Langford retires unbeaten (for now)

6-19-01, 1:05 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Boxingate is over. At least for this year.

With a month to go before training camp, Bengals defensive end Jevon Langford opted not to take his unbeaten record into Monday night's scheduled heavyweight bout.

Langford had racked up two first-round knockouts this offseason before the Bengals appeared to get him on a technical knockout.

But Peter Schaffer, Langford's agent, said his client didn't fight Monday night because the Bengals requested he stop.

"Not at all. It was Jevon's decision," said Schaffer Monday from his Denver office. "It's getting close to training camp, so he's concentrating on his football skills."

Bengals President Mike Brown had made it known publicly he was concerned about Langford getting hurt in the ring. Privately, he lobbied defensive line coach Tim Krumrie and head coach Dick LeBeau to

talk to Langford about making his commitment to football total.

Langford couldn't be reached for comment Monday, but Schaffer said he wasn't aware of any flack from the Bengals.

"I think it's a situation that worked out for everyone," Schaffer said. "Jevon was able to live out a life-long dream and the Bengals are getting a guy who is coming to camp in the best shape of his life at 268 pounds and just ripped."

Langford, a fourth-round draft pick in 1996, is struggling to make a team that picked one defensive end No. 1 (Justin Smith) and cut and re-signed another (John Copeland) for the right price.

Schaffer, who counts as one of his clients retired Lions great Barry Sanders, has always admired Langford's grit in overcoming an impoverished childhood to reach the pros.

But Schaffer's admiration for Langford began to grow even more back on Feb. 1, when the man they call "JRock," showed up in a Denver gym.

"I give him credit," Schaffer said. "To me the hardest part of being a pro athlete nowadays is trying to stay motivated for all 12 months of the year. How many guys do what Jevon did and use their abilities to find something outside their main job?

"He paid for everything on his own," Schaffer said. "Room and board. You name it. And he was in there every day. Up at 6 in the morning for road work, working from 10 to noon and 3 to 5 in the gym and working on his football drills from 6 to 7. Amazing."

Schaffer didn't know how boxing taxed the body until one day he was in the gym with Langford knocking around the equipment.

They decided to shadow box for a three-minute round. After a minute, the gasping Schaffer thought the round was over.

"I wouldn't let my client get into something that exposed him to danger," said Schaffer, who also represents Bengals' fourth-rounder Rudi Johnson. "If he was fighting Mike Tyson for 15 rounds and had a chance at getting killed, sure, I wouldn't let him do that. But it's not like that. People think it's getting constantly hit. It's more like going into the gym and skipping rope for something like 15 minutes straight."

Langford's first objective now is to see if he can hook on with the Bengals and if he can't, what's next? Langford has said he'll box next year no matter what. Schaffer is only intrigued about down the road.

"I don't know if he's going to keep fighting or not," Schaffer said. "But think of this. The (heavyweight) champions lately have been, what? 235 to 240 pounds? 225? Those are linebackers. Not even middle linebackers, but (weak-side) linebackers. What about a guy 270?"

The guy at 270 has a month to find out if boxing will help in a football roster fight.

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