This Friday night, the duo of Joseph Elegele and Edner Cherry return to co-headline at the A La Carte Pavilion in Tampa, Florida, just as they did back on February 19th, when they both scored first-round knockouts. For Elegele, it’s all part of what has basically been a monthly schedule of fights, since turning professional back in November.
His record now stands at 7-0 with 5 knockouts and this will be his second bout in a two-week span. His last bout took place on May 22nd at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT, where he scored a highlight reel knockout of John DeJean in the first round. It was a vicious knockout, one caused by a blistering right-hook that had DeJean dangling in the air for a split-second, before collapsing in a heap.
When asked if he had ever drilled anyone that hard before, Elegele laughs and says, "I mean, in the amateurs, yeah. But y’ know, I just caught him nicely. I want to see that shot again."
Elegele has been kept busy; outside of March, he has fought every month.
"I think I’m developing well," he told Maxboxing. "TKO [Boxing Promotions] is moving me real well. They know what they’re doing, so I think, by the end of this year, I should be top-notch, really ranked." Elegele says of his activity, "I like it; I’m always in shape. As long as they keep moving me, giving me these days, I continue to be sharper and sharper as I go."
At right around six-feet-tall, Elegele is unusually tall and rangy for his weight class. The plan is for him to compete eventually as a junior welterweight.
"I think Joe is a kind of freak of nature," said his trainer, Tony Morgan, who also works with WBC welterweight titlist, Andre Berto. "He’s a tall left-hander that can punch. You don’t see that a lot, especially being able to carry the weight of 140-pounds, for as big as he is. Everybody that sees him without a shirt on, they say, ’There’s no way that kids 140-pounds.’" Morgan believes Elegele’s upside is as high as Berto’s. "Oh, yeah; I think so, 100-percent. And there’s so many opportunities at the 140-pound weight class. I believe he’s gotten in at the perfect time. I really think he’s going to make some noise; I really do. Because I watch the best of the best and Joe is right there with any of them."
Elegele is managed by Cameron Dunkin, who believes he has a legitimate blue-chip prospect, "He’s really done well. He looked like such a talented guy, but he didn’t have all of the big background fights of some of the other guys and he didn’t have the 150 amateur fights and everything. But you could just see the speed and the power and reflexes. He really came on and he looks terrific."
On Friday night, he is scheduled to face Hensley Strachan.
"He’s got his first six-round bout this week in front of his hometown fans, again," said Chris Middendorf, CEO of TKO Boxing Promotions. "I’m sure he’ll do terrific. It’s exciting to watch when you are working with a fighter like this and, every fight, you see him improving. You know, at some point, he’s going to level off but, while they’re headed up, it’s so much fun." And the plan is to keep him busy early on. "When you have somebody who looks that good and keeps improving, clearly, whatever he’s doing with his trainer is working and his mindset is right. It just makes sense to keep moving him."
This strategy suits Dunkin just fine. "That’s all I wanted to do. I just want to give him more experience and I sat down with Chris and I told him, ’Let’s see if we can fight him 11, 12 times the first year and give him the experience that he needs and then start settling him down and start worrying about more rounds. But, at first, let’s just get him a lot of action."
Morgan is on the same page; in an era when most boxers simply don’t fight enough, they are more than glad to have the opportunity to perform so often. The trainer says, "I love TKO; they are doing an exceptional job. We signed a deal for seven or eight fights and they said, ’Hey, don’t worry about it; we’ll keep you as busy as you want to be.’ And I love the fact that you’re keeping young fighters busy because it propels them. Especially when they’re talented, it propels them where they need to be, quickly. Of course, I’m in no rush. We do things very slow- same thing with like Berto- I like the fact that they kind of let me control the pace, when and where, along with Cameron, my co-manager."
While this show is taking place in Tampa and he trains out in Winter Haven with Morgan at the Winter Haven P.A.L. Gym, Elegele makes it clear that he hails from Melbourne, Florida, which is located approximately 60 miles southeast of Orlando and midway between Jacksonsville and Miami.
"Melbourne, [area code] 321, Brevard County," points out Elegele, who reportedly wasn’t too pleased when a recent fight poster listed his hometown as Winter Haven. "Melbourne’s what made me," he points out. "I’m over here in Winter Haven because I’m with Tony Morgan. I turned pro, that’s who I started with. So I’m just over here training, I’m not from here. I’m from Melbourne, Florida."
Morgan has known of Elegele for years, starting with his days as a young teenager in the amateur ranks. Morgan recalls, "I saw him and he was starting to come on a little bit in the fight game; as he progressed into the open division, he did real well." But because Melbourne isn’t exactly Mayberry, he ended up with Elegele, at the insistence of his amateur coach, Gary Gregory." Gary called me about a year-and-a-half ago and told me he was interested in Joe going pro and he didn’t really trust anybody and I told him, ’Well, Gary, you know I’d gladly help you out,’ and he said, ’I’d really like to get Joe outta here,’ because [of] the street element in Melbourne. It was bad news."
Elegele and Morgan officially hooked up about four months before his professional debut. Since then, it’s full steam ahead and the focus is on making the adjustment to the professional game, eventually making his way down to 140 pounds.
"It’s funny," says Elegele, who’s 25 years old, "because when I was an amateur, the bigger gloves and the headgear used to bother me. But now that I’m [a] pro, I’m not nervous at all. I just go out there and it’s natural to me." As for his ability to shave down a few more pounds, he states confidently, "Right now, I just got out the gym; I’m about 145. I fought 145 my whole amateur career. So 140’s no problem to me. I’m six-feet and 140’s no problem."
If Elegele is the future, those around “The Cherry Bomb” believe that he is the present at junior lightweight. Since inking a deal with TKO, Cherry has scored three early knockouts since December.
"He’s a phenom; Edner is phenomenal at 130. Edner’s strength is unmatched by any man in boxing. I truly believe that," said Morgan, who also works with Cherry. "Edner, at 130 pounds, is an absolute destruction waiting to happen. He is so ungodly strong. I get scared when he and Joe spar. I try to not even let ’em spar, because, it’s like, people should have to pay to watch that sparring. I’m telling you, it’s atrocious."
In the past, Cherry has developed a reputation as an entertaining television fighter who gets beat at the elite levels of the sport. But that came at junior welterweight; they believe it’s a whole different ballgame at 130. Dunkin, who also handles Cherry, says, "We would go right now; he’s ready to go. We would go right now, and at 130 pounds, he’s going to be a beast. He’s going to be a hard, hard guy to beat. If not, he’ll just fight this weekend and we’ll keep battling to get him in the rankings and get him a big fight. He’s ready at anytime."
The junior lightweight division looks to be wide open and it currently lacks true star power, with names like Vitali Tajbert, Takashi Uchiyama and Roman Martinez currently holding the major belts within this weight class. But, as of right now, Cherry is unranked by any of the major sanctioning bodies.
But Middendorf says, "I think there are going to be some opportunities for him. He’s got a good name; he’s always fought at higher weights. He’s blowing people out at 130, not that we’re putting him with really tough guys, but he clearly is a much bigger, stronger kid at 130 than he was fighting Tim Bradley at 140. So I think he’s got good enough name recognition. We should get a shot with him."
The show in Tampa isn’t their only show of the week. Before they head out to Florida, they’ll stage “Fight Night at the Commerce 3: Fully Stacked” at the Commerce Casino in Commerce, California on Thursday night, that features flyweight prospect Leo Santa Cruz and former middleweight title challenger Giovanni Lorenzo, along with prospects Randy Caballero and the Chudinov brothers.
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