By Keith Idec
Junior Younan expected a difficult sparring session when he arrived at a boxing gym in Woodland Park, New Jersey, two years ago.
Younan hadn’t sparred in a few months due to a minor injury. Ronald Ellis was well into training camp for his “ShoBox” bout against Jerry Odom in February 2016.
Brooklyn’s Younan assumed Ellis was much more prepared to spar than him.
“I wasn’t impressed at all,” Younan told BoxingScene.com. “I thought it was gonna be good work. I came into the gym, and that was my first sparring session in months. I was coming off an injury and he was getting ready for the Odom fight. He was supposed to be sharp and I really didn’t think much of him.”
The stakes will be much higher when Younan and Ellis square off for the second time Friday night.
The undefeated super middleweight prospects are set to meet in the main event of a “ShoBox: The New Generation” broadcast from WinnaVegas Casino Resort in Sloan, Iowa. They’ll fight for the vacant USBA 168-pound championship in their 10-round bout and presumably a spot in the IBF’s top-15 rankings at super middleweight.
The 22-year-old Younan (13-0, 9 KOs) is a highly touted prospect promoted by Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports. On paper, Ellis looks like the toughest opponent for Younan since he turned pro in November 2013.
The 28-year-old Ellis (14-0-1, 10 KOs), who settled for an eight-round draw with Odom (14-3-1, 13 KOs, 1 NC) in the aforementioned match, will fight for the first time in more than a year. Ellis, of Lynn, Massachusetts, hasn’t boxed since defeating Philadelphia’s Christopher Brooker (12-5, 5 KOs) by unanimous decision in an eight-rounder last January 20 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I haven’t really thought about anything other than this fight,” Younan said. “I’m not looking past him, but I know I’m gonna get by him. I’m not worried. I’m 100-percent prepared and 100-percent focused, and just don’t blink.”
Showtime’s telecast Friday night (10 p.m. ET) also will include eight-round fights featuring super lightweight prospects from Cleveland.
Thomas Mattice (10-0, 8 KOs) will encounter Rolando Chinea (15-1-1, 6 KOs), of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Montana Love (8-0, 4 KOs), who took this fight on less than a week’s notice, will face Philadelphia’s Samuel Teah (12-1-1, 5 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.