The fight Khiary Gray has wanted for the past year and a half comes with a stern warning.
“Be careful what you ask for,” said Joe Ricciardi, longtime trainer of reigning New England Junior Middleweight Champion Greg Vendetti, “because come June 9th you’re going to get it, and you’re going to get it good.”
The upcoming Friday, June 9th, 2017regional showdown at Twin River Casino between Gray (14-2, 11 KOs) of Worcester, Mass., and Stoneham, Mass., title-holder Vendetti (14-2-1, 10 KOs) is a fight so big, everyone has an opinion. The soft-spoken Gray, who faced Vendetti twice in the amateurs, aims to bring the title back to Worcester following a loss to Brooklyn’s Courtney Pennington in February in which Pennington left town with Gray’s Universal Boxing Federation (UBF) 154-pound regional titles.
“He’s got the belt,” Gray said of Vendetti during Wednesday’s pep rally / press conference at Lock 50 in Worcester. “He’s No. 1 in New England and I want to be No. 1 in New England and keep progressing forward. After every loss, I never backed down from a challenge. I always wanted to fight the next guy in my weight class. On June 9th, I’m coming to take that title and bring it back to Worcester.”
The eight-round Gray-Vendetti championship bout headlines a stacked, 10-fight card next month at Twin River, promoted by CES Boxing in association with Murphys Boxing, which promotes both Vendetti and unbeaten Witman, Mass., junior middleweight Mark DeLuca (18-0, 12 KOs), who faces regional showstopper Chris Chatman (14-6-1, 5 KOs) of Chicago in the eight-round co-feature.
Tickets are priced at $47.00, $102.00, $127.00 (VIP) and $152.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesboxing.com, www.twinriver.com, www.murphysboxing.com or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
The entire 10-fight card also airs live in its entirety on FITE TV Pay Per View for $14.99 beginning at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT. June 9th is CES Boxing’s third event of 2017 as the region’s longest-running promotion continues its year-long 25th anniversary celebration, but the underlying story — aside from the tremendous matchups from top to bottom — is this unique collaboration between promoters, a trend that has escaped boxing in recent years, both at the regional and international level.
“On a larger level, a lot of the fights people want to see happen aren’t happening because promoters are too stubborn to work together,” said Murphys Boxing president Ken Casey, a Milton, Mass., native also known as the longtime singer, songwriter and founding member of the world-renowned Celtic punk band the Dropkick Murphys.
“It’s nice to be able to work with [CES president] Jimmy [Burchfield] and bring the fights to New England that people want. I love the venue. Greg Vendetti and Mark DeLuca are going to leave with some new fans and that’s what it’s all about, helping the fighters grow their fan base and putting on a good show for everyone.”
CES, which reintroduced Worcester to boxing three years ago during a time in which the sport had waned in popularity, joined forces with Murphys Boxing to add two of the more highly-anticipated bouts of 2017 to the top of an already stacked lineup and continues to put Worcester on the map by guiding Gray and stablemates Kendrick Ball Jr., Jamaine Ortiz and Cristobal Marrero to the top of their divisions. Ball and Marrero are also featured on the June 9th summer extravaganza.
“This journey started three and a half years ago,” Burchfield said. “We weren’t following anyone. We cut the trees down. We leveled the ground.
“We started our journey, and we’re not stopping. I want the mayor to hear this, and all the town officials: We will come to Worcester. But it’s going to be gigantic. This is major-league boxing. When one of these guys here are going to fight for a legitimate championship title, that’s when we’ll come to Worcester, when it really, really counts and means something.”
Added Worcester mayor Joseph Petty: “There is such a history of boxing here in the city of Worcester and it’s good to see [CES Boxing] back again here in the city giving these kids an opportunity to succeed at life.”
Regarding the collaboration with Murphys Boxing, Burchfield said, “No one is going to get in the middle of us because I care that he cares about his fighters and I care about my fighters. We’re going to give fans the best fights,” before joking, “[Ken] is going to show me how to play a guitar.”
The mission to bring New England fight fans the best matchups, a tradition that began with CES Boxing’s inception 25 years ago, continued April 7th when regional welterweights Nick DeLomba and Jimmy Williams fought for the coveted World Boxing Council (WBC) United States Title, a fight Williams won by unanimous decision.
Gray-Vendetti is the next chapter, a fight regional fans have demanded for the past two years as both fighters simultaneously climbed the ladder to the top of the region’s 154-pound rankings. Vendetti captured the then-vacant title in May of 2016, firmly pressing him on Gray’s radar.
“This is major-league boxing,” Burchfield said. “This is a real fight.”
Gray is coming off losses in two of his last three bouts, sandwiched around a scintillating knockout win over Chatman in October, while Vendetti has won 10 in a row, eight by knockout, a streak that doesn’t impress Gray’s trainer, Kendrick Ball Sr.
“Greg’s a good, tough fighter. We’re not sleeping on him. We take nothing lightly. But I don’t think he’s fought anyone on our level. That night, you’ll see,” Ball Sr. said.
Ricciardi, who trains Vendetti out of the Bobby Tomasello Memorial Boxing Club in nearby Saugus, took exception with Ball Sr.’s “comment that my fighter has more or less been playing in the minor leagues.”
“Come June 9th, what you’re going to get is a fighter that’s 110 percent 110 percent of the time,” Ricciardi said.
Added Vendetti: “Two and a half weeks is a long time to come up with an excuse to pull out of the fight, so, I do have one thing to say: Mr. Gray, I’d like you to come live up to that name. I want you 100 percent and I don’t want any excuse after the fight. You come ready, just as I will be.”
While Wednesday’s war of words between the Vendetti and Gray camps has further enhanced a bout already drawing tremendous interest in New England, the DeLuca-Chatman co-feature promises to provide additional fireworks. The menacing Chatman, who makes his ninth appearance at Twin River, where he a boasts a 5-3 record, hasn’t fought since his knockout loss to Gray in October.
“I’m ready to win,” Chatman said in a statement. “Last time, I defeated myself by wanting the knockout too much. This time I’ll be better. No long speech for me this time. I’m just focused.”
DeLuca, who fought on Rhode Island’s first Pro-Am boxing event, promoted by CES, in 2006, is wary of Chatman’s success in New England, which includes wins over hometown favorites Thomas Falowo and Vladine Biosse.
“This is a pretty stacked card,” DeLuca said. “You’ve got some great fighters up here. I’m in great shape. I’m ready for Chatman. I know what kind of fighter he is. He’s a spoiler. He’s deadly for guys like myself. He comes into our hometown and he shakes things up. I’m not sleeping on him. I’m taking him very seriously. I’m in great shape and very excited to fight.”
Fighting for the ninth time since making his professional debut last May, unbeaten middleweight Ball Jr. (6-0-2, 5 KOs) faces his toughest test to date against fellow undefeated middleweight Godson Noel (6-0-1, 4 KOs), a full-time police officer in Bloomfield, N.J.
Also returning to Twin River on June 9th is New Bedford, Mass., junior middleweight Ray Oliveira Jr. (7-1, 1 KO), aiming to rebound from his first career loss in April to Casey Kramlich in a six-round rematch against dangerous Hartford, Conn., slugger Jose Rivera (3-1, 3 KOs).
The two fought in February, with Oliveira earning a narrow majority decision win, 59-55, 58-56, 57-57. Rivera bounced back earlier this month, knockout out Marcus Beckford in the fourth round of a scheduled six-round bout in Connecticut.
In another hotly-contested regional showdown, New London, Conn., junior welterweight Cristobal Marrero (4-0, 2 KOs) faces fellow unbeaten Miguel Ortiz (2-0, 2 KOs) of Springfield, Mass., in a four-round bout. Both fought in April with Marrero edging Sidney Maccow by majority decision and Ortiz upending previously unbeaten prospect Jonathan Figueroa on the scorecards by unanimous decision.
Fan-favorite Anthony Marsella Jr. (4-0, 2 KOs) returns for the first time since February, stepping up to face Dallas, Tex., lightweight Abraham Torres (3-1, 1 KO) in his first career six-round bout. Marsella scored an impressive unanimous decision win in February over 17-fight vet Francisco Medel, his third career win at Twin River.
The June 9th card also features the Rhode Island and Twin River debut of CES’ newest protégé, 6-foot-5 Italian heavyweight Juiseppe Cusumano (10-1, 8 KOs) of Norfolk, Va. The 29-year-old Cusumano will face Wilmington, Del., native Dan Biddle (9-6, 5 KOs) in a six-round bout. Providence, R.I., super featherweight Michael Valentin makes his professional debut in a separate four-round bout.
Salem, Mass., junior welterweight Matt Doherty (6-3-1, 4 KOs), fresh off a big knockout win over Julio Perez in February, faces Providence’s Cido Hoff (1-1-1) in a four-round bout, and Pawtucket, R.I, featherweight Ricky Delossantos (1-0) battles Orange, N.J., native Malcolm Simms (0-0-1), also in a four-round bout.
Fight fans can stream the event live on their television by downloading the FITE app free from iTunes or Google Play and using the instant stream-to-TV function for full-screen viewing, or watch online from any device at www.fite.tv. The FITE app also works with any Wi-Fi connected TV, iOS and Android devices, as well as streaming devices such as Roku, Chromecast and more. Replays will be available for those unable to watch live.