Moving through labels of “prospect,” “contender,” and “champion” is an often long and arduous process. For 2008 U.S. Olympian and former World Amateur Champion Demetrius Andrade, the time to make the leap to true contender status by facing a better quality of opposition is now.
Andrade (17-0, 12 KOs), 24, has all the physical tools you look for in a prospect: naturally endowed speed, good fundamentals, knockout power, patience, and world-class pedigree. Sometimes the pressures of being an American Olympian lead to unrealistic expectations and the assumption of guaranteed future world champion status. Some fighters implode under the pressure (Ricardo Williams Jr., for instance), while others, like Andre Ward, rise to the occasion and become the next generation of boxing stars.
With the London Summer Olympics looming, it has almost been four years since Andrade represented his country at the pinnacle of amateur boxing. To be fair, Andrade’s underwhelming opposition is more a product of the young fighter’s promoters and managerial teams matching him soft. But maybe they are on to something. It does not seem that long ago that fans were imploring Andre Ward to step up his level of opposition. We all know how that turned out.
Andrade was last seen obliterating Rudy Cisneros (12-3, 11 KOs) of “Contender” television fame in an utter mismatch where Cisneros was knocked cold at the end of the first round.
Despite fighting an opponent who had only fought once since 2009, there was a lot to like about Andrade’s poise in the ring. Andrade showed a stiff southpaw jab that created openings for sweeping left hooks to both the head and body. He varied his attack and was, most impressively, able to score a concussive knockout by exploding forward with a right hand, left hook combination after being forced backwards.
I am going to give Andrade’s handlers the benefit of the doubt in how they are building him towards an eventual title shot. What follows is a short list of the three types of opponents I would like to see Andrade fight as soon as his next outing.
Opponent Type: An aging, former champion who still has a pulse.
The Prototype: Joachim Alcine (33-2-1, 19 KOs).
Had Alcine not turned back the clock and defeated Canadian prospect David Lemieux, this would be a terrible example. Alcine showed tremendous confidence and poise in the Lemieux fight, and his style and punch output was awkward enough to the point where he should present Andrade with gimmicks he has not seen before. Alcine is experienced but does not present the threat of a big puncher. Also, he has been brutally knocked out twice—the first time by Daniel Santos in an unsuccessful title defense, and more recently by Mexican brawler Alfredo Angulo.
As a former light middleweight titlist, Alcine would certainly present a step up in class, and he would give Andrade the chance to shine because of his suspect chin.
Opponent Type: A rugged brawler.
The Prototype: Alfonso Gomez (23-5-2, 12 KOs).
Gomez is a rugged fighter with a solid chin. Still, he can be hurt, as seen when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez tagged him in the sixth round of their fight, leading to a TKO stoppage. Gomez has moved up the ranks by beating faded former champions (Arturo Gatti, Jose Luis Castillo) and holds some good wins against the likes of Jesus Soto Karass.
More impressive is that it took six rounds for “Canelo” to solve the Gomez puzzle, and his fight with Alvarez was close and competitive up until the stoppage (which might have been a tad premature). Gomez would pressure Andrade and force him to fight moving backwards. Even though I feel Andrade would ultimately stop Gomez, a fight like this would force the American to dig deep for the duration.
Opponent Type: A true prospect tester and defensive ace.
The Prototype: Ishe Smith (23-5, 11 KOs).
Smith is coming of a nice stoppage win against Ayi Bruce, and the tactical Las Vegan would undoubtedly present the stiffest test for Andrade. While I doubt a matchup like this would be made, defeating a fighter of Smith’s caliber is essential if Andrade wants to become a champion.
Smith is an enigma. He is supremely talented, a defensive wizard, and has never been down or stopped. While he let fights against the likes of Sechew Powell, Joel Julio, and Daniel Jacobs slip through his grasp because he was not busy enough, Smith seems to have learned from his mistakes. His punch output has increased dramatically in recent fights, and he employs a devastating body attack that would test Andrade’s savvy unlike any previous opponent.
Smith arguably won his fight against Fernando Guerrero, and he holds quality wins against Pawel Wolak, Randall Bailey, and David Estrada. Given how Andrade’s handlers have traced his career path, a fight against the likes of Smith seems more plausible after a few more bouts. A fight like this would test whether Andrade can adapt and alter his game plan against a veteran who knows how to make mid-fight tactical adjustments.
Considering that Andrade has already whitewashed Grady Brewer (29-14, 16 KOs) via clear decision, it is time to increase his level of opposition and see if he can make the leap to becoming a true contender.