DeMarcus Deon Corley was born in the U.S. capital city of Washington, District of Columbia. Corley will celebrate his 44th birthday this June and his 22nd year in pro boxing in two months time.
Washington D.C., is a city fraught with contradiction - practical seat of political power where all the machinations of American government reside. Home of monuments and museums chronicling much of the history of Western Civilization.
Washington D.C., is also a city of vast division economically and racially.
D.C., was created partially out of land ceded by Virginia and Maryland. After a period of economic decline in the mid 19th century D.C. was reshaped including only a portion of the land donated by Maryland while some land was reclaimed by Virginia as well. By the 1860s with the civil war raging an influx of emancipated slaves drove the population to swell by 75%.
The early 1900s brought urban renewal projects and D.C., was positioned to rival Philadelphia and New York as one of America’s great metropolitan areas.
The rise of Jim Crowe and growing racial tension through the post reconstruction south hit it’s crescendo after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. Riots raged for three days that spring in D.C. and more than 13,000 National Guard troops were brought in to quell the violence. The damage done would not be fully repaired until the 1990s
The crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 90s hit D.C. particularly hard and the crime that attends to the proliferation of that perfidious narcotic drove skyrotecking violent crime rates and urban decay. The northwestern neighborhoods were largely safe - being home to the more affluent residents and where government and civil offices reside.
The southern tier of the city, specifically the 7th and 8th wards where Corley grew up were largely ignored. When Corley was was in his late teens and early twenties D.C. was named Murder Capital of the United States, when Corley was just 17, homicides surged to all time highs with 482 that year.
It was in this milieu that Corley somehow beat the odds through learning to box. Originally apathetic about the sport, Corley’s first choice was basketball, however the undersized Corley was not a good player and was realistic about his chances to play.
Corley met Kenny Mallard, one of the trainers who worked at the Kenilworth Recreation Center located on Anacostia Ave. where Corley often hung around. Mallard painted a different picture for Corley showing the young man that he could achieve success in boxing if he applied himself. Corley said this of the connection:
[I was]... hanging down there and they had boxing from 7:00 pm until 9:00pm. Kenny Mallard asked me if I wanted to box and I said ‘no’. He asked why and I said ‘I already know how to fight’. He told me boxing was a sport and not something you just do as a fight. I asked him what you get if you win and he took me around and showed me all these trophies. It was exciting to me, being a short person. I’ve always been short. I couldn’t play basketball. I wasn’t a good player. I liked one on one sports, so I figured boxing is one on one compatible. I’d rather do that than any other sport. The trophies are what drove me to boxing.
Corley became serious about the sport around 10 years old, he trained for about a year before entering his first amateur fight at the Silver Glove Nationals in Nashville, TN. The diminutive Corley weighed just 65 pounds before the fight.
The coaches took the kids to Burger King to get lunch and Corley was admonished to eat light in order to make weight. As Corley tells it, things didn’t go quite as planned:
so I got a salad first. Then I had more food and more food and ice cream. I got on the scale the next day and I weighed 75 pounds .... My trainer said ‘you chopped that food up. I’m going to call you ‘Chop Chop’. Now you have to move up in weight and fight at 75 pounds.
… And Demarcus Chop Chop Corley was born…
Life & Death
Corley had a successful amateur career and turned pro at 23 in 1996. He amassed a very respectable record - 19W-1L-1D before challenging Ener Julio for the USBA Super Lightweight title in 1999. Corley won the bout and the title via split decision.
Corley endeared himself to fans when he took a fight for the WBO World Super Lightweight title on just five days notice! Corley was matched against Felix Flores at the Mandalay Bay Casino on 30 June 2001. Corley knocked Flores down twice enroute to a first round stoppage! Corley was now a World Champion!
He defended the title twice before running into Zab Judah two years later. Zab is a rugged, controversial fighter in his own right. It was a tactical battle between two southpaws and though Corley wobbled Zab in the fight, Chop Chop suffered an early knockdown in the third and was unable to battle back ultimately losing a split decision to Zab.
A year prior when Corley should have been celebrating the greatest triumph of his pro career having just won a world title he was instead grieving the loss of his brother who was murdered in 2002 in a drug related shooting back home in D.C.
Corley was very close to his brother, and having seven children of his own adopted his brother’s child as well without hesitation. Corley has also been known to wear outlandish costumes to the ring - from military garb with gas masks to mini skirts! Oddly enough DeMarcus and his brother bonded over their shared love of fashion!
It was his brother who helped design and sew some of his ring attire. In fact if he had not been involved in boxing Corley might have entered the fashion world like his brother:
I’d continue my focus of going to school and becoming a fashion designer. The reason is my brother who was murdered was a seamstress….I said ‘is it that easy, but you charge so much’. What people don’t know is that it takes a lot of patience when it comes to making clothes. You have to have patience if you want to sew. That was my driven passion because my brother did it so easy. If you have patience, it can be done. If I never became a boxer I would have stayed in school, went to college, and became a fashion designer.
As it happens Corley is a boxer and that level of patience and craftsmanship that would be required to design and craft fashionable clothing would transfer to the ring as well. Even though he would never again hold any title Corley would make his mark in the sport fighting the best of his generation in their physical primes, usually coming 2nd but always down to scrap.
Any Given Night
Maybe the nickname Chop Chop was bestowed upon DeMarcus Corley decades ago related to his appetite - however if you have ever seen Corley in the ring he has chopped up many opponents.
Though standing only 5’7” Corley possess a 70” reach. Fighting the majority of his career at Lightweight and Super Lightweight he nevertheless looks very imposing physically. The slick southpaw has power in both hands and legit ring craft. He mixes in his shots well working from the body to the head and back again...he has very impressive hand speed as well and was a nightmare for fighters like Floyd Mayweather.
Corley fought Floyd on his comeback fight after losing his WBO title to Zab Judah a year before. Floyd was moving up to 140 pounds with an eye on capturing titles in a third weight class. Corley was the perfect test. He did land on Floyd and went to work chopping Floyd’s body however Floyd battled back and dropped Corley twice - in the eighth and tenth rounds ultimately losing a unanimous decision.
Following the loss Corley came back with a victory over the seasoned Darrell Tyson, then fought Miguel Cotto, just 22-0 at the time for Cotto’s WBO Super Lightweight title - the belt once held by Corley barely three ago. Cotto, who would fight as high as middleweight hurt Corley early in the first round. It was a chippy fight, filled with late punches after the bell and low blows. Though Corley countered well particularly with his right hook and hurt Cotto badly in the third he succumbed to the younger, bigger, fresher Cotto by TKO in round five.
After rebounding with two wins over lesser opposition Corley was winless from September 2006 to October 2008 losing to fellow vets Ashley Theophane and Devon Alexander.
Over the next few years Corley was up and down. In August 2010 he was positioned to take on the rising Argentinian Marcos Maidana in Buenos Aires. Coming off a brutal stoppage of Victor Ortiz the feared and avoided Maidana was 28-1 with 27 KOs and interim WBA Super Lightweight champion.
Undaunted by the task ahead, Corley was sanguine and somewhat confused why fighters at this level would not want to fight the best available competition:
In this sport of boxing, no man should fear another man. On any given night it can turn over for the next man. I’m not afraid of no fighter out there.
Once again, Corley showed hurt and went toe-to-toe with Maidana at every turn, though Corley was knocked down in the 8th and badly hurt in the 9th again Maidana gassed late in the fight as nothing he threw at Chop Chop seemed to dent his resolve. Corley was never going to win a decision on enemy soil, however the scores were far too wide and not reflective of the effort Corley put forward.
Again, Corley got back on his horse - the have gloves will travel fighter this time shipped off to the Ukraine losing a bid for a European title to Serhii Fedchenko. From November 2011 to December 2012 Corley fought five times losing them all to quality fighters like Viktor Postol and a wide points decision to Russian mad man Ruslan Provodnikov.
Not surprisingly Corley has continued to fight.
He names his children as his chief motivator for remaining in the sport:
I’m going to stay into boxing… I want to help kids. My thing is children. I have eight children of my own and they are the reason I do what I do; and I love what I do.
Corley fought three times last year, going 2-1 both by UD and just fought Hank Lundy last month on 10 February in Philadelphia losing by UD and is currently booked to fight Jesus Ortega a relative novice at 24 years old with less than 20 fights.
Corley not only guards the gate now for anyone who would try to crack the elite levels of boxing he’s been a noted sparring partner for some of the best fighters of this generation, even former foe Floyd Mayweather, Corley prepared Floyd for Zab Judah and Sharmba Mitchell both tough southpaws.
Corley has also sparred current pound for pound king Vasyl Lomachenko and has confirmed that the Ukranian is the goods.
Corley has also pursued his dream of entering the fashion world fusing his passions for boxing and for design by launching his clothing brand that features boxing gloves and shoes, make up - you name it!
Next month Corley prepares for his 81st professional bout and turns 44 on June 3rd and there is no indication that Chop Chop is going to slow down.
Despite coming from a rough city and facing real hardship and tragedy Corley has overcome it all, travelling and fighting all over the world and can call himself a World Champion and entrepreneur.
The story of DeMarcus Chop Chop Corley completely upends the notion of what a gatekeeper or journeyman boxer is and that story is still being written today.