It was all business at Albany’s Steuben Athletic Club last night. Eighteen fighters needed to show the NYS Athletic Commission that they were good to go. There were physicals, paperwork, some waiting, then to the scales to make sure they were at the contracted weight.
These athletes are so professional. Melvina Lathan, NYSAC Chairperson, would call their names and, one by one, they’d get on the scales and bingo – they’d weigh-in, and usually right on the button. Amazing. It’s not just that they’re in shape; it’s that they’re in such remarkable control of their bodies. You contract for 138 pounds and so you weigh 138 pounds, the deal was for 175? Okay, I’ll weigh 175. I’ve been losing the same ten pounds for six months. I get on the scale expecting good news and find I only have ten more pounds to go. Get me started.
And then there’s the matter of their states of mind. Granted, this what they trained for. It’s the life they choose. But still… They’re 24-hours away from standing in front of 2,000 people and, what, swing a bat? Throw a ball? Hardly. If it were me, I’d be throwing up in the bathroom.
Steff Scott was his usual congenial self. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in anything but a good mood, or a relaxed mood. “Being anxious doesn’t get you a knockout,” he said. “It just makes you look bad. You’ve got to accept the fight.”
“I’ve been at this since I was 13 and have worked with probably 100 fighters,” said trainer Andy Schott, and every fighter reacts to this differently. You see everything.”
Say the name “Stef Scott” (8-3, 1 KO) and local fans will think only good thoughts. He’s the NYS junior middleweight champion. The trouble is, say the name “Markus Williams” (8-2, 1KO) from Schenectady and you’ll get the same reaction. These are two seriously skilled fighters who’ve never faced each other – until now. Trust me, the sparks will fly in this cross-town battle. (Weights – Scott: 157, Williams: 157)
Christopher Finley and Brian Miller
Markus Williams was quiet last night, but then Markus is always quiet. Does it feel odd, fighting someone you’ve sparred with so
many times, who knows you, and whom you’re actually friends with? “This is different,” he said, calmly. Yikes, no kidding. Trainer, Vince Kittle added, “They’re friends, but they’re also two warriors. This is about feeding their families this time, so it really is different.”
You won’t find two nicer people than Scott and Williams. It makes what they’re about to do surreal. Boxing is so many things, and one of the things is certainly strange at times. But I promise you, this will be a good fight. Scott is a scary guy in the ring. At 6’3″ and 157-pounds, his jab is more like a lance. I once had him stand in front of me at Schott’s Gym and just put it in my face so I could see how far away it makes the rest of him. He was practically out of sight. And we’re the same height. Williams is… what, 5’7″? He’ll have to find a way to get inside. But Markus is a terrific boxer. Hecan get inside. Time will tell how this one will turn out, and not much time at that. The clock is ticking.
Shawn Miller and James Denson
Schenectady lightweight Brian Miller (8-1-4, 3 KOs) is returning from an 18-month break. Miller needed the time to get used to his new duties as a Dad. Wife, Kari, and little Preston Miller will be ringside as Miller faces Detroit’s Christopher Finley (3-4). This is no easy opponent for Miller. Two of Finley’s four losses were against solid, undefeated fighters. Does Miller expect ring rust? “Oh, yeah, of course,” he said, matter-of-factly. “It’s just something you expect after having been out so long.” It may be worsened by the fact that Miller i known for being a slow starter. Since tonight’s fight is six rounds, it will serve Miller’s purposes. The extra time will be nothing but good. (Weights – Miller: 138, Finley: 137)
Troy light heavyweight Shawn Miller (6-1-1, 3 KOs) will be there to take on Akron, OH’s James Denson (5-7), and he has no plans to disappoint his many fans. Miller’s been working with trainer, Jerrick Jones in recent months. In case you don’t know, Jones, one of the area’s most respected trainers, is the master of fundamentals. This guy could deliver an hour lecture on where to position your right foot when you throw the 2, and then another hour lecture on why. “Getting better as a fighter is all about baby steps,” Shawn said. “I just want to get a little better each time.” (Weights – Miller 175, Denson: 173)
Zach Smith, flanked by trainers Andy Schott and Kyle Provenzano
Delmar’s Zach “Little Freak” Smith (5-2), a tough and scrappy lightweight, will face Auburn, WA’s Ramon Santos (0-2). I made the mistake of saying Zach is from Guilderland in my weekly Troy Record column. Needless to say, he let me know that Delmar needs to be represented:) Point made. I apologized and offered to return my “Little Freak” T-shirt. He responded by bringing to the weigh-in a specially made “Little Freak” football jersey for me. Written on the back is “The Voice.” (Dan Murphy and I will be doing the commentary for channel 4). Gotta love this kid. (Weights- Smith: 135, Santos: 133)
Jamell Tyson (2-5-2) has come from Rochester to contend with undefeated Yonkers super featherweight Chazz McDowell (5-0, 1 KO). (Weights – Tyson: 134, McDowall: 134)
Newburgh light welterweight Treysean Wiggins is 2-0 with just as many knockouts. He’ll be looking to do it again against Rochester’s Duane Hall (2-1). (Weights – Wiggins: 144, Hall: 145)
Buried deep on the undercard of Saturday’s show is something worth bringing to your attention. Javier Baez is a young boxer from the Bronx. You’ve never heard of him. He’s making his pro debut against Brooklyn’s Anthony Birmingham (0-1). Baez’ grandmother is in cancer’s final stages. Javier’s dream was that the woman who raised him get to see him fight professionally, just once. She’ll be at the fight tonight, coming up on a bus rented by family and friends. Dream fulfilled (✓), compliments of ARES Promotions. (Weights – Baez: 147, Birmingham: 147)
This will be the third time New Hampshire’s Jose Medina (16-9-1, 7 KOs) has made it to an ARES show, and for the second time in the main event. Medina has proven that he can outbox locals like Markus Williams (7-15-11) and Chris Fitzpatrick (10/28/11), as well as knock out a legitimate prospect like Isaac Rodrigues, as I saw him do at Turning Stone Casino in January 2011.
Medina, a couple of wins away from the big time, will be looking to make North Carolina’s Michael Raynor (8-16-1, 5 KOs) wish he hadn’t made the long trip north.
Jose Medina and Michael Raynor
Some people have asked me about Raynor’s record. Isn’t it a bit weak? They say. Yeah, I suppose, although records can always be deceiving. But I told Jose last night, I just like to watch him work, no matter the opponent. He really is a great fighter, and much, much better than his own record suggests.
I learned a little more about why last night. I asked Jose about his amateur career. How many fights did he have before turning pro? The answer was very revealing: “0.” None, that’s right. An amateur career is where you get to make all of your mistakes. Records don’t matter. Looking bad doesn’t matter. Nobody cares – until you turn pro. Then, it’s all people think about.
Shannon Miller, son Devon, and Coach Jerrick Jones will be on Team Shawn Miller tonight
Jose Medina always looked better to me than his nine losses implied. Now I know why. They were on-the-job training. (Weights – Medina: 160, Raynor: 160
Get tickets at 518-527-2331, aresboxing.com