The Finger Post Boxing: Looking for the next Freddie Pendleton or Mike Weaver (September 29, 2018)

The Finger Post Boxing (September 29, 2018)

 

Scouting is an inexact science in sports and boxing is no exception.  But with that being said, there are those can’t miss prospects…and usually they don’t miss.

Usually, not always. Photo (Ricardo Williams Jr.) via boxrec.com

Sure a lot of people are predicting a world title in the near future for 2012 Olympic bantamweight silver medalist Shakur Stevenson or welterweight gold medalist Robson Conceicao and I happen to think those are two really safe picks.   Both men have shown absolute brilliance in the ring as professionals and I feel there is a better than 50% chance that both will have world title belts around their waist by the end of 2019 or 2020.

Recently MTK Global signed 2012 Olympic flyweight gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov to a managerial contract.  Well, if I had any questions about Zoirov’s future as a pro I don’t now.  Although a lot of fighters from Central Asia make a splash in the Olympics, many often elect to remain amateurs.  This is one of the reason that so many Kazakh fighters don’t get the attention they deserve.  And for the Uzbek gold medalist Zoirov, I think the main reason he isn’t considered #1 draft pick in boxing is because he’s Uzbek.  Fighters from Central Asia just don’t get the attention they deserve unless they have the right team behind them.  It isn’t fair, but hey, that’s boxing.

But when all is said and done, just because Zoirov is flying under the radar doesn’t mean he isn’t a future world champion, and now that he has the right managerial team behind him I am assuming he will start turning heads right away.  Picking him to win a world title is still like picking a can’t miss prospect…just one that came out of some obscure European league as opposed to some high profile power forward from Duke

Now with that being said, the real challenge is trying to find a diamond in the rough when that diamond comes out of a club circuit and started off as a journeyman.  It happens, but it’s rare.  Perhaps the two most famous examples of fighters whose career started off in the club circuit and somehow, against all odds, became world champions were Freddie Pendleton and Mike Weaver.  Weaver is probably best remembered for his war with Larry Holmes in a WBC world title fight back in 1979.  He gave as good as he got but was ultimately felled by the undefeated champion in round 12.  It wasn’t just that he rattled Holmes and kept the fight reasonably close on two of the judges scorecards going into round 12 that shocked fans.  He was considered a very weak opponent by casual fans…the kind of fighter who an established champion gets to sharpen his blades on in between tough fights.  Weaver stated his career 1-3 and two years into his professional career he looked like the farthest thing from a world class contender, having lost by knockout to Duane Bobick and sitting on a less than glamorous record of 6-6, 4 KOs.  But a handful of boxing insiders predicted big things from Weaver and before long he was fighting for an NABF title…and soon after that he was brawling with Larry Holmes.  In 1980 the Cinderella story finally hit it’s pinnacle when Weaver scored a knockout over Gerrie Coetzee, winning the WBA World Heavyweight title.

Pendleton had a similar story, although a lot of boxing fans got on the bandwagon before his world title victory over Tracy Spann in January of 1993.  Pendleton started his career with a horrible record of 14-13-1, 6 KOs and he probably was hearing whispers of “hang ’em up, kid” from a lot of folks in the sport.  But those who were really paying attention started noticing that Pendleton was actually getting better with each fight.  In March of 1986 Pendleton was brought in as a sacrificial lamb for former super featherweight champion Roger Mayweather.  After all, it was Pendleton’s first trip to Vegas and with a 14-13-1 record against the 24-year old former champion there was no reason to assume he would be able to pull off an upset.  But some boxing insiders, such as ESPN commentator Al Bernstein, recognized that Pendleton’s record was somewhat “deceptive.”  The end result?  Pendleton scored a stunning sixth round knockout in one of the biggest upsets of the 1980s.

It was a nice moment but it didn’t turn around Pendleton’s career overnight.  Still, it put him on the radar and although there were still setbacks, he continued to keep winning big fights.  By 1993 he was seen as a slight favorite over Tracy Spann in their fight for the vacant IBF lightweight title and he looked all the part of a world champion in winning a twelve round decision over Spann.

So yeah, picking out a future world champion from the Freddie Pendleton/Mike Weaver circuit is a lot harder than picking one out of the Olympics.

So is there anyone I think could be another Freddie Pendleton/Mike Weaver in the making?  A hard luck young kid who never raised an eyebrow as an amateur but who is starting to put it all together as a pro?

Well, again, this is an inexact science, but right now I would keep an eye out on Lansing, Michigan’s Kevin Shacks (3-2-3, 3 KOs).

Shacks started his career in 2015 with a pair of losses in Ohio and Detroit respectively before winning his first professional fight in his hometown of Lansing, Michigan in 2017.  His win came against a debuting fighter named Chad Coons and the fight had all the makings of pickup win for a club fighter en route to his next paycheck against a world class prospect.  By the end of 2017 his record stood at 2-2-1 and nobody was taking about him.

And in 2018 he seemed to be following the club fighter script.  He fought in hostile territory three times in 2018 against three undefeated fighters with a combined record of 20-0-1.

The thing is…he hasn’t lost any of those fights.

The club fighter from Lansing Michigan has been brought to California three straight times to lose, and he’s given it to the undefeated fighter all three times.  In March he held undefeated Greek born prospect Stylianos Papadopoulos to a six round draw.  Shacks followed that up with another draw against 4-0 Salvador Perez before deciding to take his next fight out of the judges hands on Saturday, September 29, 2018.  Shacks crushed a touted prospect named Ricardo Valdovinos in the opening round.  Valdovinos, a San Diego native, came into the fight with a 7-0 record and was needless to say a heavy favorite against Shacks.  Sure it wasn’t exactly a knockout over a 24-year old Roger Mayweather…but it’s still a big win for a kid who wasn’t expected to be more than a regional club fighter.  Shacks seems to have a good trainer but it is clearly time for him to get a manager and promoter behind him that can help him get to that next level.  Back in the early 1990s Lionel Butler was earning a reputation as a tough journeyman with an emphasis on journeyman.  With a 6-10-1 record and only three amateur fights he wasn’t really turning any heads in the heavyweight division but Butler turned his career around in large part due to the fact that he stumbled into Joe Goossen’s gym in California.   Goossen helped turn Butler into one of the most unlikely heavyweight contenders in the 1990s and matched him perfectly en route to a top ten ranking (there was a lot of boxing drama involved in his reign as a contender which I won’t get into here, but the point remains, he went from club circuit to contender because of finding the right team).  Maybe Shacks should pay Goossen a visit while in California…or someone else who can properly move his career.

Because he is on the cusp of something really special..contention.

 

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