|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY July 16, 2013||
by John DiSanto
Although Philly fighters Hank Lundy and Farah Ennis both have potentially career-changing bouts slated for the same night at the same time this week, the similarities between the two more or less end there. The boxers themselves couldn't be more opposite in and out of the ring. However both are two of Philadelphia's best rising stars, and each gets his own separate chance to prove it on Friday night, July 19th, in competing national TV bouts.
The wild and unpredictable Lundy, 22-3-1, 11 KOs, takes on Ajose Olusegun, 31-1, 14 KOs, in an important junior welterweight bout from Rockingham Park in Salem, NH, on ESPN2, at 10:30 PM. Meanwhile, the quiet and careful Farah Ennis, 21-1, 12 KOs, meets undefeated Badou Jack, 14-0, 11 KOs, at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, in a bout televised by Showtime beginning at 10:00 PM.
Philly boxing fans, set your DVRs.
The list of differences between Lundy and Ennis goes on and on: Lundy is a talker. Ennis is reserved.
Lundy switches gyms as often as he changes his socks. Ennis has trained in his father's gym since his childhood, just like his older brother before him and his younger brother following behind.
Lundy makes his plans aloud, naming names and citing all the details. Ennis doesn't think beyond the next assignment, and focuses on the mistakes he's made in the past.
Lundy is in constant turmoil with his managers and promoters - past and present, and the chaos seems to threaten to derail each of his fights as they approach. Ennis' business arrangements seem to run smoothly.
Lundy is a whirlwind, a thrilling accident waiting to happen. But you can't take your eyes off him. He is skilled and full of heart, but when he fights, you hold your breath and keep your fingers crossed. Ennis is cautious, reluctant to let it all hang out. It seems he's waiting for just the right time and opportunity show everything he has. And when he fights, you mumble under your breath, "come on", hoping to help him get things going.
Oddly Lundy's recklessness and Ennis' caution are their biggest flaws in the ring, and it seems they could learn something from each other. On Friday, they will fight on opposite sides of the country, on different networks, but both will fight with the same goal, to score a victory and move up to the next level in their respective divisions.
"THE WORLD IS GOING TO
Hammerin' Hank Lundy has been on the threshold before. His first rise was in the lightweight division. He zipped through his first 19 bouts (18-0-1) and was way ahead in bout #20 against John Molina before a careless moment let Molina back in the fight, and set up Lundy's first head-shaking loss. The 11th round TKO by Molina did much to hang the "reckless" reputation on Lundy. However, lost in the defeat was the skill Hank showed through most of the bout. He had no business walking into the punch that dropped him, but it was exciting stuff. Lundy got up but was stopped a few rounds later.
Lundy rebuilt and once again rose in the 135-pound rankings. He took the NABF title and posted exciting, impressive wins over Patrick Lopez, David Diaz and Dannie Williams. The streak placed Lundy at the #1 spot in the WBC rankings. However, after 10 rounds against Raymundo Beltran, Hank had another loss on his record and saw his top ranking slip several notches. Earlier this year, Lundy traveled to the backyard of Ukrainian Viktor Postal, and dropped another 10-round decision.
"Most people who know boxing, know I won those fights," Lundy said. "Definitely the fight overseas. I wanted a rematch back over here, but the guy wouldn't even entertain the thought of fighting (again). I got congratulated by the WBC for going over there and taking the fight. I beat the guy."
Lundy makes sneaky calculations like that when he discusses the losses on his record. But we all know how difficult it is to go overseas and come home with a win.
"With the Ray Beltran fight, I feel as though I won that fight too," Lundy said. "But I didn't get the fair shake. There are a lot of guys out there like me that don't have a big-time promoter, but made it into the Top 10 with hard work and dedication."
For the Postal fight, Lundy rose to the junior welterweight division, and has stayed with the 140-pound weight class.
"You know, I started off my career at 140, but as soon as I got around 15-0, I dropped down to 135," Lundy said. "As I was growing and trying to make that weight, it was becoming hard because I'm a muscular guy. When I was going down to 135, it was killing my body and taking some of my punching power away. Going up to '40, I actually have a lot of punching power because I'm natural. At 140, I'm actually a bigger guy," Lundy, who grew up often being the smallest guy in the room, said with a laugh.
"I feel powerful now," Lundy said. "The world is definitely going to see that Hammerin' Hank has punching power too."
Thus far, Lundy has relied on his power and his big heart to battle back when things get tough for him in the ring. He's a natural fighter, with a killer instinct. A big win against Olusegun would do wonders to raise his stock again.
"He's a straight come forward guy," Lundy said. "He throws looping punches, but that shouldn't be a problem for me. He's there to be hit, and I'm ready to do what I gotta do. So what I'm going to keep on doing is go in there, fight my heart out, and keep on putting on a show."
Lundy is a showman, and is one of Philly's go-to guys for a good fight. But he needs a win on Friday.
"First and foremost, a big win, not just a knockout," Lundy said. "If you think about it, this guy is #2 in the WBC. Once I beat him, that brings up a fight with me and Matthysse. Everybody runs from that guy. Not me."
Lundy briefly had a date to fight the respected Argentine early this year, but a managerial dispute helped to derail the fight. Lundy's management and promotional turmoil has threatened other bouts as well. In fact of late, there is always prefight speculation about whether a Lundy fight will come off. However, Lundy doesn't even seem to take notice of any of the unrest that swirls around him.
"I was actually looking forward to fighting him on Showtime," Lundy said of Matthysse and the ill-fated bout. "After this (Olusegun), I'm looking forward to fighting Matthysse. Everybody running from him. I'm not running. I want Matthysse."
If Lundy gets over this next hurdle and enters the upper ratings in the junior welterweight division, an all-Philly match with world champion Danny Garcia becomes an obvious match in the future. However, the two local 140-pounders are friends and might need to be talked into fighting each other. Then again...
"Me and Danny are good friends," Lundy said. "He's the champion, but if the fight happens, it happens. You know Sugar Shane and De La Hoya were the best of friends."
"I always told Danny, even when we were in the amateurs representing Philly and training together," Lundy said. "I said 'you know, one day, me and you might meet in the ring'. But until then, we going to keep on supporting each other. You know, holding each other down, fully all the way. But when that day comes, we going to put on a hell of a show for the world. Then after that, we still be friends."
In preparation for Olusegun, Lundy changed gyms again. He feels the change of setting helps him reboot, and get back in touch with the original drive of his early boxing career.
Lundy's new office is the Fast Lane Boxing Gym, in West Philly. The place is a sweaty little second story hellhole with all the basic equipment you find in a boxing gym. There are inspirational messages in graffiti all over the walls. Much of the place is held together with duct tape, and there are weak spots in the floor as you walk around, stepping over weights, gloves, and other pieces of equipment. But this is the type of boxing gym that produces hungry fighters. It's a great place, filled with mostly young amateurs. However, everyone is working hard, and you can feel the intensity.
"I'm going to tell you something," Lundy said. "You could be in the top facility and it has no hunger in the gym. This gym is definitely bringing the hunger back, making me dig down deep. If I need to go for broke in this fight, you will definitely see that Philly pit bull come out. I'm in the gym with a bunch of young guys that's coming up. Hungry fighters that are actually trying to make it out. You give them hope of making it out of the hood. I made it out, but I'm not quite out the hood yet."
Lundy may need to dig down deep against Olusegun. He's needed to in so many of his other fights. He'll be fighting for his future on Friday, and he'll be doing his best to set an example for those young kids at the Fast Lane Boxing Gym.
"The kids look forward to
seeing guys like us on TV," Lundy said. "A lot of people love me
because at the end of the day, I'm a real person, and I relate
ENNIS READY TO MAKE A STATEMENT
In another part of the city called Germantown, Farah Ennis makes his way to his father's gym. Bozy's Dungeon is on the top floor, and spreads out like a big old barn. There are two rings, tons of equipment, and walls full of moldy old boxing posters. However the place has the feel of a family living room. The boxers are working hard, but there is an atmosphere of play, like a backyard wiffle ball game in the suburbs. Not every fighter in there is an Ennis, but three of them are: Derek, Farah, and Jaron.
Bozy, the father of the Ennis boys, (Derek in orange, Jaron in yellow) is in charge of the place, and runs everything with an upbeat, edginess. He watches, advises, and instructs several boxers at the same time, yelling over to the next ring or down the row of heavy bags, if necessary.
Farah Ennis grew up in a boxing gym like this, the original Bozy's Dungeon at another Germantown location. The Ennis brothers all have the sport in their cells, even 16 year old Jaron, whom Bozy, a former fighter himself, says may be the most talented of three.
But these days, it is Farah's turn in the spotlight. The six foot super middleweight is big and powerful. In his early days around the Philly boxing scene, he knocked out many of his opponents. But more recently, Farah has become a careful boxer, almost reluctant to bring out his power.
One year ago he scored an excellent win over Richard Pierson on ESPN. But the win was cautious and guarded, not the attention-grabbing performance it could have been.
"I blame me for that," said trainer Bozy Ennis. "I told him to go in there and have fun, don't worry about looking for the knockout."
It was almost a year before Ennis fought again. An interim ESPN fight (in April) was scraped the day of the bout when his opponent came in 20 pounds overweight. The frustrated Ennis immediately returned to the gym, hoping another fight would come up quickly.
He eventually landed another fight on June 7th against Anthony Hanshaw, again on ESPN. Ennis won the bout by unanimous decision, but didn't bring out the artillery until the 10th and final round, when he dropped Hanshaw to nail down the win. However, once again, it was a very cautious performance.
"I understand why he was like that (cautious) in the fight he just fought," Bozy said. "He peeked too soon. He was supposed to fight a guy April 12th. We trained December to April, and I told Farah he had to take off at least a couple weeks (after the fight was cancelled). If you don't, you'll get stale. And that came to mind when he was fighting (against Hanshaw). I was telling him to do certain things but he couldn't do it. He never took off like I told him. You know, you gotta break your body down and build it back up. You just can't go straight through like that. That's what happened with Hanshaw. Now you see at the end, when he turned it up? He could have knocked Hanshaw out in round three or round four, if he had done that (earlier)."
Farah feels it was all part of the developmental process that comes with advancing as a pro.
"(It was) just me needing to get focused and knowing what it means to be a fighter and be a champion," Farah said. "Now I'm at that point where I know. I just need to be in shape and be ready at all times."
In his fight Friday night, Ennis faces a "hometown" guy, Badou Jack, 14-0, 10 KOs, a Swedish-born boxer now fighting out of Las Vegas. Jack is a touted prospect with strong credentials. He went 150-25 as an amateur, and made it all the way to the Olympic Games in 2008.
As a professional, Jack, nicknamed "The Ripper", is undefeated and has a solid KO percentage, but his list of opponents is fairly obscure. He fought journeyman Grover Young in 2012 six rounder, but failed to stop him, something that Ennis managed to do in five rounds, earlier the same year. Still Jack is the likely favorite in Friday's bout, and Ennis may have the additional burden of needing to win big to get the win.
"I don't know much about him," Ennis said. "He's from Sweden. He's an Olympian. He's a boxer-puncher, but he's coming forward."
"I saw him fight before," trainer Bozy Ennis said. "He's a good little fighter. Yeah, I think he's a good little fighter, but he's ordinary to me. Farah has tricks. He (Jack) don't have no tricks."
Farah understands that this fight is one that he needs to win convincingly.
"First time on Showtime, first time in Vegas," Farah said. "I need to make a statement. I need to show everybody who Farah Ennis is. I need to bring it out, let them see the power."
His father agrees.
"This one right here is a statement fight," Bozy said. "All he has to do is box and let his hands go."
"I feel good," Farah said. "I know I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. Feels real good."
"If he wins this fight, he's right at the top again," Bozy added. "When he won the NABF (title), he was at number eight or nine. He should be right back in contention. And then one more fight, he could fight for a title shot. Andre Ward, that's the guy. That's who I want him to fight. That would be a good fight."
So the stage is set, and Farah Ennis knows what he must do.
"Just listen to my Dad," Farah said. "And be busy. Let my hands go. I'm going into his hometown. I'm fighting on his promoter's card. So I gotta win. I can't let him outwork me."
Two Philly fighters, Farah Ennis and Hank Lundy, distinctly different but with a common goal, to win on Friday night and move up to the next level.
"I know Farah and I know Bozy," Lundy said. "And listen, we both going to come out victorious. We putting in hard work, and I know Bozy and Farah put in their hard work. So look for both of us to be victorious on July 19th. Philly on top. We goin' all the way, baby."