MIAMI—Even as a heavy betting favorite, there still stands less of a chance for Demetrius Andrade to land a blockbuster headliner after Thursday evening than his suffering a loss in his next scheduled fight.
Still, the unbeaten southpaw has a golden opportunity to raise his profile with a spectacular performance versus Ireland’s Luke Keeler (17-2-1, 5KOs). The two collide Thursday evening, live on DAZN from Meridian at Island Gardens during a week dedicated to Super Bowl LIV. The location of the purpose-built and virtually sold-out venue is ideal to attract new eyeballs to the sport, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for an unbeaten three-time titlist whose name is rarely uttered by fellow divisional titlsits Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin or Jermall Charlo.
“That’s why I really like this fight with Keeler [tonight],” Eddie Hearn, Andrade’s promoter told BoxingScene.com. “Keeler will come forward, he knows what he has to do to try and beat Demetrius.
“I want to see Demetrius under pressure. Keeler could be the guy to do that. I don’t think that can beat him, but I think he can be the guy that forces enough pressure—and more importantly, forces Demetrius to fight.”
Andrade (28-0, 17KOs) has been virtually without peer since moving up to middleweight in 2017. His one non-title fight featured his stiffest test, recovering from a knockdown to otherwise soundly outpoint then-unbeaten Alantez Fox in their October 2017 meet.
From there came lopsided title fight wins over previously unbeaten Walter Kautondokwa, former title challenger Artur Akavov and perennial Top 10 contender Maciej Sulecki. All three have headlined on DAZN-USA, as does Thursday’s bout with Keeler. The latter of the three took place in Andrade’s hometown of Providence, Rhode Island—the first-ever local showcase for the 2008 U.S. Olympian and three-time titlist in two weight divisions.
An explosive start had the Dunkin’ Donuts Center rocking, only for the rest of the bout to go the way most have been for Andrade—lopsided and monotonous to the untrained eye.
“Everyone uses the excuse, he’s not entertaining, he can’t sell tickets, nobody’s interested,” notes Hearn. “Well now he’s got a big broadcaster behind him, he sold 8,000 for his fight in Providence (Andrade’s hometown) and he knocked Sulecki down in the 1st round, it was an incredible atmosphere. If he’d have gotten Sulecki out of there in the 2nd round, they’d have gone f—kin’ nuts there. We’re excited, the crowd’s excited and that’s the energy we want.
“So he goes to his corner, and Paul (Andrade, Demetrius’ father and head trainer) says ‘What are you doing? Just get behind your jab, don’t take chances.’ And we’re like ‘Ahhhhh, no!’ But what can you do? When it’s so dangerous in the ring at that level, it’s difficult for me as a promoter to tell these guys ‘What are you doing, mate? Go in there and take chances.’ Because they look at me and come back with, ‘Why don’t you get in there and take chances? F—k off!’ So, you have to be careful.”
Of course, there is the acknowledgement that being too careful has led to Andrade’s current predicament. Serving as a masterclass boxer has its rewards—include the defending titlist extending his promotional pact with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA—but it never hurts to give that extra push, especially when in pursuit of more than what is presently coming his way.
“It is an entertainment sport,” acknowledges Hearn. “The hardcore fans think Demetrius is fantastic. The casual fans will say he’s a little bit boring. So, we have to get the mix right.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox