Kenneth Sims Jr. has taken it all the way back to the beginning in search of a fresh start.
A make-or-break fight is in store for the 27-year-old Chicago native, who faces Dominican junior welterweight prospect Elvis Rodriguez (11-0-1, 10KOs). The bout serves as the opener of an ESPN-televised tripleheader this Saturday, live from Virgin Hotels Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada.
While Rodriguez is guided by Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, Sims (15-2-1, 5KOs) enters the bout armed with a renowned cornerman of his own. Kay Koroma has spent the past several weeks molding Sims into shape in hopes of bringing him back to the boxer he first met when Sims was a teenager rising through the amateur ranks.
“I’m super excited for this fight. As Coach Kay would call it, this is the remix,” insisted Sims during a recent Zoom media conference call to discuss the bout. “It’s a big deal to the changes I made. When I first started, it was just me and my dad. For this camp, I’ve been around people at the level I want to be at and have always wanted to get to.”
Sims was once a top-shelf talent to which others aspired, at one point regarded as one of the best amateurs to ever come out of the United States. He fell just short of making the 2012 U.S. Olympic Boxing team that competed in London, losing at the Olympic Trials to Jose Ramirez (26-0, 17KOs) who is now a WBC/WBO junior welterweight champ who headlines Saturday’s show in an undisputed showdown with IBF/WBA titlist Josh Taylor (17-0, 13KOs).
From there came Sims’ pro debut in 2014, A contractual dispute kept him on the shelf for nearly a year after just six pro fights, suffering his first pro defeat live on Showtime in his 13th bout. The setback—an eight-round majority decision to Ronald Chinea in July 2017—was the start of a four-fight stretch which saw Sims held to an eight-round draw with unbeaten Montana Love and a Nov. 2018 points loss to Samuel Teah.
Just two fights have followed, one each in 2019 and 2020. Sims has since spent that time sharpening his tools in the gym, training with the likes of pound-for-pound entrant and three-division titlist Terence 'Bud' Crawford, unbeaten former featherweight title holder Shakur Stevenson and former unified junior middleweight champ Jarrett Hurd.
Those factors combined with unearthing the potential his old—and reunited—trainer always saw in him are what he sees as the keys to picking up the biggest win of his career this weekend.
“I don’t think the ring rust will bother me,” notes Sims. “Even though I didn’t have a lot of fights over the past year, I’ve been in camp. I was in camp with Shakur. I’ve been in camp with Bud a couple of times. I’ve been in camp with Jarrett Hurd, Josh Greer. Anytime they had a fight scheduled, I’ve been going to camp with them to stay sharp.
“I spar with Shakur, Bud. I feel like sparring with them is more experience than I’d get in any stay busy fights.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox