Featherweight Gary Stark Jr. of Staten Island, New York, will put everything on the line when he fights a rematch against Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, a native of Colombia who fights out of Miami, at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Wednesday, March 5th.
In the co-feature of the latest installment of promoter Lou DiBella’s Broadway Boxing series, junior welterweight Edgar “El Chamaco” Santana, 22-3 (14 KOS), of Spanish Harlem, squares off against Grover Wiley, 30-10-1 (14 KOS), of Omaha, Nebraska.
The last time that Stark Jr. and Ledesma met was in May 2007.
Stark Jr., now 20-2 (8 KOS), had knocked Ledesma, now 14-7-1 (9 KOS), down in the third round and seemed to be coasting to victory.
But Ledesma took advantage of Stark Jr.’s showboating, and knocked him senseless in the fifth round.
The rematch is as much about revenge as it is redemption for the 28-year-old Stark Jr.
“I’ve wanted this fight since we lost the first one,” said Stark Jr. at a February 6th press conference that was held at Portabello’s restaurant on Murray Street in Lower Manhattan.
“Even if I beat him, the first fight will never be erased. But for me, as a person, I have to beat him to put the first fight behind me.”
Stark Jr.’s father, Gary Sr., who also serves as his trainer, agrees that this fight is of paramount importance to his son’s career. He said the damage done by the shocking knockout loss was debilitating to Junior’s hard-earned and well-deserved reputation as a blue-chip prospect.
“There were a lot of things going on that people don’t know about,” said Stark Sr. “He was not focused at all. He had lost a lot of weight because he was depressed over the breakup of a long-term relationship. He was 123 pounds two weeks before the fight. He never loses weight that easily. I’d ask him about it, and he’d say he was running a lot. I should have pulled him out of the fight, but we’d sold a lot of tickets and I figured he’d be okay.”
DiBella gets riled when he recalls the outcome of that bout. He said that Stark Jr. was well on his way to an easy victory when he foolishly engaged in showboating and paid a heavy price.
“Gary was so concerned about playing to the crowd, he walked forward with his hands down and got hit by a no bull—-, pro fighter,” said an angry DiBella. “He clowned himself into getting kayoed. He was kayoed before he even hit the canvas. He had to be scraped off the canvas. No disrespect to Ledesma, but there is no way Gary should have lost to him.”
Stark Jr. was a bright undefeated prospect when he traveled to Oklahoma to battle fellow unbeaten sensation Mike Oliver, then 17-0, in February 2007.
Not only was the fight for the USBA super bantamweight title, it was televised on Shobox: The New Generation.
En route to the fight there were a host of logistical glitches that turned downright calamitous. A snowstorm kept the two Starks waylaid at a New York airport, where they slept on the floor hoping against hope that one of the many backed-up planes would depart.
A ravenous Stark Jr. was worried about making weight, but was forced to slurp salty, water-retaining soup as his father pleaded with airline personnel to get them on the next plane out. After finally arriving at their destination, all of their luggage, which contained their boxing equipment, had been lost.
Just hours after landing, they had to attend the pre-fight press conference on the morning of the fight. They were exhausted.
“With all of that, we still beat the kid,” said Stark Sr., who said he doesn’t believe Oliver won more than 4 of the fight’s 12 rounds.
Unfortunately the judges didn’t see it that way, and they gave the fight to Oliver by unanimous decision.
Stark Jr. was deflated but undeterred by the setback. “Sometimes I think I’m jinxed,” he said. “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck.”
DiBella also believes that Stark Jr. beat Oliver, and never thought about giving up on him after the Oliver fight.
“I thought he was robbed against Oliver, but he beat himself against Ledesma,” said DiBella.
One thing is for certain. The clock is running on Stark Jr., who is one of the most naturally gifted boxers you’ll ever see. If he regains his focus and learns to concentrate on the opponent in front of him, rather than playing to the crowd and thinking about all of the money he should be making, he can still be a force to be reckoned with.
ShoBox commentator Steve Farhood opined that Stark Jr.’s greatest attributes have also significantly contributed to his downside. In order for Stark Jr. to achieve the success so many people have envisioned for him, he’ll have to decide exactly what type of fighter he wants to be in the ring.
“His heart is so big, he thinks he can be Mr. Macho and get involved in rumbles,” said Farhood. “He sometimes forgets he’s a boxer, which is what he does best.”
DiBella likes this rematch, but says that he is at wit’s end when it comes to dealing with Stark Jr.’s impulsiveness and occasional immaturity in the ring.
“Gary should still be undefeated,” said DiBella. “I think he still has a big fight in him, but I told him if he (messes) around again by showboating and throwing a winnable fight away, I’m off the train.”
Also appearing on the March 5th show are:
–Super middleweight Danny Jacobs of Brooklyn, a four-time New York City Golden Gloves champion who is 2-0 (2 KOS) as a pro. This will be the internationally renowned amateur’s first appearance in front of a hometown crowd.
–Heavyweight Israel “King Kong” Garcia, 18-1 (10 KOS) and undefeated Puerto Rican junior welterweight Joel Torres, 8-0 (5 KOS).
–Two female veterans of the NYC Golden Gloves will also be making their pro debuts in separate bouts:
Tracey Hutt of Island Park, New York, is a graduate of Hofstra University. She is employed as a physical education teacher.
Ruth O’Sullivan is a native of Ireland who moved to the United States in 1997. She is employed as a social worker in the court system.
Tickets are priced from $150 to $40 and are available by calling DiBella Entertainment at 212-947-2577. For more information on Broadway Boxing, visit the DiBella Entertainment website at: www.dbe1.com.