Upon further review, he did leave himself an out.
Because Demetrius Andrade will be fighting this week in my big South Florida backyard – a few days before the Super Bowl in Miami, to be exact – I was reminiscing about the first time I’d talked to the now-WBO middleweight champion, just two months shy of 11 years ago.
Back then, the precocious Rhode Islander was dipping his toe into the pro waters and was just a couple days removed from his fourth win, a second-round stop of Arnulfo Javier Romero in Laredo, Texas.
I recalled the chat this week for a couple of other reasons.
First, because it occurred on my son’s first birthday – he’ll be 12 in March, incidentally – and I remember sitting on the curb outside my apartment in Gainesville, talking on a flip phone and reminding myself to wrap things up before the little man got too immersed in his vanilla cream-frosted smash cake.
And second, because Andrade, just 21 back then, was already insistent about his finish line.
“I’ve been doing this for 16 years already now, and if I give it 10 years in the pros I’ll have done all I wanted to do,” he said. “I love the sport, but it’s not my whole life, and when it’s time to walk away, it’ll be time. I may go on a little past 30 if there’s a big reason to, like a big title fight with a good opponent or a chance at a pay-per-view or something.
“But I won’t be doing it much longer than that for any reason. I have a plan.”
Just where Luke Keeler fits in is anyone’s guess.
Andrade will meet his Ireland-based challenger – ranked third by the WBO in spite of precisely zero top-20 wins – atop a Matchroom USA show at the Meridian at Island Gardens, a massive entertainment complex that’s serving as ground zero for much of the city’s pre-football socializing.
It’s defense No. 3 of a belt he’s held for 15 months, but the challengers thus far -- Artur Akavov and Maciej Sulecki – haven’t exactly left anyone pining for the aforementioned post-30 PPVs to arrive.
Keeler, in fact, has labeled Andrade delusional for chasing possible fights with the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin or even Jermall Charlo, and suggested he’s looking past this week.
Needless to say, the champion disagrees.
“I’ll never get too comfortable though and think ‘I’m better than you so I don’t have to train.’ Every fight is a multi-million-dollar fight because if I don’t perform and win, the opportunities go out the window,” he said. “I don’t slack on one punch or one training session because of that.”
Keeler is 7-0-1 since the second of two career losses – both to Tom Doran – in 2016, but he’s never been scheduled beyond 10 rounds and hasn’t had a stoppage win since 2014, in his seventh pro fight.
He beat Luis Arias over 10 rounds last August in Belfast, in his last pre-title fight.
“It’s hard to get people to get in there with me and it’s his first world title fight,” Andrade said, “so I am expecting him to bring his A-game. I’m bringing mine too as I know what it’s like. I’ve been to the Olympics and to me there’s no bigger platform, but this is a massive stage and no other fighter or network has done this, I’m going to give him the beating of his life.
“He’s said that he would fight me for free. I’d say that you should want to get paid because these shots don’t come easy. I’m just very excited to get things in motion.”
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF junior lightweight title – Miami, Florida
Tevin Farmer (champion/No. 9 IWBR) vs. Joseph Diaz (No. 11 IBF/No. 4 IWBR)
Farmer (30-4-1, 6 KO): Fifth title defense; Twenty-three straight wins since starting 7-4-1 in first 12
Diaz (30-1, 15 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Unbeaten in four fights above 126 pounds (4-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: I know Farmer’s on a roll and I know he’s been seeking fights with bigger than Diaz. But the challenger has one loss to a very good fighter. I think he comes up big here. Diaz by decision (60/40)
IBF junior featherweight/WBA super bantamweight titles – Miami, Florida
Daniel Roman (IBF/WBA champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Murodjon Akhmadaliev (No. 1 IBF/No. 40 IWBR)
Roman (27-2-1, 10 KO): Fifth WBA title defense; Nineteen straight wins since 2013, seven by KO/TKO
Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6 KO): First title fight; Never gone past nine rounds in seven fights (28 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: The California-based Uzbek is a precocious contender based on his number of fights and is here for a reason. But Roman hasn’t lost in seven years for a reason, too. Roman by decision (75/25)
WBO middleweight title – Miami, Florida
Demetrius Andrade (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Luke Keeler (No. 3 WBO/No. 37 IWBR)
Andrade (28-0, 17 KO): Third title defense; Held WBA and WBO belts at 154 pounds (one defense)
Keeler (17-2-1, 5 KO): First title fight; Entering on an eight-fight unbeaten streak (7-0-1, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Keeler isn’t a big hitter, which means he’s going to need something else. Based on past performance, though, there’s nothing there that Andrade won’t handle. Andrade in 9 (99/1)
Vacant WBC cruiserweight title – Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ilunga Makabu (No. 1 WBC/No. 6 IWBR) vs. Michal Cieslak (No. 2 WBC/No. 13 IWBR)
Makabu (26-2, 24 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Eleven of last 12 wins by KO/TKO (Average: 5.33 rounds)
Cieslak (19-0, 13 KO): First title fight; First fight outside of Poland
Fitzbitz says: Makabu is no Carlos DeLeon or Evander Holyfield, but he should join the belted class when faced with a challenger who’s never been in too tough and never hit the road. Makabu in 7 (80/20)
IBF mini flyweight title – Guadalupe, Mexico
Pedro Taduran (champion/No. 18 IWBR) vs. Daniel Valladares (unranked WBC/unranked IWBR)
Taduran (14-2, 11 KO): First title defense; Lost only previous fight outside the Philippines
Valladares (22-1, 13 KO): First title fight; Eleven straight wins since lone loss in 2016 (11-0, 7 KO)
Fitzbitz says: It’s not a great sign when a champ in his first defense goes on the road to his challenger’s home turf. So it’s no surprise that it won’t end well for Taduran. Valladares by decision (65/35)
Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: Fulton)
2020 picks record: 2-1 (66.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,118-366 (75.3 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.