EDITED PRESS RELEASE: Duva Boxing is hoping 2006 will be a breakthrough year for its stable of fighters Led by heavyweight contender Samuel Peter, Duva Boxing’s fighters, including undefeated heavyweight Mike Marrone, talented heavyweight contender Kirk Johnson, crowd-pleasing welterweight Oscar Diaz, smooth-boxing cruiserweight Shauna George, lightning-quick super lightweight Kendall Holt, slick southpaw lightweight Damian Fuller, and young Raymond Biggs Jr., are all poised to take major steps forward in professional boxing.
The “Nigerian Nightmare” Samuel Peter, 25-1 (21 KOs), started the year by smashing Yanqui Diaz to the floor five times in an HBO-televised showcase fight. He followed the impressive performance with an ESPN2-televised two-round demolition of Gilbert Martinez, followed by a Showtime-televised beating of Taurus Sykes.
Then came the September 24 “Heavyweight Fight of the Year” showdown with former WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko. Despite being hampered by incessant holding, Peter was still able to drop the big Ukrainian three times while losing a close decision. While he did not have had his hand raised that night, Peter solidified himself as a bona fide threat to any of the belt holders.
Considered one of the world’s top heavyweights before a setback against Vitali Klitschko, former Canadian Olympian Kirk “Bubba” Johnson, 36-2-1 (26 KOs), returned to action with technical decision over the aforementioned Diaz. Johnson had Diaz down three times before an unintentional head butt forced an abbreviated unanimous decision victory. With his considerable skills, speed and power, Johnson remains a threat to any other heavyweight in the world and says he is looking to return to contention in 2006.
20-year-old heavyweight Michael Marrone, 12-0 (10 KOs) scored six career-building victories in 2005. Highlighted by a TKO 3 over Forrest Neal, Marrone also scored KOs over Curtis Taylor, Cliff Nellon, and Andre Ivanove, won by disqualification over Adam Smith and took a unanimous decision from Joseph Kenneth. Co-managers Lou Duva and Gus Curren have promised to begin stepping up the youngster’s competition in 2006, with televised showcases in the works. “I think, boxing wise, he’s really picked up; there has absolutely been a noticeable improvement over the course of the year,” said Duva. “I want to work on building his body up a little more, but he’s getting there. He’s jabbing and moving better, sitting down on his punches. I’m going to be looking to put him in about eight fights next year and show him on national television, if possible. Once that’s done, we’ll take him up another level, and then after that, it’s just a matter of getting the right matches. I think it’s going to be a good year.”
Welterweight punching machine Oscar “El Torito” Diaz, 23-1 (11 KOs), had a big 2005, solidifying himself as one of the most exciting television fighters in the world. Diaz’s ShoBox-televised victory over “Speedy” Gonzalez and his thrilling punch-out with Jessie Feliciano were two action-packed battles. Diaz will be looking to secure his first world title shot in 2006.
Brooklyn, New York’s Shauna George, 11-0-2 (5 KOs), had a title-winning year, picking up two regional titles with ten-round decisions over Chad Van Sickle and Jermell Barnes. George also fought to an ESPN2-televised draw with Willie Herring.Like Diaz, George, is positioning himself for his first try at a world title.
Another Duva Boxing prospect sitting on the verge of his first career-defining fight is New Jersey junior welterweight Kendall “Rated R” Holt, 20-1 (12 KOs). Holt had a big 2005, defeeating Jaime Rangel and scoring a nationally televised TKO 8 over former Olympian David Diaz.
Lightweight veteran Damian “Damo” Fuller, 25-4-1 (12 KOs), stayed active in 2005, fighting to nationally televised ten-round draw with John Brown in June and then trouncing Oklahoman Jerry Cooper in September. Fuller is now pursuing a fight with former WBO titlist Demarcus Corley.
Early in his career, Raymond Biggs Jr., 3-0 (3 KOs), is already drawing comparisons to some of brightest lights in the sport. With quickness, punching power and a strong amateur pedigree, Biggs will keep an active schedule in 2006, looking to establish himself in the welterweight division. Biggs will be back in action in January.
“We have big hopes and plans for these kids in 2006,” says promoter Dino Duva. “Obviously we feel that Sam Peter will be world champ by the end of the year, but also several of our young fighters will be breaking out into becoming contenders. Kirk Johnson is back on the trail and he still has the talent to become champ. Watch for us to be making a big push with Mike Marrone and moving him up in class as well.