Stamford native credits boxing, judge with turning life around
Stamford native Chordale Booker believes boxing helped turn his life around. He also credits an early opponent.
Ten years ago, at the age of 18, Booker was arrested on narcotics and guns charges. "I think it turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me," he says.
His case ended up before a judge Booker knew only by reputation, Judge Gary White. "Everybody's scared to go up against Judge White. Everybody!" Booker recalls.
In December 2010, White had to rule on Booker's sentence. The charges carried a mandatory 13 years in jail. White gave Booker three years’ probation.
"I was so thankful, you know, I cried," Booker remembers.
"If I can give somebody an opportunity, I will, but he's gotta show me something," White explains.
Booker made a decision right there to never return to the courtroom again. And he's stuck to it.
"I found a sport I really enjoyed doing and that I wake up every day saying, 'I want to go there,'" says Booker.
Despite a late start in boxing, Booker was talented, winning the Golden Gloves his first year.
But at one amateur bout early on, he was caught off guard. The man who decided his fate in the courtroom would do the same in the ring. White is an amateur boxing judge. For more than 15 years, he's applied skills learned behind the bench to ringside.
"After one of the bouts, he and his mother came up to me and they were thanking me for treating him well in court," recalls White.
That wouldn't be the last time he saw Booker.
The boxer became one of the most accomplished amateur fighters in his weight class, and the two developed a friendship in the process.
"He's really like a boxing historian," says Booker "He knows about boxing more than I do."
Booker turned professional in 2016 and currently has a record of 15-0 with seven knockouts. He's at the top of his game with dreams of one day winning a title. And the man who could've sent him away will be watching him in the ring, not as a judge but as a fan.
"I thank him every time. Every time I see him I say, 'Man, if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be right here today,'" Booker says.
"The important thing is what you do after you've failed," White counters. "If you got knocked down, do you get up? And Chordale's been knocked down in life, and he's gotten up and he's come back stronger."