Every so often a young boxer falls through the cracks and is lost for awhile until climbing out on his own.
Meet Cleotis “Mookie” Pendarvis.
Pendarvis is one of those boxers whose fighting abilities were spotted early on. Even people without boxing knowledge could see that at the age of 16 the Los Angeles youngster had extraordinary reflexes and abilities. He was a young Mozart of boxing.
Now, 26, and living in Lancaster, CA, the ultra-quick Pendarvis (17-3-2, 6 Kos) fights Canada’s undefeated Dierry Jean (24-0, 16 Kos) tonight (Friday, May 10). Showtime will televise the main event from Miami, Oklahoma.
It’s only the second time in Jean’s career that he’s venturing outside of Canada to fight. This time he has left-handed speedster Pendarvis, who is defending the USBA junior welterweight title that he claimed by knockout of Michael Clark last December.
Calling Pendarvis’s decade-long journey a rocky road is like calling hunger a minor distraction. It’s been arduous and painstaking.
“I learned how to distance myself from people that don’t have the same morals,” said Pendarvis. “God gives everyone lessons.”
For years Pendarvis and has younger brother survived the streets of L.A. and survived by staying in the boxing gyms. Then a few years ago the younger brother was tragically killed in the streets. It only made him closer to the sport of boxing that he and his brother appreciated.
“He loved it,” said Pendarvis. “He boxed too.”
As a young teen prodigy Pendarvis was able to spar with a Who’s Who in boxing list such as Sugar Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Ricky Hatton, Carlos Baldomir, Diego Corrales, Amir Khan, Manny Pacquiao, and many others. The first time I encountered Pendarvis was in Big Bear Lake when he was there to work with Oscar De La Hoya about a decade ago.
“Let’s get it on,” said Pendarvis when asked to spar the mega stars. “A lot of the guys would tell me that I’m slicker than the guys they were going to fight.”
Being too good has its disadvantages.
Because Pendarvis is an extremely skilled boxer, left-handed, and with great speed, other fighters’ management refused to match their fighters against him. It made no sense to them to pair their fighter who had a great record and match them against Pendarvis. It wasn’t until another fighter with nothing to lose because of age accepted a fight. His name is Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera and because he was near 30, he just didn’t care.
Pendarvis and Herrera met in October 2009 at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif. It was a match that boxing die-hards knew was going to be a good one. People from L.A. drove the 50 miles and those from the boxing-crazy Inland Empire all showed up for their junior welterweight showdown.
That night the two exchanged back and forth blows furiously for eight rounds with each showing their alacrity and skillset. Herrera was usually the slicker and faster fighter when he fought, but this time Pendarvis was his equal in those departments. Each round was very close with the judges favoring Herrera’s overall punch output to Pendarvis’s accurate counters. Herrera won by majority decision in a fight that split the crowd down the middle on who won.
Herrera said Pendarvis was “very quick” but felt he was busier and won because of it.
Pendarvis felt he won and said, “I want a rematch.”
It remains a debate among those who saw the fight.
Since that fight Herrera has advanced to fights against Ruslan Provodnikov, Mike Alvarado, and nearly had a fight with Brandon Rios, but pulled out because of injury. Pendarvis wants his turn now.
Canada’s Jean has never been beaten but that doesn’t impress Pendarvis. Not after facing the best in the world in sparring sessions and beating favorites in their hometowns.
“I helped a lot of fighters become champions,” says Pendarvis with a quiet confidence. “Now it’s my time.”
ShoBox kicks off at 11 PM ET.