In June 2008 on ESPN's Friday Night Fights, a St. Louis prospect named Deandare Latimore scored an upset of Sechew Powell in New York City. That one win vaunted Latimore into the contending landscape at 154 pounds.
10 months later, Latimore returned to St. Louis to face veteran Cory Spinks for a vacant trinket. The crowd at the Scottrade Center, long a Spinks stronghold, was for the younger man at first, going so far as to boo Spinks. By the end of the night, with Spinks rallying toward victory, the crowd turned back in Spinks' favor. The veteran won the fight, the belt that went with it, and derailed the Latimore train a bit.
In March 2010, Latimore rematched Powell, this time losing a decision in Oklahoma. Since beating Powell the first time, Latimore has gone 3-2, beating soft foes. On Saturday in Connecticut, on the off-TV undercard of Berto-Ortiz, Latimore got a chance to showcase his stuff to the HBO folks in attendance, and won a wide eight-round decision over ragged veteran Dennis Sharpe.
Now he's ready to get back into contention.
"I give myself an A+ grade for my last fight," Latimore said. "I did everything we had worked on in training camp. I wanted to show HBO and everybody else what I can do; not only can I knockout people, I can box, move, not get hit and still be punishing.
"Paul Williams will find that out for himself if he fights me July 9th."
That's right, the 25-year-old Latimore (22-3, 17 KO) is targeting a July 9 fight with Paul Williams. Williams (39-2, 27 KO) is looking for a comeback opponent on HBO, back at 154 pounds, and Latimore is willing to step up and accept the challenge.
"I will knockout Paul Williams," Latimore stated. "I take nothing away from him. He's still one of the best fighters in the world but I'm near my prime and still getting better every day. It's time for me to break through and beating Williams on HBO is the way to do that.
"I think me and Williams makes for a great TV fight, one that fans want to see, and it should be easy to make, too. I'm looking for a big opportunity on one of the major networks to showcase the new, complete Deadre Latimore. Williams says he is the most avoided fighter in boxing. Well, I'm not avoiding him, and he needs to put up or shut up. Let's do it!"
Latimore's co-promoter,of Rumble Time Promotions, agrees that the fighter is ready for the step back into contention.
We know we have a finished Deandre Latimore. He went through a lot of trials and errors, but he's with the right trainer now, Ray Franklin, who was Kenny Adams' assistant when he trained Latimore."
Smith sees major improvement in Latimore. "When Deandre turned pro, he had that big punch, but not a lot of movement. Now, he does it all using jabs, angles and defense with a lot of movement and, as the boxing world knows, he can flat-out punch. He's also in the best cardio shape of his life because of Ray. When Deandre knocked down Spinks in the first round, he faded in the later rounds, but he doesn't have that problem anymore. Ray absorbed everything when he worked with Adams and strength and conditioning has always been his major strength.
"Power and movement is why Deandre will beat Paul Williams. It is the same combination that Sergio Martinez used to knockout Williams. I think we'll do the same thing with the same result. Paul Williams wasn't just knocked out in his last fight, he was demolished, and we think he's mentally done. A fighter never gets over something like that. As soon as he feel's Deandre's power, he will fold-up again."
And what if Williams doesn't face Latimore on July 9? "If Williams fails to accept our challenge," said Smith, "we'll fight Erislandy Lara any place, anytime."
One thing is for certain: Paul Williams is a big step up from the likes of Dennis Sharpe and Darien Ford. But Latimore has not shied from tough fights in the past, and the time could be just right for someone like Latimore to take a crack at Williams.