Boxing can use an upset victory from Holt

Aug 28, 2007 7:14 AM

Betting on a champion going overseas to fight for a title with one judge coming from the same hometown and another with a matching last name is not recommended by Smith-Barney.

Especially, when the challenger is the 8/5 favorite.

But you don’t need a wager to have a rooting interest in Kendall Holt next Saturday in Colombia. Holt is one of the feel-good stories in boxing He’s a single father who had his 4-year-old son Keshon in training camp where between sparring sessions he taught the tot how to write his ABC’s.

Holt, who challenges Ricardo Torres for the WBO junior welterweight title, is also a man who had a father that beat him, a mother that did time for first-degree manslaughter and was shuffled from one foster home to another. He is all that can be right in boxing, a story made for Hollywood. He just had to ignore what is stacked up against him (maybe the judge named Torres from Puerto Rico and not related) to come home with the belt.

Ricardo Torres has fought once in the USA and it resulted in the only loss on his 31-1 record with 27 knockouts. But that defeat was to Miguel Cotto, one of the game’s elite fighters. He had Cotto down in Round 2 and wobbled him a couple of other times. He can punch big time and, though dropped by Cotto early and often, kept getting up and fighting back before being overwhelmed in the seventh.

Yet, with the home-ring advantage, his promoter won the purse bid against Duva (Dino, not Kathy) Boxing, Holt’s promoter - and the challenger’s somewhat questionable chin, he was listed at +130. As Holt said, quoting some anonymous wise man, "styles make fights."

Torres is an aggressive and somewhat wild brawler. Holt said by nature that’s what he would prefer to do. But he has been disciplined into becoming an elegant boxer with a punch. He holds a knockout victory over current lightweight title-holder David Diaz, who just sent Erik Morales into retirement with a loss. Diaz’s style is quite similar to Torres, but with a lesser punch.

Diaz had Holt down in the seventh round of that 2005 match. Holt then showed why he has the stuff of champions when he got up and stopped Diaz in the following round.

"If he wants a rematch," said Holt, "I can probably make 135."

But the biggest reason Holt should be favored, even on the road, is how both contestants fared against Michael Arnoutis. Torres beat Arnoutis by a 12-round split decision to win the vacant WBO belt. "I didn’t see that fight," said Holt, "but everyone tells me Torres lost."

 Holt qualified for this title shot by almost shutting out Arnoutis over 12 rounds in a title eliminator. Maybe comparative scores don’t mean much (see football, basketball and dating). But, there is something surreal about Holt’s confidence before heading to Colombia with his Paterson, N.J., hometown trainer (Ron Aroz) and manager (Henry Cortes). It’s almost manifest destiny for him to win. The same way he had absolutely no doubt that his unborn child would turn out to be a boy.

Some products of child abuse turn into abusers themselves. Not Holt. He said from a very early age he began thinking, "I can’t wait to have a son." After the way he lived, in foster homes and on the streets, he had vowed it would be different for the next generation. And there was no way, he said, his child (and he said it would be his only child) could be a girl. He just "knew."

It is how he "knows" that he is going to be beat Torres. "When I was younger, I knew I would become a champion."

Maybe the learning curve finds different directions when you’ve lived the life Holt has. He was 7 and getting ready for school when his father asked if he knew what the word "murder" meant. Holt was then shown the day’s newspaper with the story of his mother, a drug dealer, arrested for manslaughter.

She got out of prison two years ago. Trying to rebuild fences with her son, she was afflicted with cancer. She’s doing okay, Holt said. Now all she needs is to be able to say, "My son the champion."

Too bad she won’t be able to see it. No American television is going to Colombia.