Local boxer Cam F. Awesome trains for the Olympics and for comedy fame
He wears mesh shorts and a tank top and big smile. This is his uniform, now more than ever. The shorts and tank top because of comfort. The smile as a sort of self-survival thing.
Cam F. Awesome is an admitted attention addict, which partially explains why he changed his name from Lenroy Thompson, but now he is in the scary beginning stages of a second life without the one thing for which he’s dedicated the last decade.
“Right now,” he says over a jelly bagel on the Country Club Plaza the other day, “is what happens when you dream big and miss your goal.”
So many of us have been here, right? Fired from a job, divorced from a spouse, letdown by friends or lost it all on a business deal. We have to start over, forcing ourselves to think more about what’s next because what just passed is too raw.
Cam’s new beginning is more public than most.
For the last 10 years, he’s lived and trained in Kansas City to make the Olympic boxing team and perhaps someday bring color and fun and personality to the professional boxing world. The man who once gained a slice of national fame by calling himself “the Taylor Swift of boxing” must now figure out how to be the Someone Else of Something Else.
The old life is done now. The dream is gone. Four years ago, he missed a mandatory drug test and was disqualified. Nobody in or around USA Boxing believes Awesome was doping. He just missed the test.
This summer, he failed to qualify in the ring, his last chance ending in Venezuela this month in a match he believes he deserved to win. He says he’s more at peace this time, because at least it happened with gloves on, but that doesn’t make the sorting out of what to do now any less difficult for a 27-year-old who has never had a real job.
He says he’s done with boxing, with the possible exception of competing in nationals because the winner gets health insurance for year. He wants the rest of his life to be about taking “ridiculous chances,” and someone with those types of plans could at least use health insurance.
So for now, he’s obsessing over every possibility. He reaches out to friends in the WWE, because pro wrestling could be fun. He contacts people at ESPN and other broadcast companies, because he’s comfortable and funny on camera. He will go to a major speakers convention in Phoenix soon because maybe there’s a future in it.
He works out constantly, except when he’s distracted by Pokemon Go — he’s Level 13, if that means anything to you — but more than anything else the idea is to not think about the Olympics and all the opportunities that would’ve come along with it.
“I feel like if I took any time off, reality would hit, and there’s not a place in reality for me,” Cam says. “If I slowed down, I would be sad.”
Cam calls the next three months the most important period of the rest of his life. He is much smarter, more ambitious and a deeper thinker than he likes to let on. He prefers to keep it light, with an earnest, observational, and at times explicit sense of humor he’s used doing stand-up in small comedy clubs around the country.
Depending on the moment, he will say he wants to become so famous he can pour champagne on beautiful women, or so successful he can be outwardly crazy, like Kanye West. Or that he would like to build a kind of pyramid scheme, only instead of bilking people of their money, he would teach them how to make the world a better place.
“Some chicks post pictures ... for attention, and some kids scream out in class,” Cam says. “I just went above and beyond, because I wanted mine on a big stage. But I justify all my (expletive) by using any fame I have to help other people.
“Like, if I could jump on a grenade and save a bunch of people, yeah, in a second. I might die, but I’d be remembered forever. I’d save people, but I’d do it for selfish reasons. I just want to do anything to not be a regular person. Nothing wrong with regular people, I just want no stability, nothing repetitive, something that after I’m dead it’s like, ‘Yo, that was a crazy (expletive) life.’ ”
There’s a pause. Cam smiles.
“Think of all the wild stuff Mike Tyson did that nobody knows about. Or think of all the cool stuff Ozzy Osbourne did before he died.”
Another pause. Another smile.
“I know he’s technically still alive, but you know what I mean.”
Cam is comfortable with discomfort, in other words. He says he’d love to see a 60-second clip of himself at the end of each decade — when he’s 30, when he’s 40, and so on — just to see where this journey goes. Even if the clip is of him sleeping, he’d want to see how big the room is, and who’s sleeping next to him.
The only thing that would disappoint him is if he saw himself in slacks, or worse, a shirt with buttons. He owns two pairs of jeans, he says, and wears whichever pair already has his belt in it.
He has no way of knowing how any of this will turn out, of course, just like none of us knows what comes after our own setbacks. He has compared his boxing career to college, and in that analogy he was good enough to earn a bachelor’s, but failed somewhere between there and a doctorate.
He’s facing the same uncertainties, the same insecurities, the same fears as so many of us in our own moment of truth. He’s just doing it his own way, with an aversion to cubicles and a survival instinct that turns to jokes.
“Maybe this is all part of a plan where I keep getting close to being successful, but not being successful,” he says. “So in 30 years, I can write the world’s greatest book. Like, every goal I set, right before I make it, I’m just going to fail. The end of the book is going to be great. Spoiler alert: I’m going to die.”
Awesome laughs. Whatever happens before the end, he just wants it to be interesting. And not include pants.