By Thomas Gerbasi
It was a slip of the tongue, or maybe it wasn’t. As Mike Reed discussed his Saturday bout with fellow unbeaten Jose Ramirez, he made a brief factual error.
“You’ve got two top prospects signed with Top Rank,” he said. “I’m 24-0, I mean 23-0. Jose is 20-0 and it’s an exciting thing. I think these are the matchups that need to be made for boxing to be great again. Nobody wants to see lopsided fights. The fans want to see this fight, and it makes it easy for us.”
I told Reed that I saw what he did there when it came to his record. He laughed the laugh of a young man confident that while he might be 23-0 now, come Sunday morning, he will have that 24-0 slate. And it’s not a trash talking, obnoxious confidence; it’s a quiet, cool realization that only comes with years of experience in the ring, and Reed has that at just 24 years old.
Yes, as much as the boxing world has been hearing about the Maryland product over the past few years, he still hasn’t hit the quarter century mark. Does it feel like he’s been around a lot longer?
“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “But me and my team, we did a good job of getting me out there first and foremost, and I have had a lot of fights. I turned pro in 2013 and I haven’t had anything longer than a four-month break between fights, so I’ve always been busy.”
That game plan started with Reed’s father, Michael “Buck” Pinson, who had a plan when his son finished his amateur career after just falling short of making the 2012 U.S. Olympic squad. It wasn’t about hitting the road pitching promoters, but instead, it was all about fighting and then waiting for the right situation to present itself. If it sounds old school, it was.
“I was 19, so I was still young and I could have stayed around for four more years (to try for the 2016 Olympics),” Reed said. “But we had a local company, Keystone Boxing, and they were putting on shows every other month and that was the route we wanted to take because we weren’t getting calls from the big promoters starting off. We were going to continue to stay busy and learn our craft and then I’ll get that call. And I was about 9-0 and Top Rank gave me a call.”
And here he is.
“Yes indeed,” Reed laughs, at ease in the time before the biggest fight of his career. But just because he’s in a good place now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t times when he was a typical 20-something wanting to get everything yesterday.
“Honestly, it was hard,” he said when asked how he remained patient while waiting for the big fight. “I didn’t want to rush it, but I knew I was ready. I knew I was ready based on who I was sparring and things like that. And I think I stayed patient because I stayed busy. Me having those fights and not being put on the shelf altered my thinking a little. I thought, okay, eventually the big fight is gonna come because Top Rank keeps putting me on shows and they’re investing in me. Any investor wants a return on their investment eventually. So I took it as an opportunity to learn and I knew that this day would come very soon.”
The learning didn’t just take place in the ring, though. And truth be told, he might have picked up more valuable lessons in the gym than on fight night.
“That’s what it was,” Reed said. “The experience in the fight comes with those eight-ounce gloves and taking the headgear off and going the rounds. But there are things in the gym you can’t make up for. Jarrett Hurd just fought Austin Trout and we came up together. Gervonta Davis, Anthony and Lamont Peterson, we came up together. Even sparring Adrien Broner and things like that, we got a lot of good guys in the area that I can learn from or teach something to.”
The old adage that steel sharpens steel certainly applies to the fighters of the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia), many of whom are starting to make a serious impact at the upper reaches of the game. It’s not a new development for the area, and while Reed remembers and respects the last golden age of DMV boxing, he’s hoping the current crop can set the bar even higher.
“One thing about this group of guys is that the talent is there and you can make the comparison to when you had Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, William Joppy, Darryl Tyson, Derrell Corley and Sharmba Mitchell,” he said. “But they were almost getting into fights in the gym. I think us now, most of us have known each other since we were eight years old, so we support each other a lot, and I think that’s what’s pushing our generation and the next generation a little further. Everybody wants to help and everybody wants to go further. So I have to study and see where they went wrong or the things they could have done better, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
If it sounds like Reed has everything all together, that’s accurate. He’s not even rattled by the reality of facing Ramirez in his California backyard.
“Honestly, once you give us the ring, the crowd does not matter at all,” he said. “It may matter to some people, but to me, it doesn’t matter. I see the people in the crowd and I get excited because I can use being the underdog or going into his backyard to gain more fans.”
Getting more fans shouldn’t be a problem for Mike Reed, and that’s an exciting prospect for him because he knows that he’s getting closer to the ultimate goal of a world championship. And when he gets there, he believes people will look back and say November 11 was the start of it all.
“I’m definitely excited for it,” he said of this weekend’s bout. “When I look at it, I’m like, okay, well, everybody’s gonna look back and say, this is when Mike Reed arrived. Fighting on ESPN, a title eliminator, this is something that I wanted and something I plan on taking full advantage of.”