MIAMI - Three-time, two division world champion Randall "KO King" Bailey (44-8, 37 KOs) returns to the ring June 20 after a long absence to fight veteran Gundrick "Sho-Gun" King (18-14, 11 KOs) in the 10-round main event at Riverdale Center of Arts in Riverdale, Georgia.
Contrary to some erroneous reports and misconceptions, the 40-year-old Bailey never retired. Unfortunately, he hasn't fought in 1 ½ years, only four times in nearly five years, due to his well-earned reputation as, pound-for-pound, one of the hardest one-punch boxers in the world.
Bailey, fighting out of Miami, last fought November 23, 2013 in Tampa, after a 13-months of inactivity, defeating Ecuador welterweight Humberto "Bam Bam" Toledo (41-11-2, 25 KOs) by way of an eighth-round disqualification. He will be making his junior welterweight debut against King, launching the final chapter of his storied boxing career.
"I haven't been sitting out because I wanted to," Bailey explained. "We've tried to get fights but I've been frozen out. It's been rough but I won't let it bother me. I just go with the flow, what's been given to me. I couldn't get the top junior welterweights to fight me; I'm not afraid to move up to junior middleweight, where I hope to fight 'Canelo '(Saul Alvarez) or (Erislandy) Lara.
"I try to explain that I'm not your average 40-year-old boxer. I'm not out every night drinking, getting high, or doing any extra-curricular activities. If these guys really felt I was old, they'd be fighting me. In the Mike Jones fight, they saw a guy losing after 11 rounds but, with a drop of a dime, I let my hands go and ended the show. (Bailey knocked out 26-0 Jones in the 11th round to capture the IBF welterweight title.) They all fade but I don't."
Bailey has shattered many fighters' dreams during his 19-year professional career. In addition to Jones, Bailey has defeated a strong group of junior welterweights and welterweights of the past two decades, including Rocky Martinez, Carlos Gonzalez, Hector Lopez, Demetrio Ceballos, Anthony Mora, DeMarcus Corley and Jackson Osei Bonsu. Seven of Bailey's eight career losses have been to world champions Miguel Cotto, Diosbelys Hurtado, Ener Julio, Ishe Smith, Juan Urango, Corley and Devon Alexander. His only other professional loss was to two-time world title challenger Herman Ngoudjo.
Bailey is a promotional free agent. "I've come to the point where I'm been having trouble with it," Bailey's manager Si Stern spoke about his difficulties landing fights the past few years for a high-risk, dangerous fighter such as Bailey. "If I were a promoter who had a fighter with a great record, why wouldn't I want to test him against Randall Bailey? I don't understand these promoters. If Randall knocks his fighter out, they save a lot of time, energy and money. If Randall is beaten, they've got a hot fighter who beat a 3-time world champion. That makes all the sense in the world to me. I keep hearing the same excuses from promoters who say television doesn't want Randall, but that's BS because fans love watching a KO artist like Randall. And promoters always bring up his age as a safety factor. Most of Randall's fights didn't go the distance and he's never really been on the wrong end of a war. His body hasn't taken the wear and tear like a lot of other fighters his age. He just went up to Atlanta early to meet with the boxing commission just to show them that he's in top shape, physically and mentally. We can do that every fight, if needed, without any problems whatsoever.
"Let's face it, promoters and managers are afraid to let their guys fight Randall because they'll get knocked out. Everybody knows Randall will fight anybody. He made himself available to fight (Floyd) Mayweather and (Manny) Pacquiao, but they didn't want any part of him. This is what we've face with Randall Bailey the past few years."
Bailey has been training for the first time with veteran coach Orlando Cuellar, who is best known for training former world champion Glen Johnson.
"Training with Orlando is all about hard work," Bailey said. "The first week - I can't really explain how my body felt - but everybody in the gym thought he was killing me. I wasn't used to working like that but, once I got used to it, I started feeling it.
"I know I have power but, after working with Orlando, I realize it's irrelevant without a good front hand. My jab orchestrates everything. My left look is just as good as my right, if it comes off my jab. Orlando's helped me bring that back. I'm bringing my power to the 154-pound division and I'm excited about the change."
The feeling is mutual. Cuellar, who also trains 46-year-old heavyweight contender Antonio Tarver, the five-time, two-division world champion, as well as undefeated world light heavyweight contender Yunieski Gonzalez, among the more notables in his growing stable of fighters, believes age is simply a number for elite boxers who dedicate themselves to conditioning.
"Randall is still going to have his power and because he's not depleting himself making 147," Cuellar noted, "his power will be even greater at 154. He'll have gas in his tank late in fights, instead of it being empty from working to make weight like he did at 147. He can run with the big dogs at 154 and still have the most knockout power.
"Randall was the most feared 147-pounder in boxing. Hopefully, it won't be that way at 154, so he can be more active. As a fighter matures in age, sometimes, it's best to move up in weight instead of using up so much energy to make weight. At 154, Randall will be better because he'll be more active in the ring. We're working on stuff other than his big right hand, which we'll be masking with other punches. We've been together six months and he's looked fantastic. Things are coming along nicely. I have him applying pressure, breaking down his opponent, using three distances - short, medium and long - and then using his signature (right) punch. I don't want him to rely on knocking out a guy. We have Randall using his speed, movement, power and touching the (his opponent's) body. He's bought into my theory and the second coming of Randall Bailey is going to be very exciting."
The final chapter, according to Bailey, will conclude with either his 50th career victory or 10th loss. "It's all over for me if I win my 50th fight or lose my 10th," he concluded. "I'm not going to be anybody's opponent and, if I get to 50 wins, it'll be all over for me."
Bailey's journey for his third divisional world title officially kicks-off June 20.