How a Joe Rogan rant inspired an Olympic boxing hopeful to make one last run at the Games

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Cam F. Awesome (R) celebrates after his win over Joseph Beckles on Nov. 3, 2019 at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. (Photo courtesy of Cam F. Awesome)

Cam F. Awesome was convinced his boxing career was over. He had a good run during the 2016 Olympic qualifiers, but failed to make the U.S. Olympic team that competed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

If there is anything that Awesome, who was born as Lenroy Thompson, can do better than he can box, it’s talk. And so Awesome gave up on his boxing career and became a motivational speaker.

He’d found a niche talking to school children, and would drive around the country preaching a message of positivity and anti-bullying that he calls “Awesome Talks.” During the last school year, Awesome spoke in 206 school assemblies, driving 54,000 miles through 23 states in a 2006 Dodge Sprinter.

He is essentially from Kansas City, but has spent just three weeks there in the last year. Otherwise, he’s living out of the Sprinter as he travels the country.

He has a lot of time to think during those long drives, so he’d listen to podcasts. One of his favorites is the “Joe Rogan Experience.”

One day, Awesome was listening when Rogan let loose on motivational speakers.

“That’s what I feel like is missing from a lot of people who are getting into motivational this, and motivational that,” Rogan said on his podcast. “They ain’t doing s---. You’ve got to go do something. That’s the No. 1 thing.”

Those words resonated with Awesome, who since he was no longer fighting and working toward a goal felt his talks weren’t as impactful as they once had been.

He didn’t want to try out for the U.S. Olympic team, because that would have meant moving full-time to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to train. He wouldn’t be able to support himself doing that and his speaking career would be done.

But if he wanted his talks to mean something to those who were listening, he felt he had to do as Rogan said.

“Hearing him talk, it brought up my own personal guilt and I was feeling like a piece of s---,” Awesome told Yahoo Sports.

And that led him back to the ring. If he makes the walk into the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo in 2020, it won’t be with the U.S., though. Because his father is from Trinidad & Tobago, he has the ability to compete for them.

So Awesome went back to training and fought over the weekend in the Trinidad & Tobago Olympic Trials at Jean Pierre Complex in Port-of-Spain.

He won the heavyweight division by going 2-0, scoring a second-round TKO of Joseph Beckles in the finals. That advances him to the Americas qualifier in March, where he’ll need a top-three finish to make the Olympic team.

Cam F. Awesome (R) punches Joseph Beckles during their heavyweight fight on Nov. 3, 2019 at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain, Trinidad. (Photo courtesy of Cam F. Awesome)

When he talks at the assemblies again, he’ll feel entirely different than he’d felt before hearing Rogan.

“My message felt not as authentic,” Awesome said. “I don’t like the term ‘motivational speaker,’ because it’s watered down. But too many people who are doing it haven’t really done anything. What have they accomplished? I looked at it like I had done something in my life, and I walked away. So I felt like I needed to set a goal and try to do something again.”

Traveling, he finds a boxing gym in every city he goes to, and trains in the morning before heading to school to speak to the students. He discusses bullying, digital awareness, alcohol and drug use (along with vaping) and goal-setting.

Social media, he said, has changed the dynamic between people in so many ways. Previously, he said, if a kid got beaten up at school, it would be forgotten in a few days. Now, it’s on social media for all the world to see.

It’s why he feels everyone should have one sanctioned fight. You learn who you really are and what you are about in those situations, he said.

“You think you have fast hands and you think you’re quick and you’re strong, but you sign up for a fight and all of a sudden, you have someone in front of you who matches what you have,” Awesome said. “He’s just as fast and just as quick and just as strong. That’s where mental toughness and resiliency comes in. You find out who crumbles under that pressure and who finds a way, and that applies to so many things in life.

“[Floyd] Mayweather, say what you want about him, he finds a way. If we learned anything from his fight with Zab Judah, it’s that one way or another, he’ll find a way to get the job done. Andre Ward is the same way. On paper, maybe he’s not so super impressive, but the greatest trait he has is his ability to find a way to win.”

Awesome also has a developed a course he calls Mission: AU79, which is, essentially, Mission: Gold. Au is the chemical symbol for gold and its atomic number is 79.

The course is for professional athletes who want to supplement their income speaking in public like he does.

He’ll continue to train for his run at the Olympics. If he makes it, it will just be fodder for one more “Awesome Talk.”

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