by Fox Doucette
You read that headline right. A lot of commentators (me, for example, along with Teddy Atlas and anyone who covers FNF even tangentially) have been calling out Demetrius Andrade (13-0, 9 KOs) and saying that until he fights a credible opponent, he can’t call himself a prospect. Indeed, Andrade was originally scheduled to fight Sammy Gonzalez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) off-air as part of next week’s Friday Night Fights season finale—even ESPN realized what a joke that fight is and refused to allow Andrade’s people any more television exposure until he got his act straight and started fighting guys above the club-fighter level.
When Ruslan Provodnikov pulled out of the main event, a rematch with Mauricio Herrera to bring 2011 full circle, things got more complicated. The original plan was to elevate David Diaz vs. Hank Lundy up to the main event from co-feature status (fine enough; it’s going to be a great bout), and the rumblings were that Montell Griffin would face an opponent to be determined in the co-feature. Andrade would still find himself shut out of the bright lights and exposure; ESPN simply did not want to air that fight since their viewers have no interest in seeing it. (not to thump my chest, but ESPN is doing exactly what I told them they should with Andrade in a column on this very site back in April.)
Andrade’s people noticed. Out went Sammy Gonzalez, and in went…Grady Brewer (28-12, 16 KOs.) Yes, that Grady Brewer, the one who beat Fernando Guerrero senseless in one of the best FNF main events this year back on June 17th. The fight will be at a catchweight of 156. Said Andrade’s manager Ed Farris: “We’re hoping that everyone will appreciate his decision to take such a big challenge with such short notice.” ESPN sure did, and now instead of fighting off-air, Demetrius Andrade will be fighting in the main event in the biggest fight of his young career.
You’ve heard of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”? This is more like out of the refrigerator, into the volcano. Do Andrade’s people know a damn thing about their fighter or about the sport of boxing in general? Far be it from me to criticize, since I’ve called out Andrade and insisted that he fight tougher competition if he is to be taken seriously, but this is ridiculous. You seriously couldn’t have found a guy who’s between his current level of competition and a guy like Brewer for an in-between fight? It was going to kill you that much to fight off air against mid-tier competition?
I can’t help but think that Andrade’s people are so fixated on short-term money that they have no plan whatsoever in place for Andrade’s professional development. As long as ESPN gave them money to fight soft competition, they fought soft competition. When the money stopped flowing and the Worldwide Leader demanded a credible fight right effing now, the management team was like “Uh-oh, the gravy train’s pulling out of the station and we’re not on it…quick! Get us a guy with a belt!” (Brewer’s NABF strap, which won’t be on the line anyway.) Just who’s being promoted here, Andrade or Brewer? From the latter’s management perspective, this is a prime chance to add the seventh undefeated-prospect scalp of his career to his resumé and cement his name in the minds of fans and media guys who hang out on boxing’s lunatic fringe.
There is a lesson in this that should be heeded by all managers of up-and-coming pro fighters. Before your fighter ever makes his pro debut, you make that guy a plan—how many tomato cans, journeymen, rookies, and club fighters do you think the TV people will tolerate for even a highly-touted prospect? The answer is “not as many as you’d think”. At some point your fighter is going to have to sink or swim. Lucian Bute had his first 12-rounder in his tenth pro fight. Guillermo Rigondeaux took a 12-round fight in his seventh as a professional. Even FNF favorite Yordanis Despaigne stepped up in his ninth fight—and losing to Ismayl Sillakh at least cemented the Cuban as a credible fighter who got a chance to be a televised attraction in his very next fight.
Which in turn leaves open the question of just what Demetrius Andrade is. Your friendly neighborhood commentator called him a non-prospect in April. Until Andrade beats someone with a recognizable name and unquestioned ability in the ring—a guy like Grady Brewer—I will continue to call Andrade a non-prospect. I think Brewer will do to Andrade what he did to Fernando Guerrero, and I think that for the good of the sport Guerrero and Andrade need to be held up as Exhibits A and B for how not to manage a promising young prospect.
We will see valuable lessons taught on Friday Night Fights next week. It will take longer to see if those valuable lessons are actually learned. And if Ed Farris finds himself among the 9.2% of Americans out of work after Andrade realizes what could have been had he been managed better? That’s a nice bonus as well. Or Andrade could win the fight and make a monkey out of me, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and angry letters from Providence can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.