Champion Bates: A Tortured Hero Born To Win by Piper Huguley

Today my guest is Piper Huguley, who was one of my team members in the NANO (National Novel Writing Month) Smackdown sponsored by Savvy Authors last November. Our team finished the challenge respectably in 9th position out of 27. Even better, we all gained valuable writing friends!

Welcome to Susana’s Morning Room, Piper!

Hello!  I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my hero, Champion Bates.

1935 Pittsburgh: Aptly-named Champion Bates is an up and coming Negro contender who harbors a secret—he could lose his eyesight if he keeps boxing. He’s tormented by a love lost–at the moment of their elopement; he abandoned his childhood sweetheart, Cordelia “Delie” Bledsoe for his career. Ten years later, Delie needs financial help to sustain her orphans home, so to prove his love, he will fight one more time for her love and prove he has A Champion’s Heart.

jack1Champion was named and modeled after two African American boxers. By fighting with their fists, Jack Johnson and Joe Louis made contributions to society and helped to establish the humanity of African Americans:

Jack Johnson: He was the swaggering, boasting, in-your-face African American boxer who became the world champion in 1908 and held the title until 1915. My hero, born in 1909, came from a long line of boxers who would fight for the slave master’s entertainment. Thus, my hero’s enterprising mother named him Champion Jack Bates in honor of Jack Johnson. Naming children in this “Born to win” way was a regular naming practice among African Americans—think Prince, Earl, Duke, Queen and the like. It forced people to pay respect to a child who might not get respect otherwise.

joe_louisJoe Louis: Although the movie 42 is raking in big box office right now, Joe Louis, as a boxer, was an important precursor to Jackie Robinson’s integration of major league baseball in 1947. In 1937, Americans of all races came together to cheer Joe Louis to victory as a heavyweight champion. He was the first African American to regain the heavyweight boxing title after Jack Johnson’s defeat in1915. In those twenty or so years, boxing was a segregated sport. In 1935, Champion is looking for the chance that Joe Louis ultimately got to fight in a major title fight with a white fighter. Champ’s problems with his eyesight stood in the way of that goal. Joe Louis appears as a character toward the end of A Champion’s Heart.

Before I even did the research necessary to write about Champion as a boxer, I knew that Negro boxers in the segregated era (post Jack Johnson and pre Joe Louis) had a difficult time. The boxers on the segregated circuit were mostly “ham and eggers.” They would fight for practically the next meal because fighting in the ring brought more dignity to their lives than the menial tasks that African American males were forced to endure in regular society. This repeated fighting, multiple times during the week, took a heavy toll on their bodies and minds. Some fighters, like Dixie Brown ended up going blind, so I constructed my story to allow Champ to gradually lose his sight after a doctor’s warning, which raises the stakes for him.

I was also inspired by the romances in two boxing movies, Cinderella Man and Rocky. Cinderella Man is based on a real life boxer and Rocky is fictitious, but I have always loved how completely these guys loved their women!

Boxing has lost a lot of interest these days due to the dangerous nature of the sport, but historically, they were rough and ready men who risked a lot, lived hard and built up great physiques at the same time.

Are women attracted to men who lead risky lives and who are “born to win”? What do you think?

IMG_0840About the Author

Piper Huguley is an aspiring author pursuing publication for her inspirational historical romance fiction. She is a 2013 Golden Heart finalist for her novel, A Champion’s Heart—the fourth book in The Bledsoe Sisters series.


Twitter: @writerpiper


56 thoughts on “Champion Bates: A Tortured Hero Born To Win by Piper Huguley

  1. Piper’s characters are unforgettable. I’m glad to know more about Champ… and Piper!

  2. I think as a for Pro Athlete for someone to understand the passion of what the sport they have choice to be apart of and what it takes to be the best at what they do gives a great compliment to the athletes who put in the long hours and time in. Thank you for such a informative story and insightful well done

  3. Pingback: My first guest blog post | All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

  4. Champion sounds like an amazing character, Piper! What a rich and fascinating part of American life that the romance world really hasn’t discovered yet! I hope I’ll get the chance to read your book before long!

  5. Very interesting, Piper! Too often history is focused before this time period, so seeing/reading something that gives us a real-life taste is awesome. Can’t wait till you get picked up by a pub and we get to read it!

    As a martial arts instructor, I can say that though all the men who fight don’t have the charisma of, say, fighters in movies, there is something about that testosterone overload that is just plain hawt. 😉

  6. Great post, Piper. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your powerful stories. Champion’s Heart sounds like another great read. As a cheering critique partner, I know Ruby and Mags are.

    Susana, I’m curious since I used to be in the Beau Monde through Outreach. Is the Quizzing Glass still put out? I used to get it hard copy. When I get ready to revamp my Regency, I’d like to subscribe.

    • Yes, it is. You have to be a member to get it, though.

      We’d love to see at the Beau Monde conference, the day before RWA starts. I’ll be there in my Regency gown!

  7. Ella,

    You noticed that the men in the pics don’t have shirts on–whoot! (And I can say that here since I know that dh probably won’t be back!) Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I so appreciate your support, c.p. Elaine! Even though you have me on a cliff’s edge with your last two chapters of your book, I will wait patiently for them….thanks for coming by!

  9. Oh, wow, Piper! You story sounds amazing! Such a rich historical backdrop to make for a truly heroic character. I look forward to reading it in print! I just know we’ll be able to before long.

    I don’t know about women falling for risky behavior as much as men who are willing to risk all for the women they love and for a worthy cause.

  10. Missy,
    You have that so right! Can you tell that Rocky and Cinderella Man are two favorites of mine? Many people see these as boxing movies, but I see them as romances! Thank you for your support and for coming by!

    • As you might suspect from the synopsis, Champ is in a bit of predicament when he comes back into Delie’s life, but his willingness to “go the distance” for her is what starts to win her over–but he’s got a hard road ahead! Thanks for coming by, Angie!

  11. Hi, Piper! I knew your GH nomination was for historical… it’s fun to know more about your novel. Lots of GMC and sounds great! Your post had me thinking about romances for men, too. My DH loves a good inspirational football story, so adding romance……hmmmm……maybe DH and I can be a writing team. Hoping to reading your book SOON….and the stories of the other three sisters.

    • Hey Sherida! That’s the only drawback to they announce the Golden Heart–it would be so nice to have a log line or something to know what each one is about. I admit, when I first joined the loop, those were the questions that I asked first–I wanted to know, amongst the historicals especially, what eras were represented. And as I thought, I’m the lone 20th century one.
      Sports romances are growing in popularity, but I don’t know if there has been any intention to market them to men. Makes sense to me. And writing one with your Dh would be such a bonding activity!
      Delie has four sisters (her mother had a total of eight pregnancies, resulting in the five girls but the three boys did not live) and I hope that their stories will all see daylight someday! Thank you for stopping by!

  12. Piper, I’m a Motown girl who writes for the inspy market as well! Joe Louis was definitely an amazing athlete and hero! Glad to “meet” you, and delighted for your success in finaling in GH!!! WOOT! The book sounds amazing, and I wish you every success! God bless!

    • Hi Marianne,
      Nice to “meet” you too! I don’t think Joe Louis gets the credit he deserves (maybe I’m a little partial because Champ looks a little like him). I hope that the making of 42 might shine a little light on Joe Louis. His life story would make an amazing movie! Blessings to you and thank you for stopping by!

  13. This sounds like a fascinating story, Piper! I’m not a boxing fan, but I love a good story about fighting against the odds to build a better life. Congratulations again on your GH final!

    Susana, thanks for having Piper on your blog today!

    • Hi Myra, It is always good to have Seekerville buds over here. Champ trains a lot in the story, but no fight until the end. He has enough to deal with with Delie on his hands! Thanks for coming by!

  14. WHOO-HOO, PIPER … the book sounds AMAZING!!

    AND are women attracted to men who lead risky lives and who are “born to win”?

    Uh … is the sky blue??? Well, not today in St. Louis, but usually, so I’ll say a big YES on your question above!!


    • Hey Julie,
      I appreciate the affirmation from another 20th century person such as yourself. You paved a road with your novels, and I appreciate what you’ve done. Thank you for coming by!

  15. Cecelia,

    A true pleasure to have you here. I have lurked on your blogs and I enjoy your work. If you are coming to RWA, I hope we can meet sometime. Thank you for stopping by!

  16. Piper, I love the plot of this story and what a great hero. I find the dignity factor fascinating and it makes a lot of sense. I’ve been told that my great grandfather was a boxer. I have not found evidence of that yet in my ancestry research.

    I can’t wait to get my hands on your book. Wish I was going to ATL to cheer you on.

  17. Tina,
    Thank you so much for pushing me and applying that red font to my synopsis! I guess it paid off–and I like your “when” language! Thank you for stopping by!


  18. Christina,
    Yes, so many people find those “dignity” names strange or funny, but as you say, it makes a lot of sense. Those mamas wanted some respect for their kids! Some of those names, like Earl, have passed into conventional onomastic naming patterns, but some others (I have a cousin named Princess whose grandfather was King, my great-uncle), do stick out.
    And I wish that you were coming to Atlanta too, but thank you for your good wishes! Thank you for coming by–and keep investigating that ancestor!

  19. Love the premise for A Champion’s Heart, Piper. I’m not sure I’d want to live with a man who takes risks and is “born to win”, but I enjoy reading about them. 🙂 Wish you the best in the Golden Heart.

  20. I wouldn’t be able to handle the worry of being with a risk taker, but I do love reading about those types of heroes! Thank you for giving the historical context of your book. It really helps to bring the era to life, and I wish you all the best with your GH entry, A Champion’s Heart. I hope to buy it in print someday!

  21. Great blog and very intriguing question, Piper!

    I think people (both women and men) are attracted to those who are born to succeed…but they might be even MORE attracted to people who are born to succeed and have hard times or challenges (like going blind or living in a society that doesn’t accept them) and then they must struggle against the odds to reach their goals and earn their victory. If our favorite heroes didn’t have to struggle, would we love them as much?.

    Loved hearing about your book, your characters and your writing process, Piper! I’m a huge fan of historical novels, so I can’t wait to read your book!

  22. Piper what a powerful story you’ve written. I can’t wait to read it!
    We had a teen panel at our last Chapter meeting. They are part of YALSA (I think I”ve got that right.) And they were saying that YA needed to deal with more social issues. I think you would have made them happy — and you’re not even writing YA!

  23. Piper,
    Champion’s Heart sounds fascinating, a book I’d love to read. The conflict of Champion risking his sight to prove his love for Delie—well, that’s just fingernail biting tension. Can’t wait to read it! See you in Atlanta.

  24. Jacqui,
    Thank you for stopping by, my dear competitor! Your use of historical research in a romantic suspense is intriguing and I hope to return the favor of reading your book in print–sooner rather than later.

  25. Nan,
    I appreciate your comment. Inspys are considered adult fiction, but there is nothing in them that would prohibit a young person from reading them. YA has such a broad audience now; I’m surprised that there is a potential portion being overlooked. There is real marketing potential there…..Thank you for stopping by!

  26. Sandra,
    Thank for pointing out about Champ’s potential to lose his eyesight as a conflict. I have had the comment before (from an editor-lol) that Champ and Delie had too many challenges to overcome, but I thought that was the point in romance, isn’t it? Thank you for stopping by!

  27. Piper, what a terrific and unusual story you’ve written–the characters, the situation and the historical background are all so interesting. I’m really looking forward to the chance to read the whole book one day.

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