By Gary Purfield
Tony Luis (14-0,6 KO), a Jr. Welterweight prospect out of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada makes his US debut this Saturday on the off TV undercard of the Golovkin-Proska card in Verona, NY. The following interview is a continuation of sorts from a previous interview with Tony. Luis, if not in the forefront of the boxing world, represents the future of the sport as one of the up and coming fighters. He took his time to speak about the trials young fighters endure on the way up in the crazy misguided business of boxing.
When last talking with Luis, he was doing well fighting at home and building his talents as a prospect. In the last year he has been on the hunt to establish management and a team that will allow him to pursue the next level. In boxing that doesn’t happen easily. There are no set minor leagues or collegiate system like other sports for talent to rise. Often it is who you are associated with above other factors that give an individual a shot. Tony Luis is talented in and out of the ring, but in this world that does not spare him from the setbacks caused by the business of boxing.
Tony last fought in May, scoring a third round knockout of Ferenc Szabo and prior to that in October of 2011. He would like to be more active, but the slight layoff is in no way a desire not to fight. He is anxious to get into the ring to build his career. However, the pursuit of proper guidance and management has forced a down time that was a necessary evil getting to the next step. Luis had to find ways to stay focused and be ready when the right opportunities came about in and out of the ring.
“Just a matter of living clean and staying in shape. Stay sharp, I was still going to Montreal and Ottawa for good sparring. That was it, I just made sure I didn’t stay on ice too long outside the gym in case something did come up I knew I’d be ready. A lot of it’s mental too making sure I did not fall off the wagon.
“It is hard, it’s frustrating some times because at a certain point it hits you mentally staying in the gym, busting my ass, and I don’t even know if I have anything coming up. What am I busting my ass for? What if I over train, for what. Those things cross my mind, but if I don’t have a fight the old man (his father and trainer) will tell me take a couple days off. It is hard to stay motivated to train when you don’t know if you’re coming or going but it really just comes down to my love for the sport.”
After an extensive search with US publicist Matt Yanofsky, Luis found what he was looking for with Greg Cohen Promotions. Luis entertained offers from various promoters, including Golden Boy Promotions, but ultimately went with Cohen who he felt had his best interests in mind. Other offers involved one fight deals that could leave him stranded, but Greg Cohen offered him a contract that set him up to properly develop his career and gave him the belief that his career was going to be well guided to the top of the sport.
“He wanted to take the time to develop us. Cohen, he just seemed to have our best interests at heart compared to some of the other guys. He wasn’t looking to just throw me into the lion’s den, he was thinking long term. Everything, the numbers added up right in terms of exposure and getting other things lined up he could make happen as long as we produced. Build the career and move forward. He offered it all so we went with him.”
Now Luis has moved past this stage of the business side of his career and awaits making his debut in the states. It is a moment he has wanted for some time to shine on American soil and move up the ladder.
“You know you got to come to the states if you want to take it to the next level and move forward with your career and I recognize that. It’s gonna be interesting fighting on foreign soil outside of my comfort zone. I’m not going to have my local fan base around. That’s going to be a fresh experience. That hasn’t happened for a while, not since the amateurs. As a pro I haven’t fought outside of Montreal yet. It brings me back to my amateur days. You travel around and we went everywhere. We’re no stranger to that; it’s just been a while. I’m excited though, something fresh, it’s a fresh start.”
That’s not to say he wants to abandon his hometown of Cornwall and his homeland of Canada. Luis is intelligent so he knows having a fan base provides him an advantage down the road. Other Canadians, including Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal have controlled big fight negotiations because they bring a crowd that means drawing power at the gate. Luis has a dual goal of building his name on American soil while continuing to grow his brand at home by fighting often and in multiple areas.
“I’d like to get the best of both worlds. I wouldn’t mind balancing it. Obviously, now I want to fight more in the states now with this new contract, but obviously I don’t want to lose the local fan base that I started here fighting in Montreal. It would be nice to balance both if possible but whatever the best offers, whatever’s the best for my career, US or Canada, that’s what I’m going to take.”
Saturday, Luis takes on Andres Ledesma (16-20-1, 11 KO) in a six round bout. He should be able to look impressive against Ledesma, who has been a stepping stone for multiple prospects including two recent knockout losses to Mike Faragon and Yuandale Evans. While not overlooking Ledesma, Luis wants to be impressive and then move forward.
“If this fight goes well we’re talking about maybe an ESPN date sometime or maybe a Sho Box date.”
Assuming he gets past Ledesma, Tony is well aware he is involved in a Jr. Welterweight division that suddenly has openings. After being one of the most loaded divisions in boxing 140 has seen several of the key players including Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander move to 147. Luis doesn’t want to rush into the big picture, but also is excited by the opportunities created by recent events.
“No, not necessarily. Not like I’m purposely looking to go slow either, but being with the layoffs and everything it is time to get busy and start stepping up the competition and start moving forward with my career. At the same time I don’t feel the need or the pressure to rush just because some of the guys moved up to 147. I just go with the flow, keep improving, and take it one fight at a time.
“That’s good; it’s wide open right now. Outside of the Khan’s and Garcia’s right now it’s a bit of a mystery where 140 is going to be at in the next couple of years so that’s interesting, that’s exciting. What I can tell you is that I look forward to coming up in the next couple of years and being in that mix and be up there with those guys and I’m definitely going to be at 140 for a while, 140’s going to be my home for a while.”
The key for Luis, or any young prospect with talent, is continue fighting the right fights that challenge their abilities. A talented fighter won’t grow and learn about themselves in the ring if they feast on a steady diet of lesser opposition. They need to be tested and find an ability to succeed under pressure.
“Of course, because it’s going to bring out other elements in my style and bring out some of my other qualities. Basically fighting better competition I like that because it’s going to bring out more elements of my style that maybe the fans haven’t seen before and learn more about myself as well. You know you learn a lot about yourself in this sport.”
Luis is proud of what he has done so far and what he has shown. He prides himself on being a warrior inside the ring that will give the fans a show. At the same time he is aware that developing into a complete fighter mentally and physically is what has to happen to be reach the top. Yet he has no desire to lose his instinct to fight when necessary, that has brought him a strong hometown fan base.
“You know what I have learned is you know I get hit with a good shot I want to come back and hit the guy hard right away with two, three, four shots. Which is a good thing in one way, it brings out the killer instinct in me as a fighter and everything, but at the same time it’s about controlling my emotions and just knowing when to step up the attack and pace myself. Fans like exciting fights and you never know how you’re going to react in a tough fight with adversity until you’re actually in there and experiencing it firsthand. The times in my career, amateur or pro, I’ve ran into some adversity I’ve always acted like a warrior and fought harder
“The point I make is sometimes I got to keep my emotions in check when I want to fire back right away like you want to fire back, you want to get payback, but am I in range, am I even in position to be firing back right now or am I making myself more vulnerable. Those are all things that come with experience. You know you look at some of the old time fighters. You look at a guy like Alexis Arguello. Take his fight with Ray Mancini for example. He was probably down on the cards after the first six, eight rounds and he was the type of guy he’d get hit and everything and he wouldn’t get rattled. If he wasn’t going to get you back right away he’d get you back four or five rounds from now. Next thing you know you think he’s winning but his face is all busted up five rounds later and it’s like geez, where did this come from. There’s more than one way to get a fighter back but ya I do take pride in that, being a warrior and having that fire in me to want to fight hard. Obviously you need to be a warrior in this sport, but not every fight has to be a war. You can fight an intelligent war.”
For now, Tony will continue to do what he has done to get to this point. He prioritizes boxing with holding down his job working with drug and alcohol clients in the treatment field. It is a job that has given Tony a passion outside of boxing and allowed him to use his intelligence and compassion for others to benefit in the community. His new promoter Greg Cohen has had no issue with Tony maintaining his employment and believes that this aspect of Tony’s life only makes him more marketable to fans at home and abroad.
“No, not at all, he supports that. In terms as a promoter it makes sense in terms of the image trying to build a market for the fighter as well. To get away from that image of most fighters just being one dimensional. He supports the job because it takes away from that stereotype. He definitely uses that as a marketing tool.”
In the future Luis has goals of being at the top. The day may come when boxing is a 24/7 endeavor with no job and no other distractions. He welcomes that day to have the chance to realize the ultimate dream of any prospect that engages in pro boxing.
“Of course, there is going to come a time when boxing will have to be my full time job and to be honest that wouldn’t bother me at all. I still love my job and I enjoy what I do but boxing is my passion at heart. As much as I like my job, down the road you know as the fights get increasingly tougher and there’s going to come a time when training camps have to be longer. I’m going to have to have tunnel vision 100% of my life as my career progresses.”
For Luis if his day comes it will be with his father in his corner as head trainer. Luis got to see an image of his dream scenario when Danny Garcia won a title against Eric Morales and cried in the ring afterwards when talking about accomplishing his goals with his father/trainer next to him. It was a moment that moved Tony and gave him a picture that will motivate him to continue his hard work in boxing.
“That was such a nice interview. That interview when Garcia beat Morales with his dad that was like my picture perfect dream of like whenever that’s my time. Whenever I get my chance that’s how I want it to be post-fight. I saw me and my dad right there when Garcia beat Morales in the post-fight interview. That’s exactly the way I envisioned it in my head.”
Saturday, Luis gets the chance to begin building his brand in front of an American audience. He faces an opponent that will give him the opportunity to fight and be exciting. He is getting the opportunity to make his US debut in style and set up bigger and better fights in the future towards realizing that ultimate dream of moving from prospect to contender to ultimately winning a world title. While nothing is guaranteed in boxing someone with the talent and intelligence Luis displays in and out of the ring is worth keeping an eye on.
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