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Andrade ready to rise to the top of a new weight class

Whatever has happened in the past to derail the rise of Demetrius Andrade's career, the two-time junior middleweight world titleholder has put it in the past.

Andrade says the days of the protracted layoffs, small-time fights and petty bickering with his co-promoters, Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing and Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions, are over. It's time for a new beginning, time to let American boxing fans see his talent once again and, more significantly, time to impress them. It's time to get them on the bandwagon and have them calling to see him face big names in the star-studded middleweight division.

Demetrius Andrade
"Now the ball is in my court," Andrade said. "All eyes are definitely on me for this fight right here."

Andrade, who holds a secondary 154-pound world title, is moving up to the 160-pound middleweight division for the first fight of a new alliance with HBO. He will face Alantez Fox (23-0-1, 11 KOs), 25, of Forestville, Maryland, in a scheduled 12-round bout on Saturday night (HBO, 10:05 p.m. ET/PT) at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

In the main event, junior lightweight world titleholder Jezreel Corrales (22-1, 8 KOs), 26, of Panama, will make his third defense when he meets fellow southpaw Alberto Machado (18-0, 15 KOs), 27, of Puerto Rico. The "Boxing After Dark" telecast will also include same-day taped coverage of the bantamweight world title unification fight between Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9 KOs), 25, of Northern Ireland, and Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18 KOs), 33, of Kazakhstan, both of whom are making their first defenses. They will meet at SSE Arena in Belfast, Burnett's hometown.

Andrade's performance will go a long way toward helping him move to a future fight with one of the top middleweights, where the division's best are aligned with HBO, including unified champion Gennady Golovkin, superstar Canelo Alvarez, former titlist David Lemieux and former titlist Daniel Jacobs, who signed a contract with the network last month.

"It's a great feeling to be back where I need to be, back in prime time and back on HBO, which is supporting me and backing me," Andrade said. "My activity level is going to be back up and running. No more layoffs. I'm excited to come out, and I put on a show against Fox. Not a lot of people want to step up and fight me, so thanks to Fox for that. I appreciate that. He's going to help make me a superstar, so thank you, Alantez Fox."

It won't happen right away, but Andrade nevertheless believes he will get his chance for a major fight. "I thank HBO for the opportunity so I can become the next big thing and get in the ring with Triple G and Canelo. It only makes sense. Who else is there to fight out there that's going to bring in the recognition but me, an Olympian, an undefeated two-time world champion?"

To many, Andrade (24-0, 16 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw from Providence, Rhode Island, could have -- and should have -- been a star years ago. He was an accomplished amateur, the 2007 world amateur champion and a 2008 U.S. Olympian. He has pound-for-pound level skills, a big personality and the ability to get off a good one-liner, such as the time following his 12th-round stoppage of Willie Nelson in June 2016, when he told the media at the postfight press conference to bring him any opponent whose name began with a C -- Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto or the Charlo twins, Jermell and Jermall.

Andrade's career had moved along smoothly. He was developed on ESPN2's old "Friday Night Fights" series and then made the jump to HBO, winning a vacant title in late 2013, then looking spectacular in a seventh-round knockout of Brian Rose in June 2014. However, then came the squabbling with his promoters and a 16-month layoff, during which time he was stripped of his world title. He also turned down a multifight contract with Showtime, which would have kicked off with a December 2014 fight against Jermell Charlo.

Andrade claims that Roc Nation Sports was interested in buying his promotional contract from DeGuardia and Pelullo and promised him $550,000, the same amount of his would-be purse to face Charlo, if he turned down the fight to allow them more time to finalize the contract purchase. The alleged deal went south. Andrade never got the money, and the promoters sued Roc Nation for interfering with Andrade's agreement. Andrade also sued Roc Nation for the $550,000. The matter is still in litigation, but it cost Andrade dearly.

"After the Roc Nation debacle, it's been a long, hard road to get him back on HBO," Pelullo said. "It probably set him back three years."

Andrade returned for a non-televised low-level fight in October 2015 and got a chance to face Nelson on Showtime in June 2015. But even after a tremendous performance, Showtime showed little interest in his next fight. Andrade was off for another nine months before going to Germany as the mandatory challenger for secondary titlist Jack Culcay. Andrade won a split decision, but that fight also had no U.S. television outlet.

"It's not something I wanted to do, go overseas, but it was something that had to be done," Andrade said. "Other than that, what was my option? I don't got time to sit and wait for guys like Canelo. I destroyed Willie Nelson, and he would have given anyone a hard time. And then I went out to Germany, and while it wasn't my greatest performance, I did what I had to do to win."

He had hoped to parlay that victory into a mandatory fight against titlist Erislandy Lara. However, the WBA put off ordering the fight, leaving Andrade and his team frustrated.

"I took the fight [with Culcay] because I was told it would mean a Lara fight after that," Andrade said. "But then he went and fought someone else. They don't really want to fight me. I'm trying to give the fans fights they want to see. The other side doesn't want to do that."

Lara was given an optional defense to face Terrell Gausha, whom he easily outpointed in a dreadful fight on Showtime last Saturday, during which most of the crowd left.

"I went to Germany for low money and took the risk so the Lara fight could happen. I took the step that I had to take for that fight [to] happen, and you see what side didn't want the fight," Andrade said. "Lara talks about how I priced myself out. How do I price myself out when I went to Germany for low money? Right now I'm focused on Alantez Fox. His '0' got to go. I'm not worried about Lara. I'm on HBO and looking to fight anyone who can fight on HBO."

The opening for Andrade came at HBO, in part because of his willingness to move up in weight, but also because of HBO's own situation. It had seen Top Rank take all of its fighters to ESPN for a long-term deal a few months ago. That left HBO with money to spend and in search of the best available talent to take the place of Top Rank fighters such as Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko on the network's schedule. Andrade, clearly the top fighter available, was willing to move up to middleweight, where the network is so heavily invested.

"Timing is everything," Pelullo said. "Arum leaving HBO and Demetrius being a real player at 154, and now going to 160, he fits into the picture with Canelo, Golovkin, Lemieux and Jacobs. There are a lot of fighters there, and they fight on HBO. We're hoping that Demetrius wins and it will lead to one of those fights. I think Demetrius will look very good at 160 pounds. He won't have to worry about cutting the weight, and he'll be a lot stronger. He's going to shine and be a real force at 160."

HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson, who made the deal to bring Andrade to the network, said bringing him aboard made perfect sense. "Obviously, we're invested heavily at middleweight. Some of the top talent in the world is at middleweight," Nelson said. "There's Canelo, Golovkin, we have Daniel Jacobs fighting on Nov. 11, and just announced David Lemieux will face [titleholder] Billy Joe Saunders on Dec. 16. So in light of all of that, Andrade certainly can figure into that mix. But a lot of guys will look at him as high risk, low reward, so he's going to have to earn it.

"Demetrius Andrade is a brilliant craftsman," Nelson continued. "He's got one of the highest ring IQs in the sport, and he knows that if he's going to build a real fan base, become a star, he's got to earn it. So he has to go out and perform. Whether he does is what we're going to find out on Saturday night."

For the first time in a long time, there is no drama in Andrade's career. He and his promoters are in sync for a change, and a plan endorsed by HBO is in place.

"We're all on the same page, and now the agenda is to get him the best and biggest financial fights possible," Pelullo said.

Now it's up to Andrade to shine. "I can't tell you what I'm gonna do. Just tune in and watch what I'm gonna do," he said. "Watch me and say, 'Damn, that boy is good.' I'm still young, tall, black and handsome. I have plenty of time. Don't get hit a lot. Boxing is missing me. It was frustrating for me what's happened, but the fans will see me, and they'll know this kid's the truth. This is perfect timing. You will see the cream rise to the top."

Author: Dan Rafael, ESPN
Source: http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/21076756/demetrius-andrade-ready-take-next-step

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