By Derek Bonnett:
"Don’t believe your own headlines."
The words of Tony Luis, lightweight contender when asked of the single most valuable lesson he has learned during a fight. Back in January 2013, Luis traveled to Verona, New York. Many fighters heading that way are looking forward to enshrinement in the boxing Hall of Fame in nearby Canastota. Luis journeyed to Turning Stone Resort & Casino for his sixteenth professional boxing match with a perfect record of 15-0-0 (7). His opponent, Jose "Loco" Hernandez, owned a 13-6-1 (6). Loco was easy to dismiss because of his numbers, but anyone who saw him fight before knew that those digits were greatly deceiving. Most of his blemishes had come against unbeaten prospects and undeniable controversy.
"Oh man, it hurts to watch that fight with Loco now," Luis admitted. "It would always be a tough fight because Loco is so durable and a warrior, but I’ve definitely become more well-rounded since then. Not standing straight up or pulling out straight, more angles and head movement, staying on balance. Lots of things I would change, but it took that fight to learn."
Luis received a wake-up call that night in January. He absorbed some punishment and took his first professional defeat. However, his attitude shows promise. Luis’ losses may hurt, but they have not seemed to hold him back or slow him down. Opportunities have presented themselves to the Cornwall, Ontario native and he’s taken advantage of them win or lose (no draws yet). The lightweight contender has done what he must to stay viable in a very deep division.
"I’ve gotten used to being out of my comfort zone," Luis explained. "Fighting outside of Canada and also gives me a chance to make new fans."
Luis hasn’t been a homebody since 2012. Since then, eight of nine bouts have been on the road. He’s gone 5-3 outside of Canada, but has earned good wins over a number of unbeaten prospects and garnered world class experience against seasoned opposition.
"In 2015, I proved I’m a legitimate contender at 135," Luis stated. "If you ask most people on my side of the pond, they’ll say I beat Derry Mathews. I’ve had much feedback from British fans as well. It was a very competitive fight, but a full camp and getting there ahead of time and it would’ve been even more convincing. They wouldn’t have had an excuse to take it from me. Personally though, I’d much rather fight him in North America where the officiating would encourage my style, not hamper it."
Luis’ bout with Mathews was contested for the interim WBA title. He handled himself well against the greater experienced Brit, but failed to get the nod from the judges in a fight that certainly could have gone his way. Mathews is now poised to meet WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan next week. If only...
"If only" is reserved for boxing writers like myself though. Fighters like Luis simply move forward. While Mathews awaits his title shot, Luis has already fought and won twice. Most recently, Luis posted a unanimous decision over eight rounds with battle tested Samuel Amoako. If he possessed better power, he might already be a champion. Luis hasn’t scored a stoppage since putting away Andres Ledesma in a round back in 2012.
"I wouldn’t say not being a KO artist has hurt me because that was the very reason Redkach and Dargan’s people wanted to fight me and why Wanzell Ellison’s people accepted me short notice," Luis reasoned. "Redkach was lucky to win, and Dargan and Ellison got exposed. I think those fights, and obviously the Mathews fight, established me as a threat to anyone in the division, short notice or not, whether I have KO power or not. Now, it’s become harder to get fights. I understand. High risk/low reward. It’s become tricky to get fights."
While far from unhittable, Luis isn’t merely a face first brawler looking to risk his well-being to land a punch. His high volume punching style is pleasing for fans. He uses combinations well and he constantly moves forward into the pocket. Luis uses a combination of strength training, various types of running, old school boxing training, and diet as his main means of preparation for a fight.
"We offered to fight Joel Diaz Jr. on the Pascal-Kovalev II undercard and his people turned us down," Luis recounted. [I’ll do] anything that will get me closer to title contention. Felix Verdejo looked good [the other] night, and they’re looking for an opponent in June. I’d love to show Verdejo and HBO what I can do."
Verdejo, Puerto Rico’s budding talent of tomorrow, would be an excellent challenge and Luis would surely not be favored. However, Luis understands the risk versus reward relationship quite well as he alluded earlier. The lightweight division is replete with talent at the moment though and there should be further opportunities for meaningful fights for a proven boxer with meaningful television exposure under his belt such as Luis. With no clear number one in the division the right win or two can really carry an impact on the rankings in today’s division.
"I won’t say anyone at the top of the division is made to beat because they’re all great fighters, but I really think I can give Barthelemy a long night," Luis stated modestly. "I’d also love a chance to test my skills against Linares, I think we could produce fireworks. I’d just be grateful to get back in the ring on TV."
Luis shook off some rust with the Amoako victory. He was genuinely pleased to give the fans an exciting fight and have his baby son Miguel with him as it was his first birthday that weekend. Luis couldn’t miss it because his priorities are clear. Besides being a father outside of the ring, Luis works as a substance abuse counselor.
"Physical fitness plays a vital role in my style of counseling with youth," Luis asserted. "I believe a healthier body will produce a healthier mind and the two elements work hand in hand. When you work out you’re releasing "feel good" endorphins that leave you feeling refreshed and more positive, and that will play a role in every area of your life."
Luis’ boasts a healthy mindset himself. It is evident that he practices what he preaches. His management of adversity and commitment toward preparing himself before stepping into the ring speak volumes about him as a fighter and a man. I’ve been a fan of the fighter for years, but hearing Luis speak about his plight in his own words makes me a fan of the man as well. Luis will be a handful in 2016.
Lightweights, be warned.
For further boxing discussion contact Derek DBO Bonnett on Facebook. Also, don’t forget to "LIKE" the SecondsOut.com page on Facebook.
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March 9, 2016