By Keith Idec
Handicappers have every reason to consider Ossie Duran a big underdog entering his televised fight Friday night against Caleb Truax.
The veteran middleweight from Ghana is 36, took the fight barely two weeks ago and suffered the first knockout defeat of his 17-year pro career in his last fight six months ago. None of those obstacles demoralized Duran (28-11-2, 11 KOs) as he prepared to battle Truax (23-1-1, 14 KOs) in a 10-round fight ESPN2 will televise as the opener to the 17th season of “Friday Night Fights” from Target Center in Minneapolis.
“I’ve got to win this fight,” Duran said. “It’s short notice, but I’ve been in the gym and for the last two weeks I’ve stepped it up. I think I’ll go in there and win this fight.”
To pull off an upset, the Paterson, N.J., resident must do more to convince judges than he did during close losses to Avtandil Khurtsidze (27-2-2, 16 KOs), Fernando Guerrero (26-2, 19 KOs) and Brandon Gonzales (18-0-1, 10 KOs) over the past four years.
Ukraine’s Khurtsidze defeated Duran by majority decision in a 12-rounder two years ago in Zaporizhia, Ukraine. Duran dropped a majority decision to Guerrero, too, in a 10-rounder four years ago in Salisbury, Md., Guerrero’s hometown. And Gonzales got by Duran thanks to an eight-round split decision in October 2011 in Atlantic City.
Duran will encounter a challenge similar to those he faced in the Khurtsidze and Guerrero fights when he meets Truax, who’s from the Minneapolis suburb of Osseo, Minn., and will have a hometown crowd on his side.
“I’ve got to be aggressive and take it from him,” Duran said. “Sometimes when you’re fighting in someone’s hometown, it’s very hard. But I’m going there to pull off an upset. I’ve got to put pressure on him and do what I’ve got to do to win this fight Friday.”
Duran accepted the Truax fight after Truax’s original opponent, Philadelphia Derek Ennis (23-4-1, 13 KOs), pulled out last month.
The 30-year-old Truax has lost only to former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, whom Truax dropped in the ninth round of a 10-round fight in April 2012. Truax has won four of his five fights by knockout since Taylor out-pointed him, including a sixth-round knockout of Chicago’s Don George (24-4-2, 21 KOs) on June 21 in Minneapolis that established Truax as a fringe middleweight contender.
Six days before Truax stopped George, Duran suffered the worst loss of his career, a third-round knockout against unbeaten Russian contender Matt Korobov (22-0, 13 KOs). Korobov dropped the usually durable Duran three times before their scheduled 10-round fight was stopped.
“That’s one of those things that happen to fighters,” Duran said. “I don’t know what happened, but I have to forget about it and go win this fight.”
The main event of Friday night’s card, co-promoted by Mike Tyson’s Iron Mike Productions, will feature IBF junior lightweight champion Argenis Mendez (21-2-1, 11 KOs), a Brooklyn resident raised in the Dominican Republic. Mendez will make his second title defense against mandatory challenger Rances Barthelemy (19-0, 12 KOs), a Miami resident who defected from Cuba, in a 12-rounder.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.