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Politics

Jameel 'Big Time' McCline, Former Boxer, Looks to KO Alcee Hastings

April 27, 2014 - 6:00pm

Jameel Big Time McCline, one of the better and more entertaining American heavyweight boxers in recent years, now is running for Congress. McCline is challenging longtime U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., in the Democratic primary.

Sunshine State News spoke to McCline Monday and he confirmed he will run against Hastings, first elected to Congress in 1992. The former heavyweight title contender paid the fee to make the ballot instead of gathering petitions.

I want to be part of bringing change in the 20th District, McCline told Sunshine State News, pointing to his charitable efforts in the area. I think I can do better on a legislative level.

McCline, 44, is pledging to run for Congress to give Floridians a fighting chance. Back in 2013, he showed his support for President Barack Obamas call for a higher minimum wage and expressed disappointment that Chuck Hagel garnered opposition when he was nominated to be defense secretary, despite being a former member of the U.S. Senate and a Republican.

Asked if he still supports raising the minimum wage, McCline said he fully backs Obamas call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. A lot of people say this will cause businesses to fire people, but I highly doubt it, he said. Employers will find a way to make it work.

I dont believe the rhetoric from Republicans in Washington that raising the minimum wage to $10,10 will cause an increase in unemployment, McCline added.

Originally from New York, McCline started boxing late, after he was arrested when he was 18 for gun running. He spent five years in prison. Turning a new leaf when he was released, McCline, who stands 6-foot-6, turned to boxing. Looking back at his incarceration, McCline said it changed him for the better and he will make his renaissance part of his campaign.

America has given me so many opportunities, McCline told Sunshine State News, chief among them being a second chance. The theme of his campaign will be Thank You, America.

McCline said the focus of his campaign will be on jobs, education and helping the middle class. Our children are suffering, the elderly are suffering, McCline said. Most of all, the hard-working middle class is suffering.

Debuting in 1995, McCline started off slowly with a record of two wins, two losses and a draw. But he went undefeated in his next 28 fights, winning 26 of them and having two draws, beating the likes of contenders Michael Grant and Lance Whitaker, former cruiserweight champ Alfred Ice Cole and once-and-future heavyweight champ Shannon Briggs.

McCline challenged Wladimir Klitschko for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) heavyweight title but came up short. After reeling off three straight wins, McCline challenged International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight champion Chris Byrd who, despite being knocked down in the second round, won a controversial split decision that many observers thought the challenger won. Despite winning the World Boxing Councils (WBC) Continental American and the North American Boxing Organizations (NABO) heavyweight titles, McCline had little luck in his two other bids for world heavyweight titles, losing to Nikolai Valuev and Samuel Peter. Losing his last two fights in 2012, McCline retired with a record of 41 wins, 24 of those by knockout, 13 losses and three draws. During his career, McCline built a reputation as a fighter who had no problem going into his opponent's back yard, fighting in Germany, Poland and across Europe.

Besides McCline, Hastings will face Palm Beach County Port Commissioner Jean Enright in the Democratic primary. Republicans Jay Bonner, who has already made the ballot, and Gary Stein are currently battling for their partys nomination in this heavily Democratic district.

McCline is not the only prominent boxer currently active in Florida politics. The legendary Roy Jones Jr., who won titles in multiple weight divisions, has expressed interest in running for mayor of his hometown of Pensacola.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com

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