DeMarcus Corley looks out of his mother's Kenilworth apartment and laments the state of his neighborhood, how it's too dangerous for his sons to play outside and how his older brother, Michaelangelo, was shot just around the corner in April.
"It didn't used to be this bad," said Corley, the WBO 140-pound champion. "It used to be fun. You used to play in the street all day, go home when the last light turned on. It isn't like that anymore."
Corley, 28, acknowledges his part in it, how he dealt drugs sporadically until two years ago, even though he held the USBA belt at the time, how he got his brother to take his place on the street.
That cost Michael Corley his life, shot in the afternoon of April 19 over a drug territory dispute.
"At the time of his death, I was bitter," Corley said. "I know who did it, why they did it. I wouldn't see or talk to the guys who were behind it. But now I speak to them. I can't bring my brother back. All I can do is help take care of his family. I can't stay bitter because of them."
Stanley Holmes, 23, of Southeast Washington, was charged by D.C. police on May 23.
"You know what's funny? I know the guy," Corley said. "We were friends. I've been to Atlantic City with him."
Corley knows what's at stake for him Saturday at the D.C. Armory when he fights Randall Bailey -- a way out for his family. His $100,000 purse is earmarked for a deposit on an apartment or even a townhouse in Prince George's County for his mother, Maggie. If he looks impressive (the fight will be televised by Showtime) and beats Bailey, a bigger payday -- against the likes of a Zab Judah -- could await in the spring.
"This fight has to be blown out of the water," Corley said. "This is my foot in the door."
Corley (27-1-1) made the most of his first major opportunity. Cataracts forced then-WBO champion Ener Julio to pull out of a June 2001 bout with Felix Flores and vacate his title. Corley took the fight on a week's notice, knocked out Flores in the first round, won the belt, then defeated Julio seven months later in his most recent fight.
He is known almost universally as "Chop-Chop," a childhood nickname given when he moved out of his weight class at an amateur tournament during a single meal.
"I sat down at 65 pounds, then my coach came back and I weighed 75," Corley said. "He said, 'Boy, you just chopped that food up.' Ever since, I've been Chop-Chop."
But his promoter, Don King, calls Corley by another name, SKD, for Something Kinda Different, appropriate for a boxer who suffered acute asthma as a child, and who could not bear to attend his pet iguana's funeral two years ago, instead watching from a window as the animal was buried under a tree, then memorializing him with a tattoo. Or for the times Corley supported himself by making dresses during three years away from boxing, between a loss at the 1992 Olympic trials to Julian Wheeler and a 1995 return and national Golden Gloves title.
"Prom dresses were my specialty," said Corley, who taught himself to sew in home economics classes at H.D. Woodson High. "I remember the first one I made. Emerald green, with sequins, for this girl named Naomi Campbell -- no, not that one, this one was Hispanic."
His handlers' only major criticism of Corley is that he has a tendency to prepare -- and fight -- to the level of his competition. They worry about him spending his nights at his mother's apartment in Kenilworth, not the Upper Marlboro home he and his wife moved into last year, and staying up late playing video games.
"He doesn't smoke, drink or party anymore, and he stopped having kids," said his co-manager, Kirk Cashwell. "If I could get him to stop hanging out with his mother and playing video games, I'd have the perfect fighter."
Corley has six children, the oldest aged 11 and youngest turning 2 on Sunday. At least two are by his side most of the time.
"I love my kids more than anything," Corley said. "My kids keep me young, always wanting to play games and run around."
Bernard Roach is the second trainer Corley has worked with extensively as a professional. Most of his career has been spent with Adrian Davis in his corner, until a split both describe as amicable two years ago.
Roach, a District firefighter and former U.S. Army boxing champion, said his biggest problem is maintaining Corley's concentration between fights.
"You can't tell him he's got a fight three or four months down the line," Roach said. "That doesn't mean anything to him. He doesn't look that far ahead. But you start getting him ready six, eight weeks beforehand, he's going as hard as anyone."
Two months ago, Corley began going to a personal trainer at 4 a.m., a time that appealed to Roach because that kept Corley from playing video games well past midnight. Cashwell confiscated Corley's PlayStation2 every night during their month-long training camp in Florida.
Roach has been pleased with Corley's focus in this training camp. Corley took on the additional conditioning work with the personal trainer without complaint, and is wary of Bailey (26-2). The Miami native has knocked down every opponent he has faced.
A southpaw, Corley's style often presents a matchup problem. But he is also a challenge to train, Roach said, because so much of Corley's success is seizing opportunities as they present themselves, not a result of careful strategizing.
"Let's say a normal fighter goes step one, then two, then three," Roach said. "Chop is different. He'll give you one, then two, then six."
The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission hopes Corley gives a different number: 7,000, the capacity of the Armory for the fight.
"Well, there's what, 2,000 people right here?" he asks, pointing to Kenilworth. "It's going to be a ghost town here that night."