By Derek Bonnett: Darnell Boone grew up following the careers of Marvin Hagler, John Mugabi, and Pernell Whitaker. Two of those men are arguably the best fighters of all time in their respective divisions. This super-trio finished with only 14 losses combined in over 160 bouts. If you think that’s impressive, Boone already has 17 losses in just thirty-eight bouts or, roughly, a quarter of that time. All-time greats? Bah!
When examining a professional boxer like Darnell Boone, 18-17-3 (7), you have to peruse his resume differently. You need to spin it around to find the positive because the same rubric for assessing all-time greats and lesser elites just does not apply. Boone is someone the boxing world labels as a spoiler or gatekeeper. You see, he simply has not learned his role in the game yet. He hasn’t realized that, according to the script, he’s supposed to lose. In his 18 wins, he has stolen the "0" from six resumes. He also put, current super middleweight king, Andre Ward down for the first time in his career. For this, Boone is not afforded the same courtesies as other fighters such as bigger purses or timely notice to prepare for a fight.
"I don’t get time like the usual fighter," Boone stated. "They always call me on short notice. All the fights I won, I had the proper preparation. Period. The shortest time I took a fight on was a day notice. I feel like none of these opponents were worthy, I just didn’t have any real time to get ready. Being called on short notice all the time is hectic."
Willie Monroe Jr., who lost his perfect 10-0 record to Boone by split decision on March 29, made a fatal error. He called Boone’s people too soon. Adonis Stevenson, who said goodbye to his 13-0 ledger after two rounds in 2010, made a similar misjudgment.
"At least five of my opponent were or are champs now. I would like to fight them now. Yes, now that I have the experience," Boone asserted. "I have received the bad end of the stick more than eight times. I say, fair and square, I lost about ten. And that’s because I was fooling around. I proved that a lot of guys weren’t what they were being hyped as, but the disappointing part for me was that I should have been ready."
Boone’s three draws came against Walid Smichet, when he was once beaten, and two undefeated fighters in Lajuan Simon and Lennox Allen. In 2010, he fought six times, but could only muster a 1-4-1 record that year. Given the split verdicts of two of those bouts, a 3-3 year was probably deserved by Boone.
Boone’s story isn’t a new one. From George "Scrap Iron" Johnson to Emmanuel Augustus, boxing history, before and after, has consistently produced hard luck toilers like Darnell Boone.
"There’s been a few times I wanted to hang up the gloves, but I have nephews, little cousins, and a brother that look up to me for what I became. My daughters like to watch me fight an my girlfriend inspires me to keep going," Boone said. "[I went] from the streets to being a role model, so that keeps me doing what I do. What else motivates me is when I watch the fights and the guys that have belts are not better than I am."
James Johnson and Louis Turner, whom Boone defeated between 2007 and 2009, didn’t share that same motivation. After losing to Boone, neither man laced up the gloves for a professional bout again. Boxing fans often honor a fighter for his will to continue through a tough bout or for having the heart to continue once the going got tough. However, we rarely hear about a fighter receiving praise for fighting on in a sport which treats them unfairly and the deck is most assuredly stacked against them. That feat, it would seem, is equally laudable.
"In fighting undefeated fighters, I already know what I’m up against going in, so putting a blemish on a guys record feels great. It shows they’re not invincible," Boone asserted. "I want to be remembered as the guy who loved the game and fought whoever to prove that it’s about whose heart was the biggest. It wasn’t my dream to box; I was just doing it to stay out of trouble in the streets of rugged Youngstown, Ohio. But, I also know I can be a world champ. I have all the qualities. I just have to showcase them from here on out to do it."
So, how did it all start for Boone and where does he go from here?
"I love this story. My trainer and I still talk about it to this day," Boone explained. "I had a little brother that was boxing and we didn’t know he came over my house. When he tells me [he’s boxing], I start cutting jokes. So, my brother and I wrap up an start working out. [Eventually,] I tell the trainer to put me in the ring with somebody. Now, I didn’t know, but I pick the best guy in the gym. Everybody told me not to do it. That fighter beat me from corner to corner. I’m fighting hard, well, doing what I thought was fighting. When we got done the fighter gave me a big hug and told me I got a lot of heart. That day I picked boxing over the streets and I thank Jack Loew and Kelly Pavlik for standing firm with me."
Boone may have a lot of defeats, but he couldn’t admit to having too many bad days in the sport. He’s grateful for having been able to fight in the co-feature of a Floyd Mayweather Jr. card on HBO. He’s not willing to be moved along carefully and accepts the challenges of any man between 160 and 168 pounds. That includes the world champions, who, he says, he’ll beat, but only if they give him the proper time to train.
In Darnell Boone’s world that isn’t likely to happen. Yet, he is still a winner. His defeats have never outnumbered his victories and he has good reason to fight on. Chances are we will see him turn up on some fight card to face yet another unbeaten prospect. And, maybe, just maybe, another "0" will go.
"Life is like boxing, you gotta’ roll with the punches." -- Darnell "Deezol" Boone, The Undisputed Spoiler.
April 5, 2011