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Original Issue

The Boxing Bug

One day in April 2003 Maurice (Termite) Watkins--"born and raised in pest control"--decided to up and fly to Iraq to work as a contract exterminator for the U.S. military, leaving his wife and two kids behind in Houston. When officials discovered that Watkins was a former junior welterweight contender, they asked him instead to develop Iraq's boxing team.

Bankrolled less than a year ago with cash recovered from Saddam Hussein's hoard, Watkins, who turns 48 on Sunday, came through, guiding 24-year-old light flyweight Najah Ali (inset, with Watkins) two bouts deep into the Olympic competition. Watkins's remarkable story has spawned a book and generated four movie offers. Still, says Termite, his work in Iraq is done: "I don't think I'm going back." --Richard Hoffer