By Derek Bonnett: Super bantamweight boxer Gary “Kid” Stark Jr., 28, didn’t have the best of years in 2007. After losing a disputed decision to fellow prospect, Mike Oliver, in Oklahoma, the New Yorker took on journeyman Andres Ledesma three months later. The Colombian fighter had lost his previous four fights and was stopped in three of the contests; he seemed like a safe choice of opponent. Instead, Stark Jr. blew an early lead and in the fifth round was victim of one of the most underrated KO’s of the year.
After four consecutive victories at featherweight, Stark Jr. just might be ready to start climbing back into the rankings and re-establish some of his lost promise. The road to redemption is long and arduous and Stark Jr. and his team know they are only just beginning their journey.
Ben Cognetta, Stark Jr.’s manager, has been there right next to his fighter and knows a thing or two about bringing a prospect up the rankings and rebuilding at the right pace.
“I have managed Gary ‘Kid’ Stark for four years now,” Cognetta told Secondsout. “I guess the greatest challenge has been working on Gary recognizing the style of other fighters. As you know, ‘styles make fights.’ This is something I’ve stressed with the other fighters I’ve managed over the years – Davey Moore, Tracy Spann, Peter Nieves and many others.”
In spite of his nickname, Gary is no longer a “Kid” and has already entered the prime years of his career. Since styles do make fights, Stark Jr.’s just might be better suited against the current crop of featherweight contenders as opposed to the current “Murderer’s Row” inhabiting the sport’s best division at 122.
“I am way beyond the form that I was in before, [but] it’s one of the roughest divisions to participate in,” Stark Jr. spoke of the talent laden super bantamweight division which boasts such names as Israel Vazquez, Rafael Marquez, Celestino Caballero, and Juan Manuel Lopez.
That’s not to say Gary Stark Jr. is avoiding taking on any great challenges. He merely needed his time to rebuild. One of the most impressive feats of his four fight comeback streak was his unanimous decision victory over Ledesma in the rematch. It’s been said among boxing circles that the toughest thing for a fighter to do is overcome a knockout defeat, but the man known as “Kid” spit in the face of that old adage.
In speaking of the Ledesma rematch, Cognetta asserted, “It was what Gary wanted. No one could have talked him out of that fight.”
That journey toward redemption is expedited greatly with the avenging of a defeat. Perhaps a rematch with Mike Oliver would also serve to repair Stark Jr.’s bruised reputation and with Oliver falling on hard times in 2008 after suffering back to back KO losses, the two might be most willing to set the record straight on their closely contested 2007 bout. Truth be told, the most important ingredient to gain redemption is to learn from and correct your mistakes.
“As my manager, Ben Cognetta, said: ‘Don’t have any distractions!’” Stark Jr. recalled. “I had some before the first Ledesma fight. I don’t have any distractions now.”
Hopefully for Gary Stark Jr. that’s a lesson learned because now is the time he needs to be concerned with. He exorcised some of the demons that come along with defeat already, but he still needs to win at the next level. He’s got prospects like Matt Remillard and Dat Nguyen steadily rising in his current and former weight classes and a host of fringe contenders who could push him to the next level with victory.
“My manager and trainer had me take some easy fights to build up confidence,” Stark Jr. stated. “We’re driving for one of the regional belts. Our promoter, Lou DiBella, is trying to get us a championship fight.”
If that’s still to come in 2009 then SecondsOut wishes Team Stark Jr. the best and looks forward to covering his continued progress and possible title contention.
January 17, 2009