By Ryan Maquiñana
Chris Pearson, this year’s U.S. Nationals gold medalist at middleweight, will make his professional debut against Steven Chadwick (0-2) on Saturday’s Adrien Broner-Vicente Rodriguez undercard at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
The 21-year-old Ohioan southpaw from nearby Trotwood spoke to BoxingScene about his long awaited maiden fight in the pro ranks, the road he took to get here that included a 93-8 ledger and a stint in the World Series of Boxing for the Los Angeles Matadors, as well as his desired destinations for his career with new advisor Al Haymon behind him.
ON MAKING HIS PRO DEBUT IN CINCINNATI, WHICH IS A 90-MINUTE DRIVE AWAY FROM HIS HOMETOWN OF TROTWOOD, OHIO:
“It’s a great situation to have my pro debut close to home and someone I grew up fighting for a world title. Right now I’ve been in Colorado Springs with Mike Stafford and Adrien Broner. I’ve actually been sparring with him, and he may be smaller, but he’s a headache to deal with. His nickname is definitely appropriate. He’s so slick and so skilled.”
ON WINNING U.S. NATIONALS AFTER A STINT IN THE WORLD SERIES OF BOXING:
“I’ve never really focused on boxing rather than the other sports I’ve played until recently. About winning the national title, it was kind of a running joke that I was due for a title because I was beating a lot of the top guys in other places. I fought at 152 [pounds] before and came up short, but I was able to go through nationals to win it. I thought I had a lot of great experience, both there and in the WSB, but I’m ready to turn pro and start my road toward a world title there.”
ON HIS UPSET WIN IN THE WSB OVER 2008 GOLD MEDALIST BAKHYT SARSEKBAYEV OF KAZAKHSTAN:
“Before that fight, I always thought I was on that level. Not to downplay the amateurs or Golden Gloves-type tournaments, but fighting a pro style in the WSB, that his style wouldn’t affect me as much. He threw a lot of good combinations, but it’s not the points system. A lot of them were soft. I’d catch a couple of his shots on my gloves, then when I would throw my shots, my plan was to land two or three hard shots. I actually broke my nose in the first round in a previous fight against [Brazilian Olympian] Yamaguchi Florentino and I still won, so I knew I could overcome any adverse situation. I was able to win and I’m thankful for that.”
ON MAKING THE TRANSITION FROM THE WSB, WHICH IS CONDUCTED WITHOUT HEADGEAR AND SCORED LIKE THE PROS, BACK TO THE STANDARD AMATEUR SYSTEM USED FOR THE U.S. NATIONALS:
“I’m not going to say it didn’t bother me a lot, but it did have its effects. I always had more of a pro-style anyway. I was never a bouncy, volume puncher. I’ve always been strategic to set my shots up. Going to the WSB wasn’t really hard, but coming back to nationals and making that transition, I kind of struggled early on with my punch volume. I really didn’t feel like it was necessary to throw lots of punches when I could set up my shots and land them and make sure I get the points. It was cool, though. Some people had a hard time adjusting. I mean, by the time people warmed up it was over in a sense since the WSB was five rounds per fight, but it was a really good experience for me and I pulled out that title in the end.”
ON CREATING A STYLISTIC IDENTITY FOR HIMSELF AS A PRO:
“I’m told I’ve always been a good short puncher. I’m naturally a strategic, smart fighter. I like to use my jab. I’m not really a mover, but I like to make you miss and make you pay. I’m guessing I consider myself a boxer-puncher. I’m not coming in looking to knock people out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bunch of knockouts on my record. So maybe I’ll be a boxer-puncher.”
ON COMING UP WITH FELLOW OHIOANS LIKE THREE-TIME OLYMPIAN RAU’SHEE WARREN AND ADRIEN BRONER, WHO HEADLINES AND FIGHTS FOR A VACANT WORLD TITLE SATURDAY:
“I think anybody who’s a competitor wants to outshine the other guy, but with here, it’s not like Las Vegas or New York. It’s a little different when you talk Ohio because me and Rau’shee [Warren] and the other youngsters aren’t from the same city, but we’re close. I’ve always kind of looked up to those guys. Rau’shee has one of the top fighters for years, winning all the tournaments, moving on the nationals and then the Olympics. And with Adrien, I looked at him like an equal because we won Silver Gloves at the same time. We were both 11 years old when we were winning national titles. But when he turned pro, he got to another level, and it’s challenged me to raise my game, too. If these guys can come from our area and have great success, then I can, too. It’s an inspiration to see them do their thing, and now it’s a matter of me putting it all together and becoming one of the greatest fighters to ever do it.”
ON HOOKING UP WITH AL HAYMON:
“Al Mitchell was my coach up in Northern Michigan University, and he once coached Vernon Forrest. Well, Coach Al let Al Haymon know that I was a good fighter and to keep his eye on me, so winning Nationals and doing well in the WSB kind of followed up on what Coach Al said about me being something special one day. Al Haymon’s looking for good, talented fighters, and also good people. Also, I’m blessed for having a great family, with my dad, my mom, my aunties, my uncles, my grandparents, so I’ve been raised really well. I don’t put myself in situations to embarrass my family or anything like that, and Al Haymon took to that, I think. So now it’s just about focusing on my fights and making my city and family proud.”
ON HIS CURRENT PROMOTIONAL SITUATION:
“I have plenty of offers from every top promoter in the game, but Al doesn’t think it’s best to sign with a promoter off the bat. I have the options, but I trust Al to make whatever decisions need to be made, that it’ll all work out. At the end of the day, Al’s going to put you in situations to succeed, but it’s up to the fighter to prepare and perform well and make people want to see you fight, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
ON SATURDAY’S OPPONENT, STEVEN CHADWICK (0-2):
“I don’t know anything else except he has two fights. I think he might be a southpaw. I don’t know if he’s black or white, nothing. It’s really not a big issue to me because I’m coming from the amateurs where you don’t know who you’re going to fight, so I have a couple things we’ve worked on, and we’ll do what we need to do to be victorious on Saturday.”
Ryan Maquiñana is the boxing correspondent at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at www.maqdown.com or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.