LAST SPRING I did a column on

Rochelle Gilken

, also known as "Little Rocky," a 4-11, 112-pound graduate of Northeast High and Temple who kept herself busy by: a) working as a crime reporter at the

Palm Beach Post

; b) sharpening her combat-sport skills as a Golden Gloves boxer and black belt in karate, and; c) preparing to be a contestant on the television series "American Gladiators."

Gilken, who turns 29 in 11 days, did not get the better of "American Gladiators" lineup of Amazon women, all of whom were much larger and flexed more muscles than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his "Conan the Barbarian" period. But that wasn't the worst of it for Little Rocky.

Her newspaper laid off a sizable percentage of its staffers, which left her unemployed. Worse, pregnant with her first child, she suffered a miscarriage. But Gilken bounced back to land an on-camera gig for WPEC-TV, the CBS affiliate in West Palm Beach. She has been at Channel 12 since Oct. 31 and her vibrant personality almost leaps off the screen.

It comes as no surprise to me that Gilken still has an interest in boxing. She recently profiled disgraced trainer Carlos "Panama" Lewis, who now works out of a gym in West Palm Beach. Lewis is the dirtbag who once instructed Roberto Duran, but permanently soiled his reputation when he used tweezers to remove much of the padding from the gloves of one of his fighters, welterweight Luis Resto, in addition to applying a hard, plasterlike substance to Resto's hand wraps. Punching with the equivalent of brass knuckles, Resto so battered his opponent, the previously undefeated "Irish" Billy Collins, in a June 16, 1983, matchup in Madison Square Garden that Collins suffered detached retinas and brain damage. Collins never fought again, and 9 months after that bout he drove his car off a cliff in what may or may not have been suicide.

The misdeeds of Lewis and Resto were recalled when WBA welterweight champion Antonio Margarito was found to have loaded hand wraps before his Jan. 24 bout against Shane Mosley in Los Angeles. With his hands rewrapped within legal specifications, Margarito, a 2-1 favorite, packed less pop than usual in his punches in losing on a ninth-round technical knockout.

Lewis, who did time for assault, was slapped with a lifetime suspension from boxing, which means he can't work the corner of fighters during actual bouts. But he can instruct them in the gym, and he can pay for his own ticket into the arena to watch his guys perform.

Twenty-six years after Resto's nearly bare fists left Collins with purple eyes that made him look like a raccoon, Lewis told Gilken he thinks he should be reinstated. "Give somebody a second chance to make a living," said Lewis, continuing to proclaim his innocence despite all evidence to the contrary. "So far, I don't see that.

"I didn't cheat. I used my head for motivation. I don't have to cheat in boxing. Boxing is my life. I'm blessed with this. They can take away my license, but they can't take away my knowledge."

Truth be told, Lewis did get a second chance after being released from prison. He found a job in New York as a saladmaker for a restaurant. It might not have paid much, but it was an honest living.

Having been granted a new lease on life herself in going from print journalism to the electronic variety, Gilken seems disposed to cut Lewis some slack.

If it were up to me, Lewis wouldn't even be allowed to buy a ticket into any venue where live boxing is being conducted.

Learn from the pros

Most people wouldn't leap at the chance to get punched by two former heavyweight champions, especially for free. But then most people aren't Joey Dawejko.

Dawejko, 18, is the Northeast Philly resident who won the super heavyweight gold medal at the 2008 AIBA Youth World Championships at Guadalajara, Mexico. He will compete in the Eastern Regional finals of the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves on June 11 and at the U.S. National Amateur Championships from June 8 to 13 in Denver.

But, to ensure that he learns his future trade the right way, which is to say the hard way, Dawejko is in Las Vegas to serve as a sparring partner for former WBC heavyweight titlist Samuel Peter (30-2, 23 KOs), who takes on Philly's Eddie Chambers (33-1, 18 KOs) on March 27 in Los Angeles.

Peter is the second ex-heavyweight champ with whom Dawejko, who can't accept payment for his duties in order to protect his amateur status, has mixed it up. He twice was in training camp with ex-champ Hasim Rahman to help him prep for bouts with James Toney and Wladimir Klitschko.

"It's helped me tremendously," the 5-10 Dawejko, who will compete as a cruiserweight whenever he turns pro, said of his adventures in sparring. "The confidence level it's given me is just unreal. I've been in there with two former heavyweight champions, and I'm holding my own! Really, I can't get any better work than this."

Yorgey vs. legend's son

If legalities don't interfere, Bridgeport's Harry Joe Yorgey (21-0-1, 9 KOs) will defend his fringe IBF North American junior middleweight championship against Ronald Hearns (21-0, 17 KOs), son of the legendary Thomas Hearns, on March 28 in Miami, Okla. The scheduled 12-round bout will be televised as part of the "ShoBox: The Next Generation Series" on Showtime.

Yorgey's estranged adviser, Don Elbaum, and manager, Jimmy Deoria, are seeking a court injunction that would prevent Yorgey from participating.

If it does come off, though, Yorgey, 31, has a chance, if he wins, to make his case for better-quality opponents and bigger paydays.

"I want to make it a phone-booth fight," said the 5-10 Yorgey, who believes that working on the inside gives him a better chance to negate the 6-3 Hearns' reach advantage. "A win takes me that much closer to a world-title shot, and I know there are going to be a lot of eyeballs watching because of who this guy's daddy is." *

Send e-mail to fernanb@phillynews.com