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No Cayman Vacation: Ward Will Be Tested

BY Robert Mladinich ON April 23, 2008
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Championship boxing comes to the beautiful Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory located in the center of the Caribbean, on June 20th when Andre Ward, 15-0 (10 KOS), the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, puts his NABO super middleweight title on the line against Jerson Ravelo.

Ravelo, 18-2 (12 KOS), is a resident of Newark, New Jersey, who represented his native Dominican Republic in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

In the co-feature of the card being called “Cayman Knockout: Championship Boxing,” “Fast” Eddie Chambers, 30-1 (16 KOS), of Philadelphia takes on the hard-punching Raphael Butler, 30-4 (23 KOS), of Rochester, Minnesota, in a 12 round USBA heavyweight title bout.

The show is being held at the beautiful outdoor Truman Bodden Sports Complex in Georgetown, the island’s capital, and will be televised on Showtime’s ShoBox: the New Generation, which is hosted by Nick Charles and Steve Farhood.

As excited as Dan Goossen, the president of the Southern California-based Goossen Tutor Promotions, is to be doing a show on one of the world’s most beautiful islands, it pales in comparison to the excitement of Charles Clifford, the island’s Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce.

“This is a groundbreaking event for the Cayman Islands,” Clifford said at the April 22nd New York press conference that was held at The Palm Restaurant on West 50th Street.

“We believe that with a professional boxing event of this magnitude, along with the sophisticated elegant charm of our country and residents, we will showcase to the worldwide television audience what we’re so proud of. And what better way to do this than by bringing championship boxing to the Cayman Islands?”

Although the 30-year-old Ravelo has been plagued by hand and back injuries for much of his pro career, he is still capable of providing a stern test for Ward, who many insiders believe has been brought along much too carefully.

“I’ve had so many setbacks in my career, but here I am,” said Ravelo, who won an eight round decision against Paul Buchanan on a segment of “The Contender” television series in London in March 2007. His two losses, both by TKO, were to Allan Green and David Lopez, both of whom have reputations as spoilers.

“Most people in my situation would have given up a long time ago. I will be prepared on June 20th. I know how much a win will do for my career. At this point, I can’t afford to lose. This fight means everything to me.”

Ravelo spoke about being cast adrift by various promoters and managers after incurring his losses and experiencing so many frustrating injuries. After breaking his hand one time, he had no money for surgery but was lucky enough to find doctors who performed the necessary work for free.

He has a wonderful support network in his family, which includes his parents, several sisters and a young son, Jerson Jr., who have stayed with him through thick and thin and never wavered in their allegiance to him.

All he needs now is a big victory over a rising star like Ward to jumpstart his resurrection as a viable contender.

“I am a big fan of Andre’s and was cheering for him to win the gold in Athens,” said Ravelo, who has an amateur victory over Jeff Lacy. “He’s a great guy, but I won’t be cheering for him on June 20th. I’m coming to win, so I can re-establish myself. I have a lot of time to make up.”

The ultra religious 24-year-old Ward, a lifelong resident of Oakland, California, whose nickname of “S.O.G.” stands for Son of God, is the first to admit he is a man on a mission. He too has great respect for Ravelo, but views him as just another opponent on his road to a world title.

“Jerson is a young veteran who has five or six fights more than me,” said Ward. “I have a lot of respect for him, but when the bell rings the respect goes out the window.”

Speaking of respect, Goossen, who has promoted Ward since he turned pro in December 2004, has an abundance of it for Ward, as both a fighter and a man.

“When I used to think of the perfect fighter, I used to think of someone like Mike Tyson,” said Goossen. “But I’ve changed my thinking recently. What I see dealing with Andre is amazing. He’s won his last 5 fights by knockout, but the growth inside of the ring has been amazing. I have no doubt that the people of the Cayman Islands will take Andre into their arms and embrace him.”

What makes Ward so refreshing to deal with, adds Goossen, is the fact that he is so involved in all aspects of his career. He reads the fine print of every piece of paper put before him by himself, as well as manager James Prince.

“I wish all fighters were as active in all aspects of their career as Andre is,” said Goossen. “It would prevent a lot of problems later on.”

“Dan does a great job and James does a great job, but I have to know what the small print says,” explained Ward, who is as verbally articulate as he is adept with his fists. “It’s a partnership.”

Moving on to the heavyweights, the 6’1, 215 pound Chambers, who is 26-years-old, had been on a roll prior to imploding against Alexander Povetkin in Germany in January 2008. He will definitely have his hands full against the taller, heavier and harder hitting Butler.

Although three of the 24-year-old Butler’s four losses were by TKO, he did have all of those opponents on the floor prior to the end of the fights. Butler pointed out that recent heavyweight champions Oleg Maskaev and Oliver McCall also incurred several losses before winning their titles.

Butler’s manager, Steve Munisteri, then made a strong case for why Butler should not be discounted in the heavyweight sweepstakes. He said that Butler, like Chambers, is one of only six heavyweights in the world under 30 years of age who has 30 wins or more.

Moreover, said Munisteri, when Butler won the 2004 National Golden Gloves title he beat the man who won the same title the following year. And, of all of the opponents that Butler has faced, he has knocked down all but four of them.

Butler and Chambers have two common opponents in Cornelius Ellis and Louis Monaco.

Butler stopped Ellis in two rounds, while Chambers won a majority decision over him. And Chambers won a 10 round decision over the often-stopped Monaco, while Butler beat Monaco by a sixth round disqualification.

Munisteri then said that the only heavyweight he was ever involved with who hit anywhere near as hard as Butler does was the now imprisoned Ike Ibeabuchi, whose power and relentlessness was often compared to that of Sonny Liston.

Goossen added that although Chambers “can be a hard-punching heavyweight when he wants to be,” this fight is a classic matchup of Butler’s power vs. Chambers’ superior speed and boxing skills. Chambers did not disagree with that assessment.

“This is a great opportunity for both fighters,” said Chambers. “For me, I can regain where I was before Povetkin. For Butler, it’s an opportunity to get to the top heavyweights. He’s a big guy and I’m a little guy, so it will be like David vs. Goliath, but I plan on winning the fight.”

Because the fighters will arrive in the Cayman Islands a week prior to the fight, they were all asked how difficult it would be to train in such a tropical paradise. Besides the fact that visitors can swim with stingrays in crystal clear water, there is an abundance of breathtaking scenery, no graffiti and no visible urban blight.

“I’ve fought in beautiful places before, but there is no time to fool around,” said Ravelo. “It doesn’t matter where the fight is. I have to keep my eye on the victory.”

Ward said that he has already fought on another beautiful island, where he managed to avoid the distractions enough to score a fifth round TKO over previously undefeated Roger Cantrell in November 2007.

“I did it once, I can do it again,” said Ward. “This is my business. Nothing will distract me from reaching my goals.”

For more information or to inquire about packages to the fight, log onto: www.caymanislands.ky or www.divecayman.ky or call 1-877-4CAYMAN.

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