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-- by Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Sway Calloway

Brooklyn, New York's legendary Gleason's Gym is full of commotion, as usual. Aspiring and established pugilists drip with sweat as they grunt through their training regimens, dreaming of knocking somebody out at Madison Square Garden. But what is rare about this day is that many of the fist-throwers are fixated on one ring. They whip out their camera phones to capture one of Gleason's own, a man who has risen up the ranks to superstardom.

Unlike the gym's esteemed graduates like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Zab "Super" Judah, however, this Gleason's alum made his name by laying his opponents down on wax, not in the ring.

  All Eyes On 50 Cent:
The Sequel
"Ahh man, I just wanted to come back through here," explains 50 Cent, who actually competed in the Junior Olympics back in the early '80s and who is now sparring in the ring. "I got a chance to come down here when I was training as an amateur fighter back in the day. I was too young to go to the Golden Glove competition at that point."

50 started boxing somewhere around the age of 10 or 11, but as an early teen he gave up his dream of ruling in the squared circle to hustle drugs in the street. Still, almost two decades removed from the ring, 50 says he continues to carry some of what he learned at Gleason's and that those lessons apply to his career as a rapper.

"I was competitive in the ring and hip-hop is competitive too," he says. "In so many ways they're similar. I think rappers condition themselves like boxers, so they all kind of feel like they're the champ. And if you fall in the position where you're actually the champ at the time, everyone else feels like you're their target. That's me now — I'm the heavyweight champ."

As hip-hop's undisputed world titleholder, 50 says he feels like he has the proverbial bull's-eye on his chest, but is just as primed for challenges and full of aggression as a 20-year-old Mike Tyson. In the past year and change, Fif has executive produced albums by Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, Game and the G-Unit as a whole, with each project going platinum or better. Since 50's own Get Rich or Die Tryin' dropped two years ago, no other MC has been able to match his sales. Not Eminem with Encore, not Nelly with Sweat and Suit. With the 11 million copies Get Rich has sold worldwide, 50 hasn't just passed his competition, he's lapped them. And the leader of the G-Unit says that all his success has ignited resentment, especially in his own backyard.

"I understand exactly why I get the envy and the jealousy I get, particularly in New York City," 50 says later at Sparks steak house in Manhattan. "My last LP sold more than everyone that's released an album. Add them all up together and it ain't 11 million."

  "I wait until they're at a point in their career that they can't take a beating, and I hit them when it counts the most."
In 1985, this particular steak house graced the covers of tabloids everywhere after New York mob boss Paul Castellano was whacked right in front of the place on his way to dinner. Police alleged that John Gotti masterminded the murder so that he could take control of the Gambino crime family. Fittingly, 50 Cent, now undoubtedly a boss in his own right, sits in the Rose room at Sparks talking about his strategy for musically eliminating his competition, much like Gotti and his capo Sammy "The Bull" Gravano sat in this room devising their plans back in the day.

"I can tell when [lyrics] are indirectly [addressed] to me," 50 divulges. "I listen. I listen to the mixtape circuit like I don't have a record deal. So I hear everything ... every little thing. Things that they probably think didn't count because it didn't do anything for their career. I still heard what you said. Indirectly, they say things all the time. So I watch those artists, and then I wait until they're at a point in their career that they can't take a beating, and I hit them when it counts the most."


NEXT: Is 50 committing career suicide? Plus, 50 laughs at the idea of Fat Joe or Jadakiss retaliating against him ...
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Photo: MTV News

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