Boxing people don’t always do a great job at playing up the positive aspects of the sport, including reminding others that boxing helps those who’d otherwise fall in between the cracks pull themselves up by the proverbial bootstraps.
We were reminded of this on Sunday night, when former two-time junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson, who bounced around from foster homes to the streets and had to do what was necessary to survive as a kid on his own, retired in the ring. In front of his hometown rooters, he lost to former IBF beltholder Sergey Lipinets but then took the mic, thanked his fans and announced he’d hang up the gloves.
Boxing gave Peterson a reason for being and this lifeline is grabbed by youths every day of the week. On the most recent “Talkbox” podcast, we chatted with 23-year-old bantamweight prospect Jarico O’Quinn, who holds an 11-0-1 (with 8 knockouts) mark and gloves up April 13, in support of a Claressa Shields vs. Christina Hammer main event.
Right off the bat, “Juh-Rico” is how you pronounce that first name.
O’Quinn grew up in Detroit, or “The D” as locals call it, and, yes, he wasn’t living the high life growing up.
“I grew up in Detroit; that speaks a lot right there,” he told us. “I grew up in a fighting life and in gang activity. I was always fighting and I had a passion for it and I didn’t even know it. I was playing basketball and stuff and I had a passion for fighting. I just loved fighting and I started at a young age. Obviously I was winning; I never lost a street fight.”
Yes, that life exists out there, far away from many of us who are cordoned off from it, insulated. But no, school life isn’t for everyone…and many households are struggling homes, where maybe work is scarce and food isn’t copious. People are cutting and scratching and often falling in between those cracks. However the fighting life seemingly saved one kid in O’Quinn.
He found a rec center near his house and asked his parents for permission. Mom said no. What if you get cut up like those we are watching on this TV right now? That won’t happen to me, the kid promised. Mom relented and signed off.
The Michigan resident fought over 140 amateur fights, then turned pro in April 2015. He recalled that his family struggled growing up. His dad, he said, taught him how to be a man. “I just had it hard growing up,” O’Quinn admitted. “Every time I get in that ring, it’s do or die. That’s all I got!”
Promoter Dmitriy Salita enthuses mightily about the kid, “Jarico is one of the most talented prospects from the U.S. in all of the weight divisions. Being a super flyweight makes it difficult to get noticed but he is definitely the best from the U.S. in his weight class and I know that, in the near future, he will be able to fight the champions in his weight class. April 13th will be a great opportunity for him to showcase his skills in front of top national U.S. media, which I am very happy about it. He is a throw back to the days of Tim Austin and (Mark) ‘Too Sharp’ Johnson…They were so good you had to take notice. Jarico is an American super flyweight and it’s a given his incredible amateur pedigree and impressive start in the pros that people will take notice. I think he will be another great Detroit fighter!”
O’Quinn scraps against Vicente Alfaro Martinez, a 9-4 (with 3 KOs) Mexican, who has been stopped twice. “Whatever game plan we come up with, we gonna execute it from round one and I don’t think it’s gonna go eight rounds. I know he is coming off upsetting his last few opponents. We’re coming in to make a statement like we always do. And it’s not gonna go eight rounds!”
He continued, “I will be ready for whatever. I’m ready for war. I’m ready to box. I’m in the best shape of my life and April 13, I’m gonna be crowned a king again and I’m gonna come out on top and I’m gonna give the glory to God like I always do.”
And don’t think we didn’t ask tough questions…What about that blemish, that draw? It came August 2017, against 2-3 Jose Elizondo. O’Quinn offered an explanation, not an excuse. He was working construction, up to the day before the weigh-in. He worked a 90-pound jackhammer and his body felt the effects, “It made me more determined and ambitious…We live and we learn; we make mistakes…If you ever want to see me hit the canvas again, you gotta find that old footage because it won’t happen again. I will do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Salita will announce information on how to watch the undercard of Shields-Hammer, so it’s quite possible you will be able to watch O’Quinn, even if you don’t travel to Atlantic City. “I’m lookin’ to steal the show,” he concluded.
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