It's been a long and winding road for Dean Storey.
Since turning pro way back in 1991, the heavyweight from Moncton, N.B., has traded punches with a long list of prospects and suspects, ranging from the formidable -- one-time No. 3 world-ranked contenders Eddie Chambers and Kevin McBride (the last man to KO Mike Tyson) -- to the forgettable: 270-pound Mexican wannabe Marcelo Aravena, who was 6-21 when Storey beat him in 2003.
At age 40, Storey knows his best fighting days are now behind him. But tonight at the Palace Banquet Hall he'll square off with Edmonton's Sheldon Hinton in a rematch for something both of them covet: a title belt.
It's not a world championship, or even the Canadian crown. But when the smoke settles, either Storey or Hinton will walk away with the officially sanctioned CAM Pro Boxing (Canada-America-Mexico) championship of North America.
SORTA LIKE ROCKY
Think of it as sorta like what Rocky Balboa might have won when he whupped Spider Rico in that smoke-filled lounge in Rocky II.
"These two guys, Hinton and Storey, represent exactly what our organization symbolizes -- the heart and soul of club-type boxing that is the foundation of the sport everywhere in the world," CAM president Bob Overton said yesterday from his office in Beaverton, Ore.
"The CAM title is the blue collar belt of boxing. It's an opportunity for fighters on the fringe of national or regional rankings to compete for a legitimate, recognized title.
"CAM was organized 10 years ago to fill a void in championship sanctioning, and it's proven to be a very popular move.
"I've been involved in promoting for more than 40 years, and it always kind of pissed me off that so many good, hard-working club-type fighters never got a chance to be recognized or to compete for a title belt. With CAM, they get that chance."
The first CAM champion was welterweight Tony Martinez, who KO'd Eugene Lopez for the inaugural belt in 2000. Since then, more than two dozen titles have been contested.
According to Overton, what sets his organization apart from the rest of boxing's alphabet-soup sanctioning bodies is that CAM champions are contractually bound to defend their crowns.
"There's no deal-brokering, no favours," he emphasized.
"Whoever wins in Edmonton will have six months to defend our heavyweight title, or he's out.
"It's cut-and-dried. If a champion is sick or injured and can't fight, that's too bad -- the title goes up for grabs for somebody else.
SWEAT AND HARD WORK
"Let's be honest. The fighters who compete for CAM titles are, for the most part, club-type guys who probably aren't going to get a crack at a world title or even a national championship.
"But they still put in the sweat and the hard work, they still sell tickets and a have a fan following. In some cases, like with Sheldon, they're extremely popular in their local market.
"It's only fair that these guys get their shot at glory. For the Hintons and Storeys and all the other meat-and-potatoes fighters out there, the CAM title is their world title.
"We're honoured to give them that opportunity."
Storey (8-15-2) notched a close unanimous decision over Hinton (8-6-1) in a six-rounder at the Shaw Conference Centre in March.
Their rematch was originally scheduled for the undercard of the Frank White vs. Ryan Henney Canadian cruiserweight title bout here in June, but Storey was scratched when his pre-fight medical revealed a lung infection.
Tonight's CAM title bout is slated for eight rounds.
It's the co-main event on the sold-out six-bout card presented by Prime Time Promotions and Nischay Palace Promotions, headlined by a 10-rounder between Edmonton's Omar (The Mexicutioner) Valdez (4-2-2) and Steve Cannell of Halifax (2-1-2) for the vacant Canadian Boxing Federation super bantamweight crown.