Mike Coppinger

Andrade ready to fulfill promise, starting with Hernandez

 

Demetrius Andrade (right) recently took on Virgil Hunter (left) as his trainer with the intent of taking his career to the next level. Hunter says the “sky is the limit for Andrade,” who fights Freddy Hernandez tonight on Showtime.

 

The 2008 Olympics only spawned one American medalist and was one of the least-celebrated boxing squads of all-time, but still produced some prospects with promising professional careers. Demetrius Andrade was near the top of that list, a big junior middleweight at 6-foot-1 with speed, athleticism and an educated jab.

More than four years later, Andrade’s career has stagnated in the pros and he’s lived far short of the high expectations set for him during the Beijing Summer Games. But at 24, he has plenty of time to realize those lofty goals. The road to title contention begins on Friday with his first ShoBox: The New Generation fight against fringe contender Freddy Hernandez at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, N.Y.

“It’s nice to be the ShoBox main event, that they recognize the skill and talent,” Andrade told RingTV.  “It’s just one of the steps you have to go through to be a main event on Showtime or HBO. My plan is to keep on rising to the occasion with better fighters and become a champion.

“Everybody is saying [Hernandez] is a good step-up. He’s a good fighter and it’s going to be a good experience for me.”

Andrade (18-0, 13 knockouts) enters the contest backed by a new chief cornerman in reigning Trainer of the Year Virgil Hunter. He decided to make the change after witnessing a fellow Olympian’s path to world champion and noticed the value Hunter brought to his camp.

“I wanted to have the same resources Andre Ward had,” said Andrade. “I want to be an undisputed world champ. My dad taught me everything I needed to know, as far as the basics and techniques, and Virgl has added into the mix – he’s not trying to change anything. As far as the strength and conditioning and taking the right supplements, all the resources I need are right here.”

Hunter was eager to add “Boo Boo” to his ever-growing stable of fighters at his Kings Boxing Gym in Oakland, Calif. The kind of quality sparring Andrade receives in the Northern California camps has been vital to the upstart’s developmentand Hunter believes Andrade can be a top fighter at the championship level.

“The sky is the limit for Andrade,” said Hunter, who also recently added Amir Khan and Alfredo Angulo to his team. “This fight will give everybody a good indication of where he is and what direction he’s going in. I’m excited about the progress he’s made; I think he’s going to the top.”

Andrade, of Providence, R.I., has been competing at junior middleweight, but both fighter and trainer admit he can’t make the weight much longer; Hunter said this is likely to be his last fight at the 154 pounds before jumping up to middleweight.

While Andrade may not have medaled, he received great exposure from the Olympics and also gained precious big fight experience, something he believes will aid him in attaining one his ultimate goals.

“It taught me how to compete on a big stage, be relaxed and just block out the crowd,” said Andrade, who twice bested rising junior middleweight Keith Thurman in the Olympic Trials. “Knowing there’s going to be a lot of people watching and trying to distract you [prepared me]. I love the sport. I’ve been doing it forever and as time goes on it turns into a business. I can take care of my family without working a day in my life if everything goes according to plan. “

It won’t be enough for Andrade to simply defeat Hernandez. While Hernandez represents the sternest test of his young career, he’s lost two of his last three fights. Fresh in the boxing public’s minds is Andre Berto’s one round destruction of Hernandez on HBO in 2010, so the onus is on Andrade to impress as he looks to graduate from ShoBox.

“Everybody has their opportunity and when the time comes I’ll be ready,” Andrade said. “If I had it my way, I’d be fighting for a title by the end of the year. My opportunity is coming and I’m going to take advantage of it.”

 

 

Photos / Tom Casino-SHOWTIME

Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger

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