On a busy boxing weekend that included four world title fights, a small show at Sam’s Town, a locals casino in Las Vegas, attracted nary a mention. It was the only boxing show in town, yet neither of the two daily newspapers saw fit to send a correspondent to cover the event.
It was a small show, but a big deal to the 10 boxers that appeared on the card. Someone once wrote that for a young boxer aspiring to make his mark in the sport, every fight is Ali-Frazier I.
For Cameron Kreal, the show inside the intimate concert venue marked the potential end of a long journey. After 26 pro fights, fighting mostly as a junior welterweight, his record stood 12-12-2. But his career was on the uptick — he had won his last four – and here finally was an opportunity to get his ledger over the .500 hump, hopefully forevermore.
Kreal (pictured on the right) has had a roller-coaster career. Beginning in October of 2015, he went through a stretch where he lost five consecutive fights. But in all of those fights he was the “B” side. Four of the five opponents were undefeated and the quintet, in the aggregate, was 60-1-1.
In the fifth of those fights, Kreal was thrown in against two-time Olympian Egidijus Kavaliauskas. Considered cannon fodder, he gave Kavaliauskas, currently 18-0 (15), his toughest fight. Cameron hurt Kavaliauskas in round seven and had the Lithuanian “Mean Machine” holding on as the fight drew to a conclusion.
At the tender age of twenty-three, Cameron Kreal is battle-tested. He hasn’t met a fighter with a losing record since opposing 0-1-1 Tyler Lawson in his fourth pro fight.
And don’t be fooled by his record which says more about the politics of the sport than what he brings to the table. It’s the record of a journeyman, a label normally affixed to a much older man, but Cameron in no generic journeyman. This kid can fight.
Cameron Kreal was born in Honolulu. His mother is Hawaiian and his father came from Holland. At age seven, Cameron and his mother moved to Las Vegas where she had relatives. Growing up his favorite fighter was Manny Pacquiao.
“fighting is in my blood I love boxing its everything to me,” Cameron wrote on his Facebook page in March of 2010. One could see that he was impatient to jump-start his pro boxing career. He quit school in the 12th grade to devote his full attention to pursuing his passion.
Until a few years ago, the minimum age for a professional boxer in Nevada was eighteen. That restriction was loosened. It’s now seventeen.
The way this works is that a 17-year-old who wants to turn pro must go before the Nevada Athletic Commission and explain why he believes he is mature enough to compete at the professional level. If the commissioners are persuaded that the applicant is worthy, they grant him a temporary license, good only for his maiden fight. If his showing is satisfactory, he will get a regular license.
Kreal had only 22 amateur fights before turning pro at age seventeen. Lacking the right connections, he was matched tough almost from the onset of his career. He brought a 6-6-2 record into his fight in November of 2014 at Chicago with 14-0 Jamal James, a hot prospect with a strong amateur pedigree. James stopped him in the eighth round. That remains the only setback on Kreal’s ledger in which he failed to go the distance.
In December of last year, Kreal played spoiler at Sam’s Town, upsetting 7-0 Maurice Lee, one of the most highly regarded prospects on Floyd Mayweather’s “Money Team.”
Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe was so impressed that he brought Kreal into the fold. Now it seemed that he would finally escape the “B side” rut. But he was matched tough again this past weekend when he was pitted against Japanese-Mexican invader Shoki Sakai.
KREAL vs. SAKAI
There were no odds on the contest, but the 26-year-old Sakai, who sported a 23-7 record, would have undoubtedly been favored. For one thing, his trainer is the legendary Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, a 2010 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Cameron Kreal is managed and trained by his uncle, little known Jayson Gallegos. True, Cameron would theoretically be the “A” side, but Sakai had been in this role before. He was coming off a win at Sam’s Town over house fighter Ashley Theophane, a former world title challenger.
The Kreal-Sakai fight was a robust affair, easily the most exciting fight on the card. When the final bell rang, Kreal was certain that his hand would be raised. Judge Glenn Trowbridge thought so too. He had it 77-75 in Cameron’s favor. But the other judges, Adalaide Byrd and Kermit Bayless, scored it a draw and that’s how it would go into the books. Kreal didn’t lose, but he remains stranded at the .500 barrier.
Kreal is frustrated but can’t wait to get back in the ring. When we asked him a question that we ask all young fighters that we interview — “have you thought about what kind of work you would like to get into when your career ends” (in hindsight that would have been a stupid question to ask the young Floyd Mayweather) — he told us that he had never given it a moment’s thought. “I’m only twenty-three years old,” he said, “and I’m in the best shape of my life.”
If Cameron Kreal was rummaging around for a role model, we would suggest Freddie Pendleton. A late bloomer, Pendleton was 14-13-1 when he turned his career around with a sixth round stoppage of Roger Mayweather. He went on to win the IBF world lightweight title.
Kreal will need to develop more power in his punches to match Pendleton’s feats, but that figures to come with more experience. In the meantime, we have a word of caution for Cameron’s future opponents: If you dismiss him as a journeyman, you do so at your own peril.
Photo credit: Mary Ann Owen
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