Junior welterweight Kendall “Rated R” Holt of Paterson, New Jersey, believes that he was screwed as badly as or worse than any fighter in recent memory when he was stopped in the 11th round by WBO champion Ricardo Torres in Torres’ home country of Colombia in September 2007.
On Thursday, February 7th, he will begin battling his way back to a title shot when he takes on the always durable and resilient journeyman Ben “Wonder” Tackie, 29-8-1 (17 KOs), a native of Ghana who fights out of the Bronx.
The 10 round fight will be the main event of a card televised on the VERSUS Network from the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas.
Although no title is on the line, this is a very important fight for the 26-year-old Holt, whose record stands at 22-2 (12 KOS).
Against Torres, Holt was ahead on two of three judge’s scorecards at the time of the stoppage. He had knocked Torres down with a wicked left-right combination in the sixth round, but Torres returned the favor in the 11th when he dumped Holt to the canvas with a left hook.
As the somewhat groggy Holt tried to make it through the round, referee Genaro Rodriguez stopped the fight. The perceived controversy had as much to do with the stoppage as it did with other incidents the Holt camp alleged had occurred throughout the bout.
The formal protest Team Holt filed with the WBO alleged that after he knocked Torres down in the sixth round, he was hit in the head with beer cans that had been hurled into the ring by fans.
It also claimed that someone in the Torres corner reached through the ropes and grabbed Holt’s leg during the final round.
Later that evening, back at the hotel where he was staying, Holt lashed into Rodriguez for not breaking up the action as debris was being hurled into the ring. Not only was he in danger of being hurt by the projectiles, he also claimed that the ring surface was made dangerously slippery.
Even later, Holt’s cut man, Darren Antola, claimed he was hit in the head with a beer can as he headed to the airport for the flight home. And Holt’s girlfriend, Ashema Evans, had said that she was cut on the leg as overexcited Torres fans toppled tables in the VIP section of the arena to get nearer to the ring.
The calls for a rematch went nowhere as the protest was rejected, so Holt now finds himself back at square one. In Tackie he has selected an opponent whose seemingly nominal record belies his talent.
Although Tackie has lost to the likes of Gregorio Vargas, John John Molina, Kostya Tszyu, Sharmba Mitchell, Ricky Hatton, Juan Lazcano, Freddy Hernandez and Alfonso Gomez, he has never been stopped.
Moreover, he has beaten such notables as Golden Johnson, Roberto Garcia, Freddie Pendleton, Terrell Finger, Ray Oliveira and Teddy Reid.
Junior welterweight prospect Edgar “El Chamaco” Santana of New York, who will be co-headlining one of Lou DiBella’s Broadway Boxing shows on March 5th, has been sparring with Tackie at the Mendez Gym in Manhattan for several weeks.
“He’s got a very good chance against Holt,” said Santana, who boasts a record of 22-3 (14 KOs). “No matter who he fights, he is always in the fight because he can pop. He’s never been stopped and he has a great right hand. There’s no reason not to give him a good chance of winning.”
What Holt, who adopted his unusual nickname when he heard Hasim Rahman describing his knockout of Lennox Lewis in their first encounter in South Africa, wants most is a rematch with Torres, the sooner the better.
Until that happens, he is smart enough to realize the importance of staying busy.
Prior to the loss to Torres, he was one of the most touted prospects in the game. He made his presence known with an eighth round TKO victory over current WBC champion David Diaz in February 2005, as well as follow-up decision victories over the previously undefeated Isaac Hlatswayo, whom he knocked down three times, and once-beaten Mike Arnaoutis.
After the Hlatswayo win, Holt joked that his nickname now stood for “running across the division ruthlessly.”
At that time ShoBox announcer Steve Farhood said Holt was so dangerous he was in danger of scaring off prospective opponents. Farhood still believes Holt has championship potential, so he sees Tackie as a good opponent for him at this juncture of his career.
“I’m sure that anything short of a rematch with Torres is disappointing to Kendall, but Tackie is a good opponent for him right now,” said Farhood. “With Tackie you know exactly what you’re going to get. He’ll come forward, always applying pressure, and he’ll probably go the distance. There won’t be any surprises. Kendall will get the rounds he needs, which will only benefit him in the future.”
Farhood hopes that Holt has not lost any of his fire because of the disappointment of the Torres fight. He viewed the fight on the You Tube and believes the stoppage was legitimate. Because of the poor picture quality on the Internet site, he says he could not confirm all of the other incidents that Holt alleged.
“Kendall still has the potential to be a world champion, especially in the division he’s in, which is not what it was a few years ago,” added Farhood.
Moreover, said Farhood, “If the fight in Colombia had taken place at a neutral site he’d probably be a world champion right now.”
Becoming a champion would be a fitting accomplishment for Holt, who for many years toiled as an electrician by day. He is also one of 11 children whose father was absent and whose mother was incarcerated for many years. Much of Holt’s youth was spent being shuttled from one foster home to another.
He started boxing at the age of 6, but hung the gloves up for nearly a decade to concentrate on other sports. He returned to boxing at the age of 16 and roared through the amateur ranks, winning three New Jersey Golden Gloves titles in the process.
Since turning pro in 2001, he has had several injuries misdiagnosed and was also embroiled in a bitter custody battle for his beloved son. He has overcome all of those problems, so there is no reason to believe he won’t overcome the obstacles created by the loss to Torres.
“Priority number one is getting a return fight with Torres,” said Henry Cortes, Holt’s manager. “We’re not looking for an easy way back. Tackie is tough as nails, so we are not taking him for granted. We don’t take anyone for granted.”