Kid Stark dealing with loss, thinking about future

By Ramon Rodriguez


Kid Stark dealing with loss, thinking about future

You’ve heard it before. A fighter suffers a quantum setback, then later realizes why. The excuses are abundant, and sometimes legitimate, but they usually fall on deaf ears. One week after a fight, hardly anyone cares if there were distractions in a fighter’s training camp. No sympathizes with why making weight for a fight is so grueling. All they know is that the boxer got beat.  It’s just like that.

So I won’t pester you by telling you why Gary Stark Jr. thinks he got knocked out in his last fight. In fact, he’ll tell you himself he just did. Even if there were excuses, Stark wouldn’t expect you to reflect on them if he himself didn’t. He doesn’t want your sympathy. You wouldn’t know what it’s like to crumple over by a punch in front of hundreds of people in your hometown anyway.

Back in February, Stark (18-2, 8 KOs) dropped an undeserved decision to fellow prospect Mike Oliver for a regional 122-pound title, his first appearance on ShoBox. Against Oliver, Stark assertively outboxed his opponent for the majority of twelve rounds but somehow lost on all three judges’ scorecards.

Following that loss, Stark began preparing for his next fight in early May against the limited but durable Andres Ledesma, hoping to regain some steam by headlining his first show on Lou DiBella’s Broadway Boxing at the Hammerstein Ballroom, New York City’s most recognized venues for budding prospects.

The plan was to make a strong statement against Ledesma and keep the momentum going, much like in 2006 when Stark defeated veteran Luis Bolano and later won the New York super bantamweight title.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, Stark wound up getting knocked out in frightening fashion from a Ledezma combination. That night, Stark seemed to dictate every second of every round until the fifth, when he was knocked out.

Understandably shaken by such an unsettling defeat, Stark shut himself away in his home in the days after the fight, hoping to escape the venom of rabid fans and cynical writers.

“I was heartbroken. I was ashamed to show my face. I would just stay at the house all day,” Stark says gloomily. “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me in my career. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. Everybody has a sad story. I guess this is mine.”

One can’t help but feel somewhat sorry for Stark, who is one of the most upbeat and lively young fighters in the sport of boxing. It’s hard not to. He’s too friendly, too charming. He is that guy that you can't stay angry at for more than five minutes.

But for all his charisma, Stark will tell you how he’s felt the brunt of negativity from the boxing industry.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘See, I told you the kid was never any good.’ I’ve heard websites say I suck,” Stark reveals calmly. “You have to have a strong mental game for this boxing. A lot of people that experience this might quit. They might doubt themselves. You can’t do that. You have to be a bigger man.”

Which is why, since his loss to Ledesma, Stark has constantly surrounded himself with people he feels closest to. People he’s grown up with, people who won’t sneer at him while he’s at his self-proclaimed “all-time low.” People he says, who really do love him.

“I surround myself with good people who know what I’m about,” says Stark. “I was ashamed through all of this but my true friends and family stuck by me. They’d say, ‘Kid, don’t let it get you down. It happens to the best.’”

From promoters Lou DiBella and Damon Dash to friend and fellow stable-mate Jaidon Codrington to buddy Kendall Holt, who have both similarly experienced devastating knockout losses, all these individuals have stood by Stark to support him.

And none more important than Gary Stark Sr., Stark’s father, trainer, and best friend.

“My father—he has that tough love. He’s a real hard-nosed guy. A couple of times while I wouldn’t leave the house, he would tell me, ‘Stop being a little bitch. Let’s go. You have to move on,’” Stark says with a laugh. “My father’s always there to pick me up every time I’m down. He always has an answer for my problems.”

In order to move on with his career, Stark spent some time away from the gyms, vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and Miami to reevaluate everything that’s happened to him since losing to Mike Oliver.

“I feel I’m one of the better fighters in my weight class. If I didn’t believe that, I’d be nothing,” Stark says confidently. “I just have to come back and build my record up.”

For those who might scoff at him, Stark points to the successes of Holt and Codrington, who have both revitalized their professional careers since being knocked out.

Back in 2004, Holt lost by technical knockout in the first round to unheralded Thomas Davis. Since then, Holt has defeated David Diaz and Mike Arnaoutis while positioning himself for a title shot against Ricardo Torres, the only fighter to have ever knocked down Miguel Cotto.

Meanwhile, Codrington has rolled off six straight wins including a decisive victory over veteran Carl Daniels since being knocked out by Allan Green in the first round of a 2005 fight.

Stark knows the odds of impressing even his strongest critics are heavily stacked against him. He understands that no matter how far his career progresses, people will always point to his loss to Ledesma as a sign of weakness, saying he has a weak chin.

Stark though, who has been boxing since age five, thinks otherwise. He believes that knockout was simply an anomaly.

“I’ve never been knocked out. I’ve never been shaken up like that. I had seen Ledesma fight before and I thought he was good. But when I was in the ring with him, it felt so easy. I was like, ‘This guy can’t even faze me. This guy’s not even in my league.’ But then I made the mistake of dropping my left hand,” Stark says. “It’s not like I was getting whooped the whole fight. I don’t think I lost a second of that fight. I just got caught. Even if that knockout was a lucky shot, there’s a lot of those in boxing, so I can’t blame anybody but myself.”

It’s just like that.

So what’s next for Stark? Probably a tune-up or two before he gets back on the long winding road to a title shot. You may not care who he fights or how he performs from now on. Why, you might even find yourself rooting against Stark in the future. That’s okay. That’s an element of the boxing industry, I guess. But it’s one Stark has grown quite comfortable with now.

“Haters want you to do bad. When I do good, they hate on me. When I do bad, I get more hate,” says Stark. “I must be doing something right.”

It’s just like that.


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