability to fight and a desire for change.

“I sat there and I was just thinking to myself, like man, do I really want to continue to be in and out of here? There’s more to life,” he said.

It took support from his father DeAndre Dunn, who also spent time in prison.

“As much as I can, I want to be there for him,” Dunn said. “I try to make sure he hears my voice. He told me, he said, ‘Dad, when I hear your voice out there, man, it’s like it gives me some strength.’”

But Nicholson found the ultimate support in the gym.

“Deon actually wanted to spar the first day he came in the gym,” his trainer Cuz Hill remembers. “So that’s what we did his first day in the gym, and I seen the gift from him on his first day. I said this guy can be special.”

Special is not how Deon Nicholson used to feel.

“A lot of people, they may not admit it, but they gave up on me. They gave up on me. I had teachers, principals, coaches, they gave up on me, but you know, here I am now.”

Here he is, 4-0 with four knockouts in his young professional career, two young kids and a support system he never had.

“He had to learn the hard way, as I did,” Dunn said. “He’s one of those that made it through it okay, learned his lesson and on the right path now.”

He has dreams of being a champion and wearing a belt, but the memories of a life in and out of prison are behind every punch.

“I got tired of the streets, man,” Nicholson admitted. “I got tired of living the lifestyle that I was living so I used boxing to escape my previous lifestyle, and I dedicated my life to boxing.”

The Equalizer finding balance in the ring.

Categories: Sports