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Naugler now ready for responsibility

BY MIKE HOUSER

Appeal Sports Writer

Jason “Notorious” Naugler was three years into his 120-bout amateur boxing career when he came across the toughest test he had ever faced: responsibility.

Naugler was only 17 when he learned that he’d gotten his girlfriend pregnant and had a decision to make.

“Sad to say, I knew about (his son Zane) before he was born, but I just wasn’t a man. I was selfish,” Naugler said from his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday. “I took the easy way out and jumped on a plane.”

It was probably the only time that Naugler had ever taken the path of least resistance. A relentless pressure fighter who has never hit the canvas in either his amateur or professional career, Naugler, 18-7-1 with 11 knockouts, boarded a flight for Calgary, Alberta, some 2,000 miles away.

It was a 10-year period of exile for the 30-year-old Naugler, who will face Yerington’s Jesse Brinkley, 30-5 (21), in a 12-round bout for his WBC-affiliated United States National Boxing Championship (USNBC) super middleweight belt in the main event of “International Affair,” an eight-bout card presented by Let’s Get It On Promotions Friday at Reno Ballroom.

While he was busy establishing himself first as an amateur boxer and then as a pro, Naugler enshrouded himself in the protective cocoon of drugs and alcohol.

“There was lots of craziness. Like everybody, I was getting into trouble,” Naugler said. “It was a roller-coaster ride. I wasn’t ready to give up the fun I was having at the time, doing drugs. That was the last thing I wanted to give up.”

Naugler made the Canadian national team twice, twice losing to current WBC light middleweight titlist Sergio Mora (by scores of 14-12 and 10-5). He turned pro in November 1999, but even though he was working his way up the ladder in his chosen profession, he never could quite clear his mind of what he had left behind.

“Through the years, I wondered what was going on, wondered what it would be like to meet my son,” Naugler said. “I wondered if he looked like me, if he shared the same characteristics.”

Then, on June 17, 2006, after he stopped Rodrigues Moungo in the sixth round at the Halifax Forum Multi-Purpose Centre, he got a surprise visitor.

“His mom brought him back in the changing room. It was the first time I met him,” Naugler said of his son, then 10. “It was the biggest thing to ever happen to me. The next day I went over to his house and hung out. I stayed overnight. After that, I’ve seen him every weekend.”

When he looked at Zane, it was like looking into a mirror.

“When I take him to school, everybody thinks he’s like my little brother,” he said. “They can’t believe I have a son 12 years old. When you look at him, it’s like taking a picture of me at 12. You don’t need DNA for that.”

Naugler said meeting his son opened one door and closed another.

“That was a big deal for me,” he said. “It changed my life around. I have a new set of eyes. It’s pretty cool. It’s been a booster for me. When I come home now, the last thing I want to do is disappoint my son.”

Naugler has gone the distance in losses against current WBC light heavyweight beltholder Chad Dawson, prospect James McGirt Jr. and former contender Anthony “The Messenger” Thompson.

Becoming involved with Zane has caused him to re-evaluate what remains of his career.

Naugler is coming off a 10-round victory over Abdullah Ramadan, against whom he defended the Canadian light heavyweight title he won last year against David Whittom.

“I don’t have a time schedule, but since meeting my son two years ago, I want to spend more time with him,” said Naugler, who works as a handyman for a friend between fights. “I wonder what the effects are on my body and head ” I’ve taken a lot of punches already. I don’t want to take too many more. My eyes are open. I don’t want to get injured or go out on a bad note. I want to get out with my dignity intact.”

If Naugler can pull off what he calls “an upset” of Brinkley, who is ranked No. 14 by the IBF, he’d like to take his career further.

Naugler is a native of a blue-collar town in a country where hockey ” not boxing ” is king, and his family is firmly in his corner (he has two brothers, two sisters, his parents, his girlfriend and now Zane behind him). He is fully focused on the 31-year-old Brinkley, whom he watched on the NBC boxing reality show “The Contender.”

“I’m looking at it as a good opportunity,” Naugler said. “He’s a big puncher. He has a big streak of knockouts. I have a lot of respect for the guy. I’m coming into his hometown. I believe Jesse’s a good fighter.”

But Naugler also believes in himself.

“I’ll be in there for the full 12 rounds ” I have no doubt about it,” he said. “A week and half ago I went 13 rounds with three heavyweights because they can punch. I’m not worried about my conditioning or letting my hands go. I know it’s a good matchup with his style of boxing.”

Naugler said there’s no secret about his in-ring approach.

“I know he’s going to hit me ” a blind man can hit me,” Naugler said. “I’m going to suck it up and go forever. Come fight night I’ll be in front of him. When I don’t go anywhere, it takes its toll. It’s about taking his desire and heart away. I don’t want to sound crazy, but I’ll fight until I die. I’m going to fight as though it’s my last fight. I’m going to dig deep and pull it out.”

After all, he’s no longer 17 and fighting for himself. Naugler, having learned the hard way, is now embracing responsibility.

‘INTERNATIONAL AFFAIR’

WHAT: Eight-bout boxing card headlined by Jesse Brinkley, 30-5 with 21 knockouts, of Yerington, and Jason Naugler, 18-7-1 (11), of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The 12-round bout is for Brinkley’s WBC-affiliated USNBC super middleweight title.

WHEN: Friday. Doors open at 6 p.m. First bout at 7.

WHERE: Reno Ballroom.

TICKETS: $25, $50, $100 (ringside) and $150 (front-row ringside). Call (800) 687-8733 or visit the Silver Legacy box office or http://www.ticketmaster.com.