Michael Coffie isn’t getting ahead of himself.
The 34-year-old heavyweight hasn’t overvalued his third-round knockout of Darmani Rock on Saturday night in Los Angeles. Still, his impressive victory did convince Coffie that he is ready for the next level of opposition whenever he returns to the ring.
“I’d like to test myself against guys like a Gerald Washington, a Dominic Breazeale, a Charles Martin,” Coffie said during a post-fight press conference. “I’d like to test myself against those kind of opponents. That would show me if I’m ready for the next step, which would be guys for the belt. I know a lot of people would feel otherwise, but it ain’t about how they feel. It’s about how I feel, my team and we know whether or not we’re ready.”
Coffie feels he doesn’t have time to waste because he didn’t turn pro until he was 31, two years after first taking up the sport. The Brooklyn native served eight years in the U.S. Marines before he began boxing.
His comparative inexperience made Philadelphia’s Rock an interesting test for Coffie because Rock was an accomplished amateur who took a 17-0 record, including 12 knockouts, into their televised fight at Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall. The 6-feet-5, 270-pound Coffie (12-0, 9 KOs) dropped Rock twice during the third round – first with a vicious left uppercut and again with a left hook.
Referee Jack Reiss stopped their scheduled 10-round fight 59 seconds into the third round, before Rock could reach his feet following that second knockdown.
“There were no expectations as far as when I was going to stop him,” Coffie said, “but I did plan on stopping him.”
Of the potential opponents Coffie mentioned, Washington (20-4-1, 13 KOs) and Martin (28-2-1, 25 KOs), a former IBF champ, are at least available to fight Coffie sometime in the spring. Breazeale (20-2, 18 KOs) is scheduled to face Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin (21-1, 14 KOs, 1 NC) on February 20 as part of a Showtime tripleheader from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m jumping the gun or anything like that, or downplaying the need for experience,” Coffie said. “But I don’t think I’m that far off. I think I have power, movement, and I think just my style of fighting can really contend with anybody.”
Coffie believes all the rounds he spent sparring against former WBC champ Deontay Wilder prepared him to face more experienced punchers in actual fights.
“When you’re sparring someone like Deontay Wilder, who is known for dropping people with one punch, there is always going to be that pressure,” Coffie said. “Somebody like him forces you to have to do things like be aware of where your hands are, head movement, getting the timing and gauging the distance. So, I take that, bring it into the ring and it works to my benefit.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.