CAYMAN ISLANDS-Still weary from the lack of sleep the day before, I try waking up around 9 a.m. Though I had about six hours of sleep I’m still far behind. But I need to get ready for the press conference at noon.
The Cayman Islands is about two hours ahead of California time so getting up is still a chore for lazy me. It’s even more difficult when the room I’m staying in had the most comfortable beds in the world and every amenity known to this East Los Angeles homeboy.
Nevertheless I get up and smack myself a couple of times like Julio Cesar Chavez getting ready to begin a fight.
Outside it’s still 80 degrees and humid. I think there’s an unwritten rule that an island is not a tropical island unless it follows the 80-degree and humid guidelines. Where I live in Riverside its 107 degrees of dry heat. So it evens out for me.
Under a large tent-like structure Dan Goossen, the amiable president of Goossen-Tutor Promotions, is greeting everybody lustily including poor schmuck reporters like myself.
Andre Ward, one of the main event fighters, sits alongside several other boxers who look like they’re trying to ignore the paradise around them as they maintain their weights with tables of decadent sandwiches, desserts and soft drinks nearby that serve as teasers more powerful than any Delilah.
Goossen opens up the press conference, introducing Charles Clifford the Minister of Tourism for the Cayman Islands.
“This certainly is a major event for the Cayman Islands,” Clifford says.
br />The Cayman Island fight card itself would be a major event anywhere as each bout involves match ups that are almost even, including Ward against Jerson Ravelo, Eddie Chambers and Raphael Butler, Wayne McCullough facing Juan Ruiz and Ty Barnett clashing with Tijuana’s Pavel Miranda.
Those are all competitive matches.
Turning around toward the blue sea Goossen gave homage to the island beauty before introducing the various fighters, including the humble yet fearless McCullough.
“Wayne has never backed down from a challenge,” Goossen says.
McCullough, who hasn’t fought in years, no fault of his own, said: “I’m looking forward to seeing Juan Ruiz, a future star. I remember what Eddie Futch told me, to keep working and train hard.”
Ruiz, who had erroneously thought he was snubbed by McCullough (it turned out he had not met him but mistook someone else for being McCullough), looked strong and ready for his fight with the ultra tough Irishman.
“I’m really honored to fight Wayne McCullough,” said Ruiz. “I know he’s coming to fight and me too.”
Chambers lost his last fight against a Russian who he should have beaten and now needs a win more than ever. Projected to be the new generation James Toney, the Philadelphia-based Chambers had an extremely tough task facing the hungry Butler.
“I want to really, really want to prove that last fight is a distinct memory,” Chambers said. “I have a tough task with Raphael Butler.”
Butler, who lives in Minnesota, sparred with Toney, among others, and claims he’s more than ready.
“I haven’t had time to enjoy myself,” said Butler looking around at the beautiful scenery. “Yeah, I’m ready.”
The son of Tommy Hearns remains undefeated against mediocre competition, but this fight is one step up from his usual platter.
“As a man you want to stand on your own two feet,” says Ronald Hearns.
Jose Luis Gonzalez, a good size junior middleweight from Garden City, Kansas, looks anxious for a big win.
“I know they don’t give us a lot of credit in the Midwest,” Gonzalez said. “We’re just ready, we’re not big talkers.”
The fight will be one of the two fights televised.
The main event features two former Olympians, one who captured the gold and one who represented an island country. Both are hard-hitting super middleweights on the verge of stardom.
“I’m just anxious,” said Ward, the super quick fighter out of Oakland, California. “This is thinking outside of the box to have a fight like this outdoors on the island…I’m fired up.”
Ward needs a victory to jump to the world championship level and beating Ravelo is the first step. But likewise, a win by Ravelo sets him up for a title fight too.
“I’ve been sparring with Yusaf Mack, Tomas Adamek,” said Ravelo, who battled injuries more than fighters in the past. “It was a great experience and I’m ready to fight.”
After the press conference the crowd dispersed and soon the beach and swimming pools were filled. The heat was just enough to create thirst, but not too much to dissuade someone from enjoying blue waters, blue skies and tropical drinks.
I grabbed a margarita and sat amongst a bevy of beauties. (I always wanted to say that: bevy of beauties). A Russian bartender really knows how to mix them just right. After one drink I left to go back inside to return to the room. And go back to sleep.
Around 6 p.m. I woke to get ready for the media dinner that was being held across the street. It turns out the restaurant is a Brazilian eatery, that means a lot of meat.
In the lush lobby as I wait for the rest of the group, Tim Smith of the New York Daily News arrives with his daughter. Also arriving was Dr. Paul Wallace from the California State Athletic Commission.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV