Luke Keeler thinks he is in Demetrius Andrade’s head.
Keeler sensed when they went face-to-face in Miami that the things he has said about Andrade during the buildup toward their fight have aggravated the heavily favored champion. Andrade will make an optional defense of his WBO middleweight title against Ireland’s Keeler in a main event DAZN will stream Thursday night from Meridian at Island Gardens.
“I’m getting under his skin,” Keeler said, according to a story posted Tuesday to Sky Sports’ website. “I labeled him delusional and he kept repeating it, so it’s obviously in his head.”
Keeler knocked down Luis Arias twice in his last fight, a 10-round, unanimous-decision win August 3 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Beating Arias (18-2-1, 9 KOs, 1 NC) enabled Keeler to secure this title shot, but Andrade isn’t impressed with the 32-year-old Dublin native’s resume.
The feeling is mutual, according to Keeler (17-2-1, 5 KOs). The unknown underdog also challenged Andrade to “stand and fight” in a 12-round, 160-pound championship match that was scheduled in conjunction with Super Bowl week in Miami.
“He calls himself the greatest, but he has to prove that,” Keeler said. “He’s calling for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez or Jermall Charlo, but he’s not backing it up with entertainment. I’m prepared for him to move and box at his pace, but if he’s the greatest, why doesn’t he stand and fight? He’s talking me down so much. He’s saying I’ve beaten nobody. Then prove it!”
Andrade has been very vocal about his desire to face Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs), one of boxing’s cash cows, Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) or Gennadiy Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs) in what would be middleweight title unification bouts. Unable to secure those higher-profile fights, the 31-year-old Andrade (28-0, 17 KOs) has settled for facing Walter Kautondokwa, Artur Akavov and Maciej Sulecki since signing an exclusive contract with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA and DAZN.
The Providence, Rhode Island, native was supposed to challenge unbeaten Brit Billy Joe Saunders in October 2018, but Saunders tested positive for a banned substance and the then-unbeaten Kautondokwa replaced him. The WBO subsequently stripped Saunders of its 160-pound title, which Andrade won when defeated Kautondokwa by unanimous decision.
“Hopefully he can step up to the plate, instead of shouting and roaring from the rooftop,” Keeler said. “It’s a sign of weakness.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.