Crossroads for Kooner, title shot for Troy
Both bouts may be long overdue, GTA residents and and two-time Olympians will face the biggest fights of their careers in the next few weeks.
First up is Andrew Signh Kooner, a Windsor native who lives and trains in Mississauga, and a bantamweight who can earn the NABA title if he defeats Mexico's Jose Silveira Saturday night at the Powerade Centre in Brampton.
True, the NABA belt is a minor title but winning it is a major steppingstone for Kooner, who at 31 is too old to a prospect but whose 10-2 record doesn't quite make him a contender.
In fairness, Kooner's second loss was a function of rotten luck -- a first-round clash of heads opened a huge gash during a fight in England, where local rules didn't allow for a no-contest. Kooner couldn't continue because of the cut, so Kooner was ruled the loser.
Tough break, but that's boxing.
Either way, the clock is ticking on Kooner's career -- and he knows it.
Kooner represented Canada in the 2000 Olympics and considered turning pro afterward, but instead remained an amateur for four more years, reaching the quarterfinals in Athens in 2004. On top of the delayed decision to turn pro, a bicep injury cost Kooner several months of training and competition in 2008 and 2009, so when he's enters the ring Sartuday night he's not just facing Silveira, who owns an identical 10-2 pro record.
And he won't just confront an opponent whose manager's trash talk blurs the line between ethnic pride and race-baiting.
He's up against the celendar, too.
Of course, Kooner's date of birth isn't his destiny. Boxing history is full of fighters who peaked in their 30s. Manny Pacquiao is a much better boxer at 30 than he was at 26, and Floyd Mayweather just turned in the most impressive performance of his career at age 33.
But a few masterpieces from fighters on the far side of 30 doesn't change the fact that boxing is a young man's game, and that if Kooner wants to make the leap from pretty good pro to world class boxer he needs to win impressively Saturday night and parlay that victory into bigger things.
His 2000 Olympic teammate, Troy Ross, knows that feeling.
Like Kooner, Ross stayed amateur for a second Olympic games (losing in his first bout at the Sydney games) instead of riding the momentum of the Atlanta Olympics into a pro career in 1996.
The ups, downs, delays and detours Brampton's Ross has experienced since turning pro in 2001 are well-documented, but an 11-fight win streak plus a February 2009 victory on the reality TV series "The Contender" put him in line for a shot at the IBF Cruiserweight title.
The IBF ordered the fight in February and negotiations lasted two months, but last week everyone involved signed off on a June 5 showdown. How world title bout between a Canadian and an American winds up in Germany is beyond me, but if you have SuperChannel you can catch the fight live, with the broadcast beginning at 1 p.m. Toronto time.
It's an important theme for Ross too -- time
His career has had so many false starts I began confusing him for Linford Christie, but nine years into his pro career his title fight is finally signed, sealed and all but delivered.
And deliver he must.
Ross's first world title shot comes six weeks before his 35th birthday, an age when many top fighters are packing it in -- or should be, anyway. If he doesn't defeat Cunningham next month, he can't afford to wait nine more years for a second title shot and I'm pretty sure he doesn't plan to.
For Ross, the June 5 bout isn't just a title shot.
It's a career.
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