By Derek Bonnett: Whether it’s Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero dividing the fans of Albuquerque or the two local high school football teams squaring off on Thanksgiving day, a cross-town rivalry adds a whole new dimension to the build up and excitement before a big match-up. On April 24 the fans at the Scottrade Center in Saint Louis, MI, USA will be dividing their loyalties between former world champion, Cory Spinks, and budding contender, Deandre Latimore, as the two square off for the vacant IBF junior middleweight championship of the world.
Neither man is a stranger to this venue, but while Latimore scored a quickie KO over a trialhorse level opponent in 2007, Spinks suffered a close decision defeat to Verno Phillips in 2008 to surrender the same IBF title each man will be vying for on April 24. Also, to add to the list of intangibles, Spinks is coming off of a year of inactivity and Latimore will have been shelved for ten months, his longest stretch without a bout since turning professional.
" This is what Saint Louis has been waiting for and what the city needs," Latimore’s manager, Jerry Giuliano stated. "We moved the venue to a larger arena anticipating a big crowd. Both Cory and Deandre have their loyal base of fans. There is a new sheriff in town and his name is Deandre Latimore. He has never forgotten his roots and is proud of it. All his people are from the Peabody Projects and they will be out in full force."
Come fight night it will be interesting to see which fans can rally their fighter to victory. Should Spinks prevail, it will be his first victory in over two years. If the younger Latimore, known as "The Bull", wins it will be an excellent complement to his upset KO of Sechew Powell from last summer.
"I am sure Cory is training hard for this fight," Giuliano noted. "This is a real cross-town rivalry. There is mutual respect, but also some disrespect. It will be a very exciting fight."
Latimore understands that he hasn’t had a fight since June 2008, but he doesn’t feel that he’s been all that inactive and doesn’t foresee any ring rust holding him back from performing at his highest level.
"Ring rust? Oh, it’s gone. I’ve been in the gym since my last fight ended, so I’m ready," Latimore confirmed. "The rust won’t be a problem. We brought in a couple slick boxers and we’re preparing for Spinks perfectly. It’s been a tough road, but the fight’s here now so there’s no turning back."
Age and experience has been enough to overcome youth and bravado in a number of high profile bouts over the last twelve months. Spinks certainly may not be a primed fighter, but come April 24 he’ll be the best fighter Latimore has ever faced win or lose. Even for a fighter whose management team has claimed can box like Sugar Ray and punch like Tyson.
One might wonder which fighter Latimore will try to emulate more once the bell rings to start the first round.
" Both styles will be very effective because if he tries to run from me, I’ll put that pressure on him and break him down slowly. If he comes at me, I’ll knock him out," Latimore explained. "I want to face the toughest competition out there. Whoever they put in front of me, but I’m gonna get passed this fight first and then worry about that when the time comes."
The opportunity to fight for a world title has presented an exhilarating time for Team Latimore. Should "The Bull" end up world champion, these emotional times should be amplified tenfold.
" I am extremely excited as we have been preparing for this since Deandre knocked out Sechew Powell," Giuliano admitted. "I also manage BJ Flores, who just won the NABO cruiserweight championship a few weeks ago. Deandre will become the most exciting fighter in the junior middleweight division real soon."
Will the torch be passed from old champion to the new on April 24 in Saint Louis? Or will the old rise to the occasion once again to reclaim past glory? Whichever fate unfolds, this cross-town rivalry promises to deliver some fireworks boxing fans around the world won’t want to miss.
April 3, 2009