By Jackie Kallen
Detroit was a huge boxing city for decades. Names like Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, James “Lights Out” Toney and Bronco McKart filled the local venues and brought home titles and glory to the Motor City. But in recent years, the scene in Motown has been bleak.
There have been flashes of excellence–Damian Fuller, Cornelius Bundrage, Vernon Paris (to name a few) but nothing to fill arenas and pull in the fans. It is time for a new crop of contenders to rise to the top of the heap and put The Big D back on the boxing map.
I got a glimpse of two potential prospects at the Palace Friday night on Joe Donofrio’s card. Actually, all of the bouts were pretty interesting and entertaining. But I was especially looking forward to seeing the pro debut of Leandre “Blue” White.
Now that I have moved back to Detroit, I am starting to hear about the boxing talent that is in the area. Blue’s name has popped up again and again. With close to 100 amateur fights, the tall welterweight is being touted as the next Thomas Hearns. He was supposed to fight a guy named Larenzo Wilson. Dorian Hatcher was supposed to fight Zack Thomas. When both of their opponents fell out, Blue agreed to fight Hatcher, who weighed in at 162 pounds. After agreeing to a catch weight of 156, it assured both men of a fight and a payday. I am glad they both stepped up the late. Pretty gutsy of White, considering the weight difference.
Pro debuts are always a bit daunting and a thumb in the left eye early in the fight seemed to shake Blue up a bit. But he dominated and beat Hatcher, who came into the ring looking at least 10 pounds heavier than Blue. Both men appeared confident, but at the end, it was White whose hand was held up.
White has that certain something that makes him look and act like a champion-in-the-making. The way he carries himself and his demeanor makes it seem as though he has been fighting pro for years. I expect big things from this kid.
I was also impressed by 21-year old Joel Flores. He fought 39-year old Pete Cantu, a veteran of 24 fights who turned pro when Flores was four years old. It was a hell of a risk for a young boxer with a record of 4-1. But Flores was game, has a solid chin, and just keeps coming. He looks even younger than his age and the crowd fell in love with him. They cheered him on throughout the fight, and even when he lost they continued showering him with praise.
Cool in defeat, Flores realized that this fight was a major learning experience. It was like going to school. He hung in there with an experienced boxer almost twice his age who has had five times as many fights. He had reason to be proud.
Emanuel Steward is very high on his new, 21-year-old junior welterweight prospect, Tony Morrison, who is 4-0 with four KOs. So the Detroit boxing scene appears to be heating up again. These three young men are all positive role models as well as potential champs. Hopefully the future will find their names among the great boxers who hailed from Detroit.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen