Chicago’s #1 prospect, undefeated middleweight Michael Walker (18-0-1, 12), faces former title challenger Antwun Echols (31-7-3, 27) in the main event of tomorrow night’s edition of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” at 8 p.m. CST from the Paragon Casino in Louisiana. With just 24 hours notice, Walker agreed, without hesitation, to take the bout..
“Michael and I both understand that even with incredibly short notice, this is an important opportunity to make a statement,” said Walker’s promoter, Octavius James, CEO Of One In A Million Inc. “Stepping up to face a fighter like Echols with no notice shows some serious heart and confidence on Walker’s part.”
“For the past year, none of the rising middleweights have wanted to take a chance fighting me,” Walker said. “Beating a puncher like Echols, a ‘name’ fighter who’s been in with the best, is the opportunity that I’ve been waiting for.”
Highly touted prospect Allan Green was scheduled to headline the card against lightly regarded Samuel Miller (18-2, 1 KOs) of Columbia. Somewhere around the date of February 20, Miller pulled out and was replaced by Echols. Perhaps daunted by the fact that he would now be facing a much more formidable opponent, Green didn’t get on his flight yesterday and seems to be AWOL.
“I’m glad Green bailed and I don’t care why,” Walker said. “I’m going to take care of business. Everything happens for a reason. This is going to be my coming out party.”
Echols, a native of Davenport, Iowa, twice fought Bernard Hopkins for the IBF middleweight title and is the former NABF, USBA and NABA champion. His extensive resume includes some memorable bouts against the divisions toughest opponents including living legend Hopkins, wins over Charles Brewer and Richard “The Alien” Grant and a highly controversial 12-round loss to Australian superstar Anthony Mundine in Australia.
One can assume that Echols is on top form since he was, until recently, in the North Carolina training camp of red-hot prospect “Irish” John Duddy who was preparing for his February 23rd bout at The Garden. If Echols wants to stay in the mix, this fight is a “must win.”
Walker, younger, fresher and hungrier than Echols, will draw on the experience and knowledge gained last year while training in the camps of two of the sport’s top pound-for-pound champions, WBA welterweight champ Miguel Cotto and WBC and WBO middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik.
“For the last year, Walker has been in that ‘prospect limbo’ place where he’s tough to match,” James said. “Being undefeated and hungry, he brings a real risk to the table. He is, correctly perhaps, perceived as more risk than reward. In the mean time, while we’ve been waiting for the break-through opportunity, we’ve sent him to the Cotto and Pavlik camps and have kept him in the ring with ‘stay busy’ bouts.”
On August 4th, Walker scored a second-round, highlight reel knock out over former Olympian Dante Craig on the undercard of an HBO PPV card broadcast from suburban Chicago. He earned rave reviews from on-hand industry experts including:
“…a promising middleweight…” Roman Modrowski, Sun Times
“…Walker remained unbeaten in impressive fashion…” Michael Hirsley, Chicago Tribune
“…never shining brighter and rapidly becoming a fighter to watch in an already red-hot middleweight division.” Jake Donovan, BoxingScene.com and FoxSports.com
Walker discovered boxing as a 19-year-old and made up for his late start with a dedicated and enthusiastic daily training program at the park district’s Fuller Park. With new found goals and aspirations, Walker committed himself to the sport and went on to earn an impressive amateur record of 90-12 including two prestigious Chicago Golden Gloves titles.
Since turning pro in April of 2004, Walker has become a Chicagoland fight fan favorite. A slick boxer known to be drawn into crowd-pleasing brawls, Walker has never been in a boring fight. A number of Walker’s most sensational wins were broadcast by international Spanish language network Telefutura on their regular Friday night program, “Solo Boxeo.”
Tired of being the bridesmaid, Walker and his promoter Octavius James, have recently been calling out Ronald Hearns (18-0, 14). Son of the legendary Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, both fighters are undefeated at 18-0. Both are 29-years-old. Both began boxing at a late age.
“I respect Tommy Hearns, of course,” Walker said. “But his son calls himself ‘The Chosen One.’ More like ‘Chosen Not to Fight Anyone.’ “
Hearns fought on PPV this month and is expected to fight on another PPV event shortly. James rightfully believes that a fight between these two undefeated prospects is just the right bout to open a pay-per-view event.
Walker and James are wondering when, and if, Hearns’ people will stop protecting him.
“At the moment, Michael is fully focused on Echols,” James said. “But after this win, we’ll be calling for Hearns again.”
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