By Keith Idec
Alantez Fox sent Jarrett Hurd a heartfelt text message immediately after Hurd stopped Austin Trout following the 10th round Saturday night.
Fox, Hurd’s close friend and frequent sparring partner, expressed extreme pride in what Hurd accomplished by defending his IBF junior middleweight title for the first time and becoming the first fighter to beat Trout by knockout or technical knockout.
“I thought the world of what he did, man,” Fox told BoxingScene.com. “That’s like my brother. I tell him all the time, ‘We can get in there and throw hands all the time, but you’re damn near my brother by blood. We share blood, sweat and tears together.’ So I was extremely, extremely happy for him.”
This Saturday night, it’s Fox’s turn to make all of his supporters proud.
A confident Fox (23-0-1, 11 KOs) intends to take advantage of the most important opportunity of his seven-year pro career when he faces undefeated Demetrius Andrade in a 12-round middleweight match HBO will televise from Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. The unbeaten but unknown Fox has drawn inspiration from how Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs) has developed into a formidable champion who regularly fights on television.
“It’s definitely inspirational,” Fox said. “It pushes and drives even more. If that man could do what he’s doing and we put in hard rounds together all the time, I know for a fact I could do it, without question. I just had to wait for my opportunity. I had to be patient for my opportunity, and this is it.”
Is it ever.
Fox’s last fight wasn’t televised and took place in a hotel ball room in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The 6-feet-5 contender stopped Euri Gonzalez (24-11-1, 16 KOs) in the fourth round July 26, but Fox admits an inability to secure the type of fights he wants was getting increasingly aggravating.
“It’s been extremely frustrating,” Fox said. “My promoter [Lou DiBella] has been telling me all the time how many people have turned me down. It’s frustrating because I believe if you’re a warrior, if you’re a boxer, if you’re a fighter, you should stand up to any challenge. It shouldn’t be about height or anything like that.
“I’m just excited, man. I’m excited to get here, but I’m also ready. I’m not too excited, where I’m nervous or anything like that. I’m just ready. This is the stage we’ve wanted to be on for years and now that it’s finally here, I’m here to show people that I belong.”
Fox was helping one of his gymmates, cruiserweight Luther Smith, prepare for a fight last month when his manager, Mike Borao, informed Fox about the offer to challenge Andrade (24-0, 16 KOs). Fox didn’t hesitate to accept the fight.
The Forestville, Maryland, native was given barely one month’s notice for the biggest fight of his career. But like Andrade, Smith is a southpaw, which helped Fox get a head start on sparring despite the short notice.
Since accepting the fight, Fox has embraced his role as an anonymous underdog against the highly regarded Andrade, who recently agreed to a three-fight contract with HBO. The 29-year-old Andrade has suffered from inactivity and inconsistent exposure in recent years, but the 2008 American Olympian has long been considered one of the most talented boxers in the 154-pound division.
“It’s always good to be an underdog in a fight like this because you’re always gonna exceed the expectations,” Fox said. “But I’m just ready to go in there and show people that this isn’t a cakewalk for him at all. If he happens to beat me, he’s gonna have a hell of a fight on his hands and he’s gonna have stories about this fight. People are gonna talk like, ‘That kid Fox is amazing.’ That’s if he beats me. I don’t plan on losing at all, though.”
Andrade, of Providence, Rhode Island, has moved up from 154 pounds to 160 for this bout because he has had difficulty luring top junior middleweights into fighting him. The 6-feet-1 Andrade still owns the WBA world super welterweight title, but he expects to put top middleweights on notice with an impressive performance Saturday night in one of three fights HBO will televise.
“I take every fight very seriously,” Andrade said. “This Fox guy is in my way of becoming a superstar and proving my worth, so this fight is definitely gonna show the people that I’m willing to get in there with someone unknown, but top guys, with undefeated records. That being said, I’ve gotta come prepared and ready to bring my ‘A’ game as well.”
In his debut as a full-fledged middleweight, Andrade will encounter an opponent who owns a four-inch height advantage. Andrade stopped 6-feet-3 Willie Nelson in the 12th round of their June 2016 bout at Turning Stone, but Fox figures his overall size will be an insurmountable issue for Andrade.
“I feel like it’s gonna be a major advantage, especially my height,” Fox said. “My movement is a problem to any fighter, I believe, and I don’t think it’s gonna be any different for him. I can out-maneuver him with my footwork and out-land him. If it happens to get rough on the inside, I don’t know that he’s strong enough to just push me around.”
Fox has won 16 straight fights since his eight-round draw with Frank Galarza (17-2-2, 11 KOs) five years ago in Queens, New York. He is ranked No. 8 among the WBO’s middleweight contenders and realizes a victory over a world champion would move him closer toward a title shot.
“The way people talk about Demetrius Andrade, it’s as if he’s some giant or some dragon or something,” Fox said. “Beating him obviously would skyrocket my career. [This fight] means the world to me. This is something I’ve dreamed of for years and years. I can’t even stress that enough.
“To get a big fight and with a big name, it’s great. A lot of people are overlooking me, looking way past me, like I’m just some chump, some no-name guy. I am relatively unknown, but at the same time I’m ready to shock and awe.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.