Casual boxing lovers beware: if you miss tonight’s show because of an over indulgent Happy Hour you’ll regret it for ever.
As a boxing lover myself since I was knee high to a left hook, the sport has been all consuming. A brief experience as an amateur boxing convinced me that I’d be far safer – and more successful – as a boxing scribe.
It was a wise decision and after covering hundreds of shows in Europe, Africa and America, tonight’s Cayman Knockout has the makings of being one of the most memorable.
The bill at the Royal Watler Terminal is packed with mouth-watering contests.
Headlining is Andre Ward, America’s only gold medallist at the Athens Olympics. He is unbeaten in 15 contests, including 10 knockout and aims for his first championship belt, the NABO super-middle title.
‘I just can’t want to win it and lay that belt out in front of my wife and kids,’ Ward said on Wednesday at the final press conference.
Held under a marquee tent at the Westin Casuarina Resort, it was a perfect setting for a model fighter adored by trainers, managers and promoters alike.
Only 24 yet already a father of three, Ward’s wife had their third, a little girl, last Thursday. ‘She’s my extra inspiration,’ he said.
So well respected is Ward that he is only the second boxer after Roy Jones Jr to seal a contract with Nike who notoriously loathe to endorse fighters because of negative connotations and the fear that their precarious careers can be over instantly.
Ward faces his toughest opponent to date in Jerson Ravelo, a seasoned fighter with only two blemishes on his 20 fight record.
Ravelo looked in magnificent shape working out on the beach this week and he’ll need to be because this is a pulsating bout at 168lbs, organised by Goossen Tutor Promotions in conjunction with the Cayman Islands Tourist Board.
Promoter Dan Goossen has been cooing over the beauty of Cayman throughout his stays here and hopefully the show will crystallize this being an annual event and Goossen will kick St Lucia – where he promoted last year – to the kerb.
Ravelo, 30, has not fought since March last year but he is adamant that the ring rust will not be a factor. ‘I’ve got in fantastic shape with some excellent sparring in training camp and my inactivity won’t be an issue,’ he insisted.
Ravelo has overcome a lot of adversity to arrive at this point in his career and intends to seize it. If Ward has taken him lightly or been distracted with domestic bliss, an upset is not totally out of the question.
Raveloo, too, was an Olympian, representing Dominican Republic in 2000 because although based in the US, he felt slighted when not picked for the US team for the Sydney Olympics.
Joint top of the bill is the heavyweight contender Eddie ‘Fast Eddie’ Chambers (30-1, 16KOs) who is in far better shape than the fight posters suggest.
He needs to be because Raphael Butler (30-4, 23KOs) is equally as ambitious to use Chambers as a stepping stone to a world title shot.
Chambers’ sole loss was in a world title eliminator in January. Butler claims his four losses were more down to lack of conditioning than any serious deficiencies. So this will be a great h clash. The fact that it’s for the USBA title gives it an added edge. Heavyweights are the most unpredictable of all the divisions and sometimes the bouts are dull because of cagey tactics. Not this one. It’s one not advisable to turn away from.
Most under cards for main fights of this magnitude are usually low-key affairs with novice fighters getting workouts and padding their records against weak opposition. Not Cayman Knockout.
Charles Clifford, the Minister of Tourism, has put the government’s $1 million-plus investment to good use. The show is being televised to millions worldwide by Showtime and should glean a multiple return.
Cayman’s own Charles ‘The Killa’ Whittaker faces Troy Lowry, a seasoned fighter from Minnesota whose career started well but has been in sharp decline in recent years.
Nevertheless, Whittaker, 34, has prepared as diligently as usual in the Philippines with trainer Norman Wilson and wants to impress so that Goossen will offer him a bigger fight and possibly down the line, a world title.
Former WBC bantamweight champion Wayne ‘Pocket Rocket’ McCullough has his first bout in three years after a succession of opponents pulling out.
Irishman McCullough is based in Las Vegas and claims to be used to the heat. Well he’ll get plenty of that against, Juan Ruiz, who at 29 is eight years younger and fresher than the veteran.
Not an easy match for McCullough after a long layoff but his heart and chin are legendary and a pulsating bout is guaranteed.
Ronald ‘The Chosen One’ Hearns, son of ‘Hitman’ Tommy hopes to boost his 18 fight unbeaten record with another win against the teak tough Jose Luis Gonzalez.
Hearns wants to emulate dad and this is the sort of fight that will measure whether he genuinely has world title aspirations or is just another molly-coddled rich fighter’s son.
Tickets range from $15 up to $100 ringside and wherever anyone’s watching the action they will definitely not complain about value for money. It will certainly turn out to be better entertainment than Happy Hour.