By Thomas Gerbasi
This is the rite of passage they don’t tell you about when you enter the world of professional boxing. Opponents falling out for whatever reason, including a desire to not be a part of your highlight reel; the media questioning your progression up the ladder, fans wondering when you’re going to fight someone who is going to test you.
In a nutshell, that was 2010 for 2008 United States Olympian Demetrius Andrade. Still unbeaten as a pro, still on most pundits’ Top Prospects lists, Andrade nonetheless only fought three times last year against pedestrian opposition and ate some backlash from fans and those in the media, including ESPN commentator Teddy Atlas.
Yet the 22-year old from Providence, Rhode Island took everything in stride.
“I just basically keep it moving, keep focused, and I try not to pay too much attention to it,” said Andrade, who chuckled when asked if this is what he signed up for when he became a professional boxer.
“Not at all. I didn’t expect a lot of things outside of boxing to happen. It’s crazy.”
For a taste, just look at Andrade’s social media output. Usually used just as a marketing tool, his webpage and Twitter account provided a glimpse into what he was going through.
Twitter - May 24 - My fight was cancelled last week due to my opponents arrest. My next fight is scheduled for June 18 at Northern Quest Casino in Spokane, WA.
Twitter - June 21 - My June 18 fight at Northern Quest Casino was cancelled, due to my opponents medical condition. Check my tweets for info on my next fight!
Webpage – September 23 - “I want to say to my family, friends, and fans that I've been reading things online regarding my father and myself. I'd like to set the record straight by saying, he's still my dad and he will always be in my corner. It is to my father’s credit that I am, where I am, today. My father is still a key person in my life and will always be.”
Add in a new baby, and it’s kind of amazing that Andrade was able to fight at all, but he did, he kept his “0” and now it’s on to what he hopes will be a better 2011.
“2011 is gonna be my time, my year, and for people to start understanding ‘oh yeah, that kid is really that good,’” he said. “I’m gonna go in there, do what I do, and it’s not my fault that the guy can’t take it or gets knocked out in the first couple rounds. I did my job and we worked hard to get it.”
If anything, it’s clear that Andrade has not lost an ounce of his confidence, a key element of his game which, along with speed and power, should carry him far if he stays focused. Artie Pelullo, who co-promotes Andrade with Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing, is just as confident that his charge will stay on the right path to the top of the junior middleweight division.
“I think Demetrius did just fine (in 2010),” said Pelullo. “He’s 22 now, he’s growing up, and he’s still a young guy. He’s a young athlete, and young athletes are growing and learning about being a pro, and that’s what it’s all about. I don’t think him having three fights is bad or good; I just think that was the right thing for him that year because he had some other things going on in his world. He’s gonna be just fine.”
What has impressed Pelullo the most is that with the daggers coming out in the media and on internet message boards, and that with a baby on the way and with issues to deal with when it came to his trainer / father Paul (who is back in his corner), Andrade kept his cool while being under fire for the first time in his career, and he didn’t let it distract him.
“I think it’s impossible for him not to listen to it, but how he handles what he hears is a different story,” said Pelullo. “I don’t think the kid gets affected too much. Demetrius is a very confident young man and he knows he’s in a tough business. He hears people say that he’s been fighting guys that aren’t up to his caliber. But every process of getting into this business as a young fighter, you need maybe a lesser opponent because he needs to grow slowly. A lesser opponent gives him time to learn his people skills in the business, gives him time to learn how to talk to people, and do things in the gym, because he’s not getting hit with headgear on anymore. So I don’t pay any attention to criticism and I tell him forget what everybody else says. We’ve got an agenda, we’ve got a plan and the plan is for you to win several world championships, make a lot of money and get out without your brains being scrambled.”
A pro since October of 2008, Andrade kept a busy schedule in 2009, fighting six times and even finishing up the year by taking on two unbeaten foes in John Williams and Chris Chatman. To most observers, things were going according to plan. Then came last year’s three fights against opponents with a combined record of 32-26-1, and then the questions began. It didn’t help that ESPN microphones picked up Andrade telling his father to
“Tell me I’m the best” between rounds of his decision win over Geoffrey Spruiell in April. Andrade admits that he hasn’t found the opponent to push him to the breaking point yet, and that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Which one will be determined at a later date.
“I don’t believe anybody’s pushed me to the limit yet to where I had to turn it up a notch,” he said. I did fight two undefeated fighters and they weren’t taking no for an answer. They weren’t going out with any punch I hit them with and that was a good thing because I got the rounds in and I showed everybody that I could fight and beat somebody who was undefeated. Those guys don’t know how to lose.”
Neither does Andrade. But is he being moved too slow? It seems that the same comments made about Andrade are the ones that were being made about current super middleweight champion Andre Ward when he was coming up. He seems to be doing just fine.
“It’s human nature,” said Pelullo. “Everybody thinks they’re experts, everybody thinks they know, and when people in the media say something, some people believe them. But at the end of the day, they’re not in the gym every day with the kid, you have to see how things play out, and everybody has a different way of advancing. You’ve got to go with the flow for what’s best for each guy.”
Andrade has heard the comments as well, but he’s not letting them take him off track.
“In the past two years I’m 11-0 with 8 knockouts, so I can’t complain,” he said. “Eventually I’m gonna fight the top guys when it’s time for it. Right now we’re in preparation for them. A lot of people expect for me to just jump out the water and fight guys like Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams. Come on guys, let’s be real. It’s one step at a time and sometimes patience is the key to success and you’ve got to wait for your turn. Everybody’s really looking up to me to be the best and my job is to go out there and do the best I can. But everybody wants it now, and my time will come when it’s right. I’m only 22, and I want a long career in this. I’ll be ready when the time comes.”
Tonight, “Boo Boo” kicks off his 2011 campaign in Las Vegas and on ESPN against once beaten Alberto Herrera (whose one loss came via TKO against previous Andrade victim Chatman). A big win will make a statement that 2010 was what it was – a learning year – and get Andrade back on everyone’s mind as a future champion. And if Pelullo has his way, his fighter will be on everyone’s mind a lot.
“My mother used to say, all my children I love, but they’re all different,” said the promoter. “So whether he gets three fights or four fights, whatever happens that year I’m a big believer that was the way it was supposed to be for him. You go with the flow, I’m 55 years old, I’m a little bit more patient, and he’s catching me good, because if he would have caught me 30 years ago, I might have messed up his career. But I think 2011 is gonna be a big year for him. He’s going to fight January the 7th, we’re going to bring him back February 25th, I’m gonna bring him back in April, and if all goes according to plan in all aspects of his life, he’ll be fighting six times this year.”
As for the fighter, his philosophy is just what you want it to be for one at this stage of development.
“I don’t pick the fighters,” said Andrade. “I just say ‘okay.’”