Nattily dressed in a charcoal blazer over a powder blue cotton pullover, junior middleweight Sechew Powell had more in common with the Ivy League than the rugged profession he inhabits.
Powell was in Manhattan on Wednesday to advertise his upcoming fight against Archak “Attack” Ter-Meliksetian, a polite 27-year-old from Armenia who is supposed to help resolve the question of whether Powell is a contender or a pretender.
Surrounded by artifacts from celebrated movies – Rocky Balboa’s robe is encased in a plastic jar for the benefit of future generations – Powell (17-0, 11 KO’s) and Meliksetian (15-1, 12 KO’s) chatted amicably at the press conference. They were hardly friends and were separated by a language barrier, but the pair got along swimmingly, as if a silent treaty had been made between them that said: “As long as we have to promote this thing, we may as enjoy each other’s company,” or something to that effect. The show is in fact being promoted by Dash-DiBella Promotions and Main Events.
They were nothing like the sneering and blasé Jaidon Codrington, the undefeated 21-year-old who is facing Allan Green (17-0, 11 KO’s) in the chief supporting bout at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami Oklahoma on November 4. Despite his boy-next-door looks, Codrington (9-0, 9 KO’s) has decided to populate the role of the likeable villain.
Someone, early in his career, must have advised him that it is better to be provocative than a bore. It makes for better copy, so Codrington, rather convincingly, in a confident, cool kind of way, has adopted this as his stage persona, delivering lines like, “the fight won’t go the distance” with a twinkle in his eye and an awareness of where the camera is at all times. Either that or he is taking his “Chin Checkers” nickname way too seriously.
Powell also promised disaster for his opponent, but the effect was tempered by his preppy attire and lively delivery. His outer shell said NYU not TKO.
“He’s a solid fighter, but he’s not close to my talent,” Powell said. “He won’t last three rounds.”
The announcement lacked the menace of Codrington’s, and the difference, although probably insignificant, underlined the notion that Codrington is the show’s real curiosity; can he go into hostile territory (Green is from Oklahoma) and perform under pressure on a grand stage? Not much is really expected of Powell, a perception that he is keenly aware of. Powell’s near loss to Grady Brewer in June of 2004 when he barely won a split decision (and he famously asked his corner, his head still filled with stars, if he had been knocked down in the fifth round when indeed he had) greatly diminished his leading man status.
Every fight since has been a struggle to regain that reputation, difficult work to do like a middle-aged man trying to reclaim his youth. For the most part, pundits have already weighed in with their opinion of Powell. The fact that Powell, 26, has already fought on ShoBox, a program that introduces hungry young fighters before they hit the big time, three times was treated as a compliment, but is it? It’s either a testament to his capacity for making good fights or it demonstrates his inability to graduate to the next level.
“I am definitely still striving to get respect,” he said following the press conference. “The die-hard fans who know me and see me in the gym understand what I’m about. They know that I have what it takes to make it, but it’s the writers, the pencil-pushing people who never stepped foot into a ring, who have never felt what it feels to be punched in the nose, who still question my skills. That used to bother me, but not anymore because I know that they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s like talking astrophysics with a janitor.”
The southpaw Powell was an accomplished amateur, winning virtually every prestigious tournament not labeled the Olympics. As a professional, Powell has wrestled with his approach to boxing between adopting the stance of a pure boxer and a lethal puncher. When he boxes and moves, sticking his jab in the face of his opponent and then skirting away from trouble, he can be sublime. But when he gets bold – the Brownsville section of Brooklyn in him screaming to get noticed – that is when he runs into trouble, as when Brewer nearly knocked him out.
“I can punch; I can move,” he said. “I can throw good combinations. I don’t just have punching power. I’m a very strategic fighter.”
He is also a creative fighter, conceiving of his nickname: Iron Horse.
“Iron Horse means that I’m a thoroughbred,” he said. “The nickname represents my tough exterior, that I’m very solid and mentally and physically tough.”
On November 4, the public will get to choose which descriptive phrase suits Powell the best.