By Francisco Salazar
Cleotis “Mookie” Pendarvis has heard different conclusions about him since making his professional debut in 2004.
Just three years ago, Pendarvis was that one boxer who had the physical tools to go along with the “prospect” label. However, a loss here and there made people think he was not dedicated to the sport.
Funny how time passes and after a string of six victories in a row, people are now labeling Pendarvis as a “winner” or even as a “contender.”
Pendarvis will meet unbeaten Dierry Jean tonight at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami , OK . It will be an IBF light welterweight title elimination bout, with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger to face Lamont Peterson.
The bout, along with the middleweight bout between John Thompson and Giovany Rodriguez, will be televised on Showtime.
While Pendarvis is beginning to make a name for himself in the sport, it has not come easy. Pendarvis grew up in the Watts area of South Central Los Angeles, where he saw gangs and drugs around him while growing up. Boxing was a refuge for him while growing up, steering him away from becoming another statistic.
Could he have imagined being where he is at now 10 years ago? Probably not. But he is not taking the opportunity for granted.
“It’s overwhelming,” Pendarvis told Boxingscene.com in a recent interview. “It’s a miracle because there was a lot of stuff going on. But it has humbled me a lot and I’ve had to work that much harder.”
Pendarvis has had to address and go through a lot of challenges outside the ring. Prior to his October 2009 bout against then-unbeaten Mauricio Herrera, Pendarvis had to attend to his mother, who relies on a wheelchair because she is paralyzed from the waist down. Two weeks prior to the fight, Pendarvis’ brother was shot and killed.
Although he suffered a majority decision loss to Herrera that night, Pendarvis believes he would have beaten him had he been 100% mentally and physically prepared. That is in the past and Pendarvis (17-3-1, 6 KOs) believes he is a better fighter now and the things that played out in his life were a blessing.
“I’m never bitter about what has happened in my life,” said Pendarvis, who has sparred with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley as a pro. “Some people from my past thought I would lose, but I’m still here. Tomorrow is never certain and and I’m in for a tough fight on May 10th.”
“Back then, I would fight prospects in their back yards and at times, I beat myself in those fights. Some of those losses were controversial, but I was never in an easy battle. Despite what I went through, I always fought hard.”
Pendarvis will face Jean, an unbeaten Haitian-born boxer-puncher who resides in Montreal. He has stopped five of his last seven opponents, including Juan Jesus Rivera in his last bout on February 16th.
While Jean sports an impressive record of 24-0, with 18 KOs, Pendarvis believes he has not faced as difficult of opposition as he has. Because of that and his self-described improved skill-set, Pendarvis believes he will be victorious tonight.
“I believe I have fought the better opposition in my career. He hasn’t been tested in his career. I have done everything so far, even sparring Mosley before his fight (against Pablo Cesar Cano on May 18th).”
“His team has patted his record. I believe my skill-set is better than his. I just feel that the adversity I have faced has made me a stronger and more humbled fighter. The harder fighter makes one the better fighter and I feel my past has made me a better fighter than him.”
Pendarvis may have endured a great deal in his career thus far. A likable guy outside of the ring, it is hard to not pull for a guy who has overcome obstacles in and out of the ring.
A father to two children, Pendarvis feels that boxers he fights against are in his way of providing for himself and his children. Therefore, he will utilize every aspect of his game mentally and physically to outbox Jean because too much is at stake.
“I’m going to use my wits to outbox him. Speed, ability, everything. I punch harder now. I’m playing chess, not checkers and I’m going to punish him for 12 rounds. In fact, I don’t see this going 12 rounds.”
So far, Pendarvis has backed up everything he has said. A win for him will give Pendarvis a scheduled opportunity at a world title against Lamont Peterson.
Whether that will happen remains to be seen, but Pendarvis has done well for himself thus far. While Pendarvis endured many names and labels against him years ago, he hopes one phrase becomes synonymous with his name: world champion.