By Keith Idec
Kendall Holt isn’t sure if he is completely finished fighting at junior welterweight.
That’ll likely depend on how Holt fares against Tim Coleman in their ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” main event March 16 in Cabazon, Calif. Their 10-round bout will be contested at welterweight, the division Holt decided to try after losing a 12-round split decision to undefeated Philadelphia contender Danny Garcia in their WBC 140-pound elimination match Oct. 15 in Los Angeles.
The contract weight for the Coleman fight is 145 pounds, two below the welterweight limit. The 30-year-old Holt has spent his entire 10-year pro career as a junior welterweight, though his non-title fights and non-elimination matches have technically been contested at welterweight.
The Paterson, N.J., native still can make 140 pounds if necessary, but Holt (27-5, 15 KOs) feels he was draining his body too much to keep competing in that division. The roughly 30 hours between weigh-ins and fights also didn’t provide enough time for the former WBO junior welterweight champion to fully regain his strength.
“I’m going to stay in the middle right now, because if the right fight comes at 140 I’ll take that fight,” Holt said. “And if the right fight comes at 147, I can take that fight, too. After [the Garcia] fight, I got up to 160-something pounds. I’ve never been that heavy in my career.
“I don’t know if that’s my body’s way of telling me that it’s time to move up, or from me being depressed after losing my last fight. After this fight, I’m going to see how I feel, see how my body accepts being at 145, and if going back down to 140 is a thing that I should consider, or if I should stay at 147.”
After four fights at junior welterweight, Baltimore’s Coleman (19-2-1, 5 KOs) also will return to welterweight, the division in which he has spent much of his six-year pro career. He, too, is coming off a loss, a seventh-round technical knockout defeat to Detroit’s Vernon Paris (26-0, 15 KOs, 3 NC) on Aug. 5 in Santa Ynez, Calif.
“It’s another fight against a credible guy,” Holt said of facing Coleman. “Fights like this, I can get up for. Fights like this keep me focused, keep me wanting to keep going. I know guys like this have something to prove. They want to get to where I’ve been. And I’m trying to get back to where I’ve been.”
In addition to moving up in weight, Holt has changed trainers. After working with Buddy McGirt for the Garcia fight, he has reunited with his father, Barry Porter, who before a couple weeks ago hadn’t trained his son since the former New Jersey Golden Gloves champion was an amateur in 1998.
Holt hopes the reunion helps him get back on track following the loss to Garcia. Had he beaten Garcia (22-0, 14 KOs), he would’ve earned a WBC super lightweight title fight against Mexican legend Erik Morales (52-7, 36 KOs), whom Garcia will face March 24 in Houston.
Losing to Garcia marked the second time in 20 months that Holt cost himself a title shot by losing an elimination match. South Africa’s Kaizer Mabuza (23-8-3, 14 KOs), a 14-1 underdog, upset Holt in an IBF eliminator in February 2010 in Atlantic City. He bounced back from that one-sided, six-round loss to Mabuza by scoring one-punch knockouts against journeyman Lenin Arroyo (20-15-1, 4 KOs, 1 NC) and former IBF lightweight champ Julio Diaz (38-7, 27 KOs) in his two bouts before facing Garcia.
“I just want to reassure the boxing public that Kendall Holt is still Kendall Holt,” Holt said, “that it’s always going to be hard to bet against us.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.