Kendrick Ball always knew his protégé, Khiary Gray, had the right pedigree to be a star in the junior middleweight division, but this recent string of first-round knockouts? It’s bordering on the absurd.
“The situation is a little overwhelming,” Ball admitted. “It’s not something we plan, but what we work on is if you happen to give us an opening, we’ll take that opening and hurt you.
“I always knew how good he was. It was just a matter of showing everyone else.”
Gray (9-0, 7 KOs), the reigning, undefeated Universal Boxing Federation Northeast champion from Worcester, Mass., has won his last six fights by first-round knockout, including his most recent bout Sept. 18th against Kenton Sippio-Cook in what was supposed to be the first major test of his career. Instead, Gray ripped through his opponent in impressive fashion, stopping Sippio-Cook at the 2-minute, 2-second mark of the opening round to capture the vacant UBF strap.
Less than a month later, Gray is back at it, scheduled to face Denver’s Marcus Dawkins (4-2, 1 KO) in a six-round bout Saturday, Oct. 17th, 2015 on the undercard of CES Boxing’s “Gold Standard” event at Mohegan Sun Arena, headlined by the long-awaited return of former world champion Demetrius Andrade.
Tickets are priced at $25.00, $50.00, $125.00 and $200.00 (VIP) and available for purchase online at www.cesboxing.com or www.mohegansun.com, www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254, or at the Mohegan Sun Box Office. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Will Gray finally face some opposition and get some much-needed rounds? Ball hopes so.
“We train for longer rounds. When we were fighting four-rounders, we were already training for eight-rounders. Right now, we’re doing six-rounders, so we’re training for 12-round fights,” Ball said. “I’m not worried about the rounds. Eventually, I know we’ll run into someone that can probably take it a little longer and we’ll get him out later on, but I think people are finally starting to see more of what he can do.”
The irony of Gray’s impressive streak, Ball said, is fight fans really haven’t seen the best of what he has to offer. They’ve yet to see how he’ll respond in a major test, or how he’ll hold up physically and mentally over the course of a six- or eight-round fight. Time will tell. For now, some of Gray’s best attributes are being overshadowed by the sheer violence and astonishment of his current knockout streak.
“Everyone knows he can punch. You can see he throws a good body shot. He’s pretty accurate,” Ball said. “What people don’t understand is he has really good defense and his boxing IQ is really high. We’re hoping to get some work in with someone who can give us some rounds so he can display that also.”
Dawkins might be the one. The 5-foot-9 lefty recently boxed 10 rounds in his last fight, or precisely as many rounds as Gray has boxed in his last seven bouts. A former football and basketball standout in high school, Dawkins recalls watching Mike Tyson dismantle Michael Spinks in 91 seconds back in 1988 at the age of 9. He immediately caught the boxing bug, but admittedly didn’t put on a pair of gloves until 2004. A self-proclaimed “defensive fighter,” he’s gone the distance in four of his six professional bouts.
“He’s kind of a loopy fighter. Throws wide, loopy punches. Nothing I haven’t seen before,” Gray said. “It plays right into my game plan.”
Echoing the same sentiment as his long-time trainer, Gray thought Sippio-Cook would give him “at least three, four rounds,” but went for the kill when “the opportunity presented itself.” The beginning of the end came with 1:16 remaining when Gray cracked his opponent with an overhand right that brought the crowd to its feet.
“That was the first one the whole fight,” Gray said. “After that, he began to buckle every time I hit him.”
Eleven seconds later, Gray delivered another right to the temple that sent Sippio-Cook to the canvas for good.
“I learned a lot in that fight. I learned to put more of my weight on my back leg and get more power out of my punches. Every fight, I learn something,” Gray said.
“I just took it the same way I took my last fight. That’s how I approach every fight. I don’t try to put pressure on myself. I just go out and fight. I had a different mindset. I knew this was what I had been waiting for, a chance to step up.”
Now he wants a chance to showcase his full arsenal in front of a packed house under the bright lights of Mohegan Sun. He might get that chance Oct. 17th, unless those trademark body shots get through.
“We did that a lot in the amateurs, and some of the fights he lost were due to the fact they weren’t scoring body shots,” Ball said. “I always knew he was a good body puncher and it was going to work out perfect for us when we turned pro, so even if we fought a guy we knew we’d eventually beat the body up, wear him down fast enough and beat the body to slow him down.
“There won’t be anybody — well, I can’t say anybody, but it’s going to take a really strong person to be able to take body shots for a certain amount of rounds. We’re definitely going to touch the body a certain amount of times in a round where eventually three or four rounds later they’re either going to shit on themselves or they’ll be pissing blood.”
The 10-round main event, promoted in association with Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing and Artie Pelullo’s Banner Promotions, features Andrade (21-0, 14 KOs) against Argentinian Dario Fabian Pucheta (20-2, 11 KOs) for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) and World Boxing Association (WBA) International Titles, Andrade’s first fight in 16 months.
“Gold Standard” also includes the return of world-rated lightweight “Hammerin'” Hank Lundy (25-5-1, 12 KOs), No. 15 in the WBC, fighting for the WBC’s vacant Continental Americas Title at 135 pounds. Super middleweight Vladine Biosse (15-7-2, 7 KOs) of Providence, R.I., returns in a six-round bout against Nathan Miller (6-0-1, 4 KOs) of New Brunswick, Canada.
Also featured on the undercard, New Haven, Conn., featherweight Josh Crespo (4-2-3, 2 KOs) battles Albany, N.Y., vet Rigoberto Miranda in a four-round bout; cruiserweight Mike Marshall (1-0, 1 KO) of the Bronx faces newcomer Hampton Miller of New Haven in a four-rounder and featherweights Carlos Pena of Worcester and Phil Dudley of Providence make their professional debuts against one another in a four-round bout.