With the press gathered around him at the Big Six Boxing Academy during Thursday’s open workout, Demetrius Andrade was his usual affable self, cracking jokes and grinning from ear to ear under the bright lights.
Once the bell rings next Saturday, Andrade’s demeanor will change. His homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 17th, 2015 at Mohegan Sun Arena — Andrade’s first fight in New England in more than three years — is strictly a business trip as the undefeated junior middleweight aims to regain his spot as the No. 1 154-pounder in the world.
“This is something I’ve been doing since the age of 6,” Andrade said. “I love to do it and for me to not be able to display it and for the viewers to not be able to get a piece of the man, the champ, is mind-boggling, but what I do is I take it as a positive, I stay in shape, I stay in the gym and today we’re here to show the people why I believe — and why you should believe — I’m the greatest 154-pounder on the planet.”
Andrade’s 10-round bout against Argentinian Dario Fabian Pucheta (20-2, 11 KOs) for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) and World Boxing Association (WBA) International Titles, promoted in association with Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing and Artie Pelullo’s Banner Promotions, headlines CES Boxing’s “Gold Standard” card.
A win for Andrade (21-0, 14 KOs) puts two more belts around his weight and automatically puts him among the top 15 in the world in the WBO and WBA, a major step toward reclaiming the WBO junior middleweight title stripped from him in July due to his long layoff, which finally comes to an end next weekend after 16 months.
“They went behind me when I was sleeping,” Andrade joked. “I was sound asleep and when I woke up my belt was gone! I was like, ‘Damn, I worked too hard for that!'”
The now-vacant WBO belt is up for grabs tomorrow night in the United Kingdom when undefeated Liam Smith faces New Jersey native John Thompson at the Manchester Arena.
“They’re not going to be the representative I can be for that belt,” Andrade stated matter-of-factly, “so this is the reason we’re fighting for these two titles, to rank me right back in a position so I can get it back and hold onto it.”
That’s not to say Andrade is looking ahead to a title showdown with tomorrow’s winner or looking past Pucheta. His opponent next weekend has won six of his last seven fights, including three in a row by knockout. Saturday will be his United States debut.
“He came all the way from Argentina to win,” Andrade said. “He’s 20-2. The sport of boxing and the business is rough and tough and I know to be 20-2 it takes a lot of heart and guts, so I’m expecting him to come with an ‘A’ game knowing he’s fighting a 2000 Olympian and, though they want to say former, I am the champ, the champ today.
“This is his opportunity to make something of himself and my opportunity to get back in the ring and get back to where I was.”
Asked if being away from the ring for more than a year would take its toll on him next weekend, Andrade laughed, turned to the sparring area behind him and said, “The ring’s right there!” All jokes aside, the 27-year-old former Olympian refuses to acknowledge rust as a factor.
“That never came across my mind,” he said. “I have obstacles and bumps in the road I had to get over. I guess that took a year and several months, but me being out of the ring, I was working on myself mentally and physically and mentally building myself. I haven’t taken any severe damage in the ring, I haven’t gotten punched. I still feel good.
“All I can do is just be better and work on what I need to work on. That time out, people think I’ve been slacking or I’m not doing this or that, but when they see me in the ring come October 17th, they’ll be like, ‘Hold up! We need more of that right there!’
“This is not just something where I get up in the morning and I have to do it because I have no other way of living. I have other ways of living, but this is something I dreamt. I get up every morning because I love doing what I’m doing and I can make a career and enjoy doing it and make life-changing money. There’s life-changing money in this boxing business and that’s why I’m in it, but at the same time I’m just happy to get back in the ring, especially in the New England area, Mohegan Sun, October 17th. Be there or be square. It’s your boy, the champ, the future of boxing.”