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Brazil’s Marcus de Oliveira Is Hunting The World’s Best Light-Heavyweights

(2/19/14) Trainers get a certain feeling when they work the mitts with boxers who possess natural power. South Florida’s Ricky Fisler realizes that sensation when he does glove-work with light-heavyweight Marcus de Oliveira. “It’s thrilling to work with a fighter who has that instinctive ability to distribute his weight when he punches,” says Fisler. “Marcus is can do that; he is gifted. His punches feel like sledgehammers.”

The Brazilian-born, Miami-based de Oliveira fights this Friday in Cleveland. The bout – against an opponent not yet identified – is likely to be the first of two tune-ups prior to seeking a match against a world-class foe. Fisler has high expectations of his fighter, and for good reasons, too. Currently 23-1-1 with 21 knockouts, de Oliveira carries one-punch KO power in both hands. 15 of his opponents have taken the full count. The Brazilian has a puncher’s chance against any top-rated fighter in his weight class.

On the negative side, of course, is that prospects like de Oliveira – punchers with brain-numbing power who have not yet attained a world-rating – are often avoided by top-contenders wary of facing dangerous, lower-ranked boxers. Leading light-heavyweights, arguably, have too much to lose and too little to gain by fighting de Oliveira right now. But Fisler is not worried about de Oliveira’s promotional prospects. “Carl King is Marcus’s manager, and he’s very supportive,” explains Fisler. “Carl can make big things happen with a single phone call. Remember, Marcus brings a lot of action. He always gives the fans their money’s worth. He’s exciting, and the people in Brazil are behind him. He’s going to have a lot of American fans after they see him fight. Marcus will definitely get his chance on the world stage.”

Fisler is teaching de Oliveira boxing’s finer points. “Marcus is a good student and a hard worker,” says Fisler. “Right now, he’s becoming a boxer-puncher, and he’s learning to cut-off the ring. I don’t want to go crazy telling you what we’re doing, but we’re applying things he’s never really worked with before. It’s working, too. He’s got natural talent, he’s got strong will, and, obviously, he hits really hard.”

The 29-year-old Brazilian — a fresh, unpunished fighter still in his athletic prime — speaks candidly about his punching prowess. “My power comes from my feet and my movement. I distribute my weight well when I punch,” states de Oliveira. Interestingly, de Oliveira believes that his heavy-handedness is a trait inherited genetically from his father. “He is real strong, especially in his shoulders and his back. That’s where my strength comes from.”

“My father was never a professional boxer, but he was a champion street fighter in the 1970s in Brazil,” explained de Oliveira. “All his fights were illegal. Once I saw him fight, and it was incredible. The other guy was much younger and bigger, but my father knocked him out.” When asked what specific punch finished the fight, de Oliveira answered quickly. “An overhand right,” he replied. This information should surprise nobody. The overhand right, after all, is the very punch that de Oliveira regularly uses to blast holes in boxers’ defenses — and to knock them cold.

The de Oliveira’s routinely watched pro boxing together; they focused especially on the all-time great champions. “We used to watch Carlos Monzon, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and Sugar Ray Leonard,” he explained. “Foreman was my father’s favorite. He loved that power.” The younger de Oliveira differed, though, in preferring lighter division boxers. “Carlos Monzon, he was an incredible fighter. I remember watching his fights against Benvenuti and Valdez. Monzon was one of the best jabbers and right-handed punchers ever. Michael Spinks amazed me, too, especially the way he beat Dwight Qawi. Spinks’s footwork was one of the best in boxing. Spinks would move, then jab, then throw the right hand. After watching Spinks, I would always go out and do those same things with my jabs and rights.”

One fighter above all others, though, inspires de Oliveira’s reverence: Roberto Duran. “Man, he was just incredible,” says de Oliveira. “In Duran, I saw so much. The way he controlled an opponent in the ring, that amazed me. If Duran wanted a guy on the ropes, he put him there. If he wanted his opponent in the middle of the ring, he put him there. He used the jab, the bodywork, everything.” The Brazilian is especially impressed by Duran’s 1983 stoppage of Davey Moore. “Just watch that fight…see how Duran sets up the right hand. That’s what destroyed Moore; it really messed him up. And to realize that Duran did that in Madison Square Garden, in New York City, Moore’s hometown. That is incredible.”

As an upwardly mobile prospect who possesses explosive power, talent, and a crowd-pleasing style, de Oliveira’s future looks bright. He now has additional motivation to succeed. Recently, de Oliveira married Brazilian journalist Juliana Casellatto, whom he had been dating for four years. “I met her at a boxing show in Brazil, and we used to train at the same gym,” says de Oliveira. “She’s been here in Florida with me for a year, and she gives me all her support. We want to live the American dream, to have a house in America. Our dream is to win fights, to get the title shot, and become champion.”

Regarding his timetable for getting a world title shot, de Oliveira is realistic. “To be honest with you, I don’t want to talk about a title fight now,” he said. “I got this fight coming up first, eight rounds. I want to beat this guy before I talk about anything else. I’ve done ten weeks of training, and I sparred with Edison Miranda, Ilshat Khusnulgatin, and Umberto Savigne. I’m training again with Ricky, my old boxing coach. He knows me very well. We’re working on lots of things. I’m getting much better at controlling my emotions, at controlling my opponent, at moving my head, and using my jab. My confidence is higher.”

The sparring sessions with Miranda revealed de Oliveira’s new maturity as a fighter. He explains that,“In the first round Edison tried to knock me out, but he couldn’t. He put a lot of pressure on me, but I used my jab well. In the second, I put together body shots with my jab, and he started to get tired. After that, we sparred a couple more good rounds. Once I took control with my jab and body shots, things got better and better. He’s got some power, but he never shook me, because I was prepared for his punches and kept moving.”

The mood is definitely upbeat in de Oliveira’s camp.“The fight’s on Friday, the 21st, so we’re flying to Cleveland today,” said Fisler. “This is Don King’s card, which will be televised by USA Showtime. Hopefully Marcus will get his 22nd knockout. I really think the fans will love him if they see him in action. He hits, brother…he really hits.”

Through this article, Marcus de Oliveira and Ricky Fisler would like to thank Kyle Hough, Raul Llopis, and Nelson Horn of True Champions Boxing Gym, 130 SW 22nd Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 33315 (954) 829-4743.