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Deandre Latimore: Punching Like Tyson; Boxing Like Sugar Ray

By Derek Bonnett: After speaking with Vanes “The Nightmare” Martirosyan and his team earlier in the month, the junior middleweight division looks a lot different to me. Sure, the upper echelon sports considerable talent with Sergiy Dzinziruk, Paul Williams, and David Santos, but I can’t get too excited about the division on just their merit alone.

Dzinziruk has yet to have established a real presence in the world of boxing in spite of scoring some quality wins. Williams’ head isn’t focused on doing anything great in one particular division, so he can’t be relied upon while chasing Henry Armstrong’s ghost at 147, 154, and 160. Santos is good, but he’s never been all that consistent as a fighter. So, the boxing world might have to look to the future and at 154 there is a lot more than just Martirosyan.

The name Deandre Latimore, 19-1 (16), didn’t mean a whole lot to the 154 pound weight class until June 11, 2008. On that night, the southpaw from St. Louis scored one of the bigger non-title fight upsets of the year by stopping highly rated Sechew Powell in seven rounds. The victory earned Latimore a spot in The Ring’s “New Faces” column later that fall.

However, Jerry Giuliani and Steve Smith of Team Latimore have been impressed by the fighter known as “The Bull” for far longer and, even in the wake of defeat, have not lost sight of the lofty expectations they have for Latimore. Neither man had any reluctance to get the word out there about their fighter and didn’t hold back on their true feelings.

“After meeting Deandre and watching him work out, I knew he was an especially gifted fighter who would eventually become a champion,” stated Giuliani. “I fought hard to get the Powell fight and did my best to convince both Sechew’s manager and promoter that we would do a good job as a tune up fight for Powell. This was Deandre’s first fight on ESPN as well. They took us lightly and we were very serious knowing it was Deandre’s time to succeed.”

Smith echoed a similar sentiment, but offered some perspective on the first time Latimore stepped up in opposition in early 2007.

“I have been Deandre’s promoter ( Rumble Time Promotions) since he has been a pro,” said Steve Smith. “I have known Deandre since he was an amateur. Deandre is a big puncher and when he took the [Ian] Gardiner fight, I knew it was a big step up. At the time I had partners that wanted the fight. I didn’t like it and voted against taking the fight. But with two other partners and a manager/trainer wanting the fight I was out voted.”

In spite of its glorious appeal, an unblemished record can often be a hard burden to bear for a young prospect. At the age of twenty-three, and now roughly a year past his lone defeat, Latimore may no longer be unbeaten, but he is certainly in a position to move into the upper echelon of the division. All it took was some hardnosed determination and another gamble. After losing in January of 2007, Latimore fought seven more times that year before securing the Powell bout in 2008.

“In the Gardner fight I was not at all ready to take that fight,” Latimore admitted. “But since that fight, I’ve become a better fighter in all the areas where I needed to improve in. The keys to victory [last time out] were to put the pressure on Powell and make him fight. Taking this fight I felt would sky-rocket me right to the top and put me in the position that I am in right now.”

The busy schedule and taste of defeat weren’t the only ingredients stirred into the pot that is now the new and improved Deandre Latimore. The fighter relocated to Las Vegas where his team added new trainers Kenny Adams and Ray Oddis. With the Powell victory under the new regime, the switch seems to have already paid dividends early on in the partnership.

“I like to assess Deandre’s career on a B.K.A scale: Before Kenny Adams. Now that we are with Kenny and Oddis, I know that we can beat anyone in the world. My advice to all managers and promoters who have a fighter that needs to go the next level: Adams and Oddis are your answer,” Smith explained enthusiastically. “Deandre punches like Tyson, but boxes like Sugar Ray. He is the most complete fighter in the world at 154. With his skills and with the dream team of pros around him at 154, there is nothing but great things that are going to happen for Deandre. We have now partnered with Lou Dibella, so the entire HBO and Showtime world can see [his talents].”

And just what kind of fights are planned for Latimore at 154?

“We can’t wait to beat [Cory] Spinks and move on to the other big names in the world,” Smith proclaimed. “We know Spinks is a slick fighter, but he can only run for so long. I know once Deandre catches him, he will be done. Like I said, Deandre hits hard!”

Giuliani and Smith’s excitement is well-deserved. However, sometimes a break-out win can become a burden as much as an unblemished record. Since December 2007, Latimore has only been in the ring that one time against Powell. Inactivity has a way of arresting the momentum of a big upset win and looking too good doesn’t always encourage fellow prospects and contenders to put their name on a contract next to a spoiler’s.

“We all feel that 2009 will be the year Deandre takes the title and gets the recognition and benefits he deserves out of boxing,” Giuliani predicts. “This young talent came from a harsh environment in St. Louis and moved to Vegas to further his career and fulfill his dream of becoming champion. This will truly be an American dream story when it ends.”

If this is the case, then the contenders in the junior middleweight division just might have another nightmare on their hands.

January 13, 2009

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