The least expected Apostle

(ESPNdeportes.com) -- In the last few months, the Super Lightweight or Junior Welterweight division has been in every fan's mouth, as it is one of the most competitive ones in today's boxing.

Names such as Kostya Tszyu, Ricky Hatton, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto, Arturo Gatti or Vivian Harris widely justify people's interest.

However, surprises sometimes happen in this sport. To the point that the least expected may enter the big picture overnight.

In this case, the man of the hour is Colombian Carlos Maussa (19-2, 17 KO's), who became World Boxing Association's Super Lightweight champion after knocking out Guyana's Vivian Harris in the seventh round, last June 25 in Atlantic City.

Curiously enough, in the days leading to that fight, Harris seemed to be more focused on calling out every 140-pounder around as he proclaimed himself to be the best.

After a rough first two minutes of the bout, in which it seemed he would be knocked out any second, Maussa became stronger. His totally unorthodox style confused Harris and his powerful punches started to take effect.

"I thought he would bring me down, but I fought hard. I started using combinations to the body and head and he felt it. I think my punches can make everyone weak," the 33 year-old Colombian told ESPNdeportes.com.

"In the third or fourth round I noticed that Harris started complaining. He lacked his strength and felt like he was going to vomit. That's when I felt really confident and thought I was going to win," he added.

A left hook sealed the win as Harris fell down for the count in the seventh, but not before a strange situation occurred prompting Maussa to be on the verge of a disqualification.

With Harris on the canvas, Maussa knelt down and threw a punch that landed against one of the ropes. Referee Earl Brown doubted for a second but finally he thought it was not an intentional foul.

"I deliberately hit the rope as a way to intimidate Harris. I just wanted to impress him so he could not get up. I had not bad intentions at all," he explained.

Despite this incident, one could think that not even Maussa was expecting such a victory. Especially after he did not have a great experience in his first world title shot, when he lost by technical knockout in seven rounds against Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, in December 2003.

"I felt the pressure for that fight and other problems were effecting me at the time. I don't want to take anything from Cotto anyway. And I learned a lot of things from that loss," he remembers.

"I wasn't in perfect condition for Harris. I had a short preparation, only a month and a half. Besides, a few months earlier (in December 2004) I had lost against Arturo Morua and wasn't really confident," says the native from Monteria, a cattle city located Northeast of Colombia, on the Atlantic Coast.

"But I was really hungry. Because you cannot afford to waste that kind of chance. The Lord Jesus Christ gave me the strength and the will. And my managers Hernan and Oscar Gomez, and my promoter Felix 'Tutico' Zabala, encouraged me to take the fight.".

Today, life is a bed of roses for Maussa. After his win in the United States he was welcomed in Monteria as a hero, and especially in the neighborhood of Santa Fe, where he was born and still lives.

"I'm the champ of the poor people. And I'm very happy and excited about it. My hometown people made me feel so good as they gave me a wonderful welcome I wasn't expecting," he said emotionally.

However, life has not always been kind to Maussa.

"I had a great career as an amateur, with 130 bouts and just nine defeats. I was national champion four times and also Central American champion. But my life was messed up. I used to drink and party too much," he says.

"I used to participate in satanic rituals, I was sick. This cost me a lot. I got separated from the mother of my three kids and really felt my life was going backwards. But I felt like I had to do all that in order to meet God. That's why I don't blame anyone. Since then, I became a professional and never again parted with the Lord," he explains.

Despite being a 29-year-old, an age for which many boxers are considered veterans, Maussa became pro in July 2000.

One of Maussa's models was former WBA Bantamweight champ Miguel "Happy" Lora, also a Monteria native, and the city's sports symbol.

"I always admired Lora. In those times I looked up to him and said to myself: 'If he made it, I can make it too.' I also liked Kid Pambele and Tomas Molinares, though that doesn't mean they were my idols. My only idol is Jesus Christ, who gave us life," he appoints.

As it can be seen, Maussa is truly a devout to religion. He defines himself as a "contributor to the Christian Evangelic Church."

"Every time I can I go to church, in order to comply with God's will. And I like to preach the Lord's message around. This is why everyone knows me as 'Maussa, the apostle.'"

But besides of his devotion towards the church and boxing, Maussa had to turn to various jobs in order to make a living.

"I did so many things. I used to sell bread, I was a cop, a professional soldier, and I ran a washing machine rental service, for example," he remembers.

"Life as a soldier is too hard. At one time I became closely involved in a combat situation, for instance. I used to box for the Police, and even won a championship between different armed forces of Colombia," he says.

"In 2002 I opened a washing machine business, as a result of the money I had earned with my fights. I rented the machines by the hour and had to deliver them door-to-door. But last year I left the business to my brother. Luckily, my life has changed now that I won this belt. This is the living proof that it is never too late," he admits.

There are many reasons why Maussa can be excited about his future. The big names of the 140-pound division, those who may make him earn big money, lie in his horizon.
However, he prefers to take it slowly, step by step.

"They're all very good athletes. They have made it on their own. The same as me, I wanted to make it and I did. But now I'm planning to make three or four defenses before facing the big guys. I've a great potential to keep on winning," said the same man who lived with his mother, Ena Diaz, until six months ago.

"Anyway, if one of those bouts against the stars come off, I'm very welcomed to take it. I'll fight whoever makes the best offer. I think I've got good chances of making Colombia proud of me against any of them," he finishes.

The least expected 'Apostle' has faith that all this is just the beginning.

Sebastián Contursi, an ESPNdeportes.com reporter, has worked for different media in Argentina and the United States. He has attended more than 70 boxing world title bouts, Roland Garros 2001 and other tennis ATP events, FIFA World Youth Championship Argentina 2001, World Cup Korea/Japan 2002 and several Copa Libertadores, UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League games.