There can only be one underdog on fight night, but both Freddy Sanchez and Nick DeLomba carry a chip on their shoulder entering their super lightweight bout Friday night at Twin River Casino.
DeLomba (8-1, 2 KOs), the Cranston, R.I., native and Gary Balletto protégé, is still smarting from his first career loss, a first-round knockout in September at the hands of Gledwin Ortiz, a fight he and his coach, Vic Fagnant, admit they probably shouldn’t have taken so quickly following DeLomba’s emotionally — and physically — draining win over Juan Rodriguez in July.
Then there’s Sanchez (7-0, 5 KOs), the hard-hitting, undefeated Worcester, Mass., native who’s coming off a no-decision against Antonio Fernandes in February courtesy of a head-butt in the opening round that opened a cut over Sanchez’s right eye. He didn’t take the loss that night, keeping his perfect record intact, but still looks at is as a missed opportunity, in some cases almost as bad as losing.
He and DeLomba lock horns Friday, May 13th, 2016 on the undercard of CES Boxing’s “THE BATTLE FOR THE CAPITAL” show highlighted by the main event between Providence super middleweights Peter Manfredo Jr. (40-7, 21 KOs) and Vladine Biosse (15-7-2, 7 KOs). DeLomba and Sanchez will face one another in a six-round bout for the vacant New England Super Lightweight Title.
On paper, it’s a pick-’em fight; even if Sanchez has a slight edge based on his undefeated record and knockout power, DeLomba’s level of competition – Ortiz, Rodriguez, and even 12-fight veteran Edwin Soto of Connecticut, whom he beat in just his fourth fight as a pro – theoretically evens the playing field.
The way Sanchez sees it, even with his 7-0 record, he’s the underdog, not DeLomba, which adds even more motivation with fight night less than a week away.
“I’m going into his hometown,” Sanchez said, “but it doesn’t matter to me. I love being the underdog. It’s a great way to upset people.”
Sanchez might even be licking his chops heading into Friday after watching DeLomba’s last two fights. While he suffered the loss against Ortiz, a fight stopped at the 2:43 mark of the opening round by Joey Lupino, DeLomba was arguably hurt worse against Rodriguez two months prior when he got knocked down early in the opening round, survived the bell and then fought back to score a fifth-round knockout win.
“His last fight was horrible. The fight before that? Wow,” Sanchez said. “I think he should have two losses now. That’s how bad he was hurt.
“I don’t really talk a lot of shit. I’m humble,” he added. “I’m just going to go in there and do what I do. If I get him out of there early, I get him out of there early. If not, it is what it is.”
Aside from wanting to avenge his first loss, DeLomba has other reasons to be motivated for Friday’s fight. There’s been some surprise among regional fans that he’d even take this fight after getting knocked out in September. Others expected him to take the proverbial tune-up fight to get back on track, but DeLomba didn’t want to go backwards.
“I’ve never done that in my whole career,” said DeLomba, who took the unconventional path to the pros by starting out fighting six-rounders instead of fours.
“I fight the exciting fights. That’s why the fans come to watch me. This is what we felt was best for my career. Winning this fight will definitely help me in the long run.”
Besides, there’s no better way to silence critics than to step up following a loss and beat an undefeated fighter ranked favorably among his peers.
“I think there are going to be a hell of a lot of people in the stands Friday, whether they bought a ticket from me or bought one from the casino, that are coming to watch me lose this fight,” he said. “I have a lot of people to shut up.
“I’ll let the people do the talking and let my hands do the work.”
The last eight months have been a whirlwind for DeLomba. He and his fiancée, Milly, welcomed their first child, Nicolas Jr., into the world earlier this year, giving DeLomba further incentive to chase his dream in the ring.
“It changed my whole world,” he said about the birth of his son. “I can’t take this fighting game as something I just do to get by. I know I have the talent and the work ethic. I’ve got to go above and beyond like I used to when I first started this sport.”
“That last fight was a wake-up call. That could be one of the best things that ever happened to my career. I’ve realized no one is untouchable. Even the best can lose.”
How one responds to a loss, according to Sanchez, “depends on the fighter.”
“It could discourage you or make you stronger,” he said.
“My last fight, you saw what happened. I was pissed off. I still am. It wasn’t a loss, but it was a missed opportunity. This fight, I’m looking to change that.”
Four days from now, two of New England’s brightest stars, both with big records and big dreams, stand toe-to-toe in one of the most highly anticipated fights on the undercard with a title on the line. Both consider themselves the underdog, the “other guy” on the marquee, and both are equally hungry following disappointing outcomes their last time out. It all adds up to a strong Fight of the Night candidate come Friday.
“I’m excited. This is a great opportunity and I feel blessed to be in the position I’m in,” DeLomba said. “I’m in great shape and ready to go to war. This will be a great addition to my resume.”
“I’m thankful to CES for the opportunity,” Sanchez added. “I feel great. They’ve been keeping me active.”