Andre Ward is impressed with the ability, attitude, focus and potential of Brandon “Flawless” Gonzales, an unbeaten middleweight and a sparring partner of Ward’s who makes his debut on ShoBox: The New Generation against Ossie Duran in the main event of a tripleheader Friday, Oct. 28, live on SHOWTIME® (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) at Bally’s in Atlantic City, N.J.
“I’ve known him since his amateur days and think he has what it takes to be a champion,” said Ward, the undefeated World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight champion and finalist in the Super Six World Boxing Classic on SHOWTIME. “He’s definitely got skills and a lot of raw talent. He’s strong, tough, has speed and a great work ethic, and anytime you have that kind of combination, where a fighter wants to be good and has a family he wants to provide for, that makes him dangerous.
“I like that even when Brandon is not fighting and helping me – and we’ve sparred for years – he’s on time and comes in good shape. Having the work ethic is sometimes more important than skill. I believe he respects the sport and I definitely like that about him.
“There’s a lot of work ahead for him, but if he continues to hone all his skills, work hard, stay focused and lets his career take course, I believe he’s championship material and can be a champion someday.”
Gonzales, a 27-year-old of Mexican and African-American descent, was born in Portland, Ore., and lives in Sacramento, Calif., which is approximately a two-hour drive from Oakland where Ward works out. Gonzales will enter the eight-round middleweight bout with a record of 14-0-1 with 10 knockouts. Duran, of Paterson, N.J., is 26-8-2 with 10 knockouts. The “The Ghanaian Gladiator” has won three in a row.
In compelling co-features, unbeaten 2008 U.S. Olympian Javier “El Intocable” Molina (8-0) of Norwalk, Calif., meets hard-hitting Artemio “King” Reyes Jr. (13-1, 11 KOs) of San Bernardino, Calif., in an eight-round battle of promising Southern California welterweights, and American heavyweights with identical win-loss records, No. 1 contender “Fast” Eddie Chambers (36-2, 18 KOs), of Philadelphia, and southpaw and No. 2-rated Tony “The Tiger” Thompson (36-2, 24 KOs), of Washington, D.C., collide in what will be a meaningful and competitive 12-round International Boxing Federation (IBF) world championship elimination fight.
Gonzales will be making his first start since signing with Goossen Tutor Promotions and Antonio Leonard Productions and hooking up with Virgil Hunter, Ward’s trainer, earlier this year.
A late bloomer who didn’t start to box until he was 19, Gonzales was one of the top amateurs in the country at light heavyweight and won a Golden Gloves championship in 2004. He was a finalist in the 2007 U.S. National Championships but rather than try for a berth in the 2008 Olympic Games, Gonzales, who’d just started a family of his own, opted to turn pro in February 2007.
“I have some catching up to do,” said Gonzales, a talented, athletic, aggressive power-puncher with both hands who is both technically sound and crowd-pleasing. “I feel I have the talent of a champion but I’m the age of a contender and have the record of a prospect. This (fighting on ShoBox) is definitely a great opportunity and I’m going to take full advantage. I’m looking forward to getting into contention, cracking the top 15 and fighting some of those guys. At the same time, I am taking it one fight at a time.”
A winner of nine consecutive fights since a September 2008 bout against Danny Jevic ended in a first-round no-contest when Jevic could not continue after an unintentional headbutt, Gonzales won his lone start in 2011 with a unanimous eight-round decision over Lester Gonzalez on Jan. 7.
Duran, 34, won his last start on a 10th-round TKO over Latif Mundy on June 22. The globe-trotting Ghanaian has campaigned in 10 countries and fought 10 or more rounds on 13 occasions.
Although he’s never been stopped and is seldom outclassed, the confident, durable Duran has often been paired against younger, up-and-comers such as David Lopez,Fernando Guerrero, Jamie Moore and James Kirkland, who he dropped a tough 10-round decision to on ShoBox June 1, 2007. Duran has only rarely received the benefit of the doubt in the majority of his tight fights, particularly the losses.
“I go in and I do what I’m supposed to do but they don’t give me the win when I earn it,” he said. “It makes me feel good though because I fought everyone in their backyard.”
Molina, 21, will be making his fifth start in 2011 and first in a match slated for eight rounds. Seemingly recovered from a hand injury that sidelined him between November 2009 and October 2010, the impressive youngster is coming off a unanimous six-round decision over John Revish last Sept. 15.
The personable, soft-spoken Molina went 153-13 during an extensive, outstanding amateur career. At age 18, he was the youngest member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team that competed in Beijing. He turned pro with a second-round knockout over Jamie Cabrera on March 27, 2009.
Molina comes from a fighting family that includes his father, uncle, and older brother, all who have fought professionally, as well as his twin brother Oscar, who was a member of the Mexican Olympic team.
Reyes has won 12 in a row, 10 by knockout. In his last start and fourth of the year, the popular 25-year-old captured the World Boxing Council (WBC) Latin American title with a convincing second-round knockout over Miguel Munguia. This will be Reyes’ ShoBox debut and first outing outside California.
Winning a belt was important to Reyes and his family. “(Afterward, I had) time to reflect on what I’d accomplished and it was very surreal,” he said. “I (won) a belt for my dad, which was his dream. As soon as I came home, I went to his bed and told him, “I did it. Pops, I did it, we got a belt. It was a very special moment for me and my family.”
Reyes’ father has been in a coma since a tragic car accident in 2008 left him in a vegetative state. “Fighting 4 Pops” is Junior’s life statement, and those words are written into his trunks.
If triumphant, Chambers remains the IBF mandatory challenger to heavyweight kingpin, Wladimir Klitschko, who’s also the World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) champion. With a victory, Thompson leapfrogs over Chambers into the top spot.
Chambers, a 6-foot-1, 29-year-old, and the 6-foot-5 Thompson, who turns 40 on Oct. 18, are longtime friends and sparring partners. The winner moves closer to a rematch against Klitschko.
“You’ve got to fight your friends sometimes in this business,” said Chambers, a fast-handed, slick, crisp puncher with the ability to pick his shots with variety. I’m looking forward to this and getting it done.”
In his only start since losing to Klitschko in Germany in March 2010, Chambers scored a unanimous 10-round decision over Derric Rossy last Feb. 11 at Bally’s in Atlantic City. Chambers also holds a pair of high-quality wins over Alexander Dimitrenko and Sam Peter in 2009.
Thompson has won five straight by knockout since giving Klitschko one of his toughest fights in July 2008 in Germany. In his most recent outing, Thompson scored knockdowns in the second and third rounds en route to a third-round TKO over Maurice Harris last May 27. Overall, Thompson has gone 32-1 dating to August 2000.
Regarding fighting a friend, Thompson said, “It’s tough, but there is an opportunity for both of us to realize a dream. I just have to go in there and take care of business,” he said.