Marcus de Oliveira: Power Punching Brazilian Light Heavyweight Readies to Conquer American Rings

Marcus Vinicius de Oliveira(Photo: Rick Fisler) by Pavel Yakovlev: (4/1/12) - Marcus Vinicius de Oliveira is a study in contrasts. Amiable, joyful, and soft-spoken, he sounds hardly like the tigerish boxer that has wreaked terror on South American light-heavyweights in recent years. But the Brazilian’s ring accomplishments belie his friendly personality. Since turning pro in 2006, de Oliveira has displayed skill and killer instinct in accumulating a record of 22-1-1, including 20 knockouts. de Oliveira’s bombing power, in particular, is conspicuous: 14 of his stoppages have involved his opponents laid out unconscious, down for the full count.

“Always since I started boxing, I knock out a lot of guys, says de Oliveira. “I was always a knockout puncher. Even in the beginning, when I hit the other guys, they fall and they don’t get up. When the bell rings, for me, it’s all about the knockout...I know I only need one punch.”

Maybe South America’s light-heavyweights can start sleeping easier at night. That is because de Oliveira recently relocated to Miami, where he will henceforth campaign for Don King Promotions. On April 14th, de Oliveira makes his American debut at Miami’s Jai Alai Fronton. The card is expected to be the first in a series of boxing promotions in Miami, organized by King and his Director of Boxing, Al Bonanni. According to Bonanni’s colleague, boxing trainer Ricky Fisler, “Don and Al are going to reestablish Miami as a center of big-time boxing, just like it was with Chris Dundee back in the 1960s. Marcus is going to be a big part of it.”

Interestingly, the 26-year-old de Oliveira’s aggression, willingness to trade punches, and explosiveness are reminiscent of 1960s Miami favorite Florentino Fernandez. As boxing history buffs are well aware, Fernandez -- a Cuban expatriate middleweight -- mesmerized American television audiences with his punching power and brawling style. It is a fitting coincidence, then, that as King and Bonanni resurrect Dundee’s 1960s boxing program, de Oliveira may be ready to play the role of a new Fernandez.

Currently ranked 10th worldwide by the WBO, and holder of the WBO’s Latino light-heavyweight championship, de Oliveira has come a long way from his hardscrabble days as a youth in Sao Paulo. “I grew up in the tough part the city,” he explains. “Both of my parents worked really hard bringing up two children. I fought a lot on the streets as a kid. My father was a great fighter, and he is in the hall of fame for Brazilian street fighters from the 1970s. As for me, I always loved boxing, so I took the sport up in 2002. I had a 55-12 record as an amateur. Most of my wins came by knockout, and I was never knocked out myself.”

As one of Brazil’s dominant amateurs, de Oliveira might eventually have represented his nation in prestigious international tournaments such as the Olympics. But he had other priorities. “I have two children, and I am a family man,” he said. “I want to give my children a better life than I had, that is my drive.” Needing money to support his family, de Oliveira decided to turn pro. He made his debut in 2006 by stopping Jose Carlos de Silva in two rounds, and proceeded to go undefeated in his first 14 pro fights.

The only two blemishes on de Oliveira’s record are a draw with Latvia’s Jurijs Boreiko and a loss to fellow Brazilian Jackson Junior. The 2008 Boreiko match took place in Germany, was refereed by a Latvian official, and appeared to be a clear win for de Oliveira. Boreiko, who finished the fight bloodied and clinching, benefited from several dubious calls by the referee. The 2009 Junior bout was a first round stoppage loss that de Oliveira attributes to inexperience and over-eagerness. “I had a bad strategy for that fight. I had him hurt and he was ready to go, but I was too aggressive and left myself open,” recalls de Oliveira.

Since the Junior bout, de Oliveira has won seven fights in a row, including an overwhelming points victory over Argentine veteran Walter Javier Crucce. That success earned de Oliveira the WBO Latino title and a world rating. Consequently, de Oliveira’s handlers realized that their rising fighter’s continued progress depended on the support of a powerful promoter, and they signed him with Don King. The Brazilian then moved to South Florida, where he established training headquarters at Canino’s Boxing & Karate Studio in Dania Beach, a combat sports hotspot operated by former women’s world champion Bonnie Canino. Currently, de Oliveira is managed by Carl King, with Kenny Klingman functioning as conditioning coach, and Fisler serving as head trainer.

Fisler points out that de Oliveira has improved vastly since 2009. “What I’ve changed in him, is that he’s not standing in front of his opponent any more,” Fisler explains.” He’s not leaving himself open any more. His jab has improved a lot, we’ve got him working on double jabs, and we’ve got him doing a lot of counterpunching. He’s also doing repetitions of combinations, five punches at a time. He’s cutting off the ring now, too.”

“Once Marcus starts hitting guys with body shots, he’s brutal,” Fisler continued. “With the sparring partners, we’ve gotten to the point where we have to take it easy on them. That’s how hard he hits. Marcus is setting his punches up nicely, too. He’ll step into the jab, and unload a nice left hook to the body, then come over with the right hand to the head.”

Noteworthy is that de Oliveira’s growth as a boxer has involved more than just an overhaul of his ring tactics. Until recently, his nickname was “Ratinho.” Since arriving in Miami, however, the Brazilian has changed his moniker to “Happy.” As explained by Fisler, “Marcus fights happy…that’s the way he is in the ring, and in the gym.”

In speaking with de Oliveira, it is easy to see why his new nickname is appropriate: he is genuinely exuberant about what he does for a living. He revels in experiencing the explosive outbursts of his punches. “My favorite shots are working downstairs to the body, but I put guys to sleep by throwing the punches up top,” exclaims a beaming de Oliveira. “My left hook’s best, but both of my hands are my favorites.”

In boxing, as elsewhere, happiness is infectious. After listening to his pupil speak, Fisler laughs in the casual, relaxed way that reflects a teacher’s satisfaction in a job well done. “Keep your eyes on this guy,” says Fisler. “He’s gonna bring a lot of action and excitement. Miami is gonna see some serious suspense when Marcus fights.”

Article posted on 04.04.2012

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