Antwun Echols and the Long Road Home


Don't tell Antwun Echols about second chances or redemption. He's back home in the Quad Cities to win and nothing else.

"It's not about pride," the two-time Bernard Hopkins foe says.

"It's about finishing what I started."

This one will mean a little more to the 41 year old Antwun Echols (32-19-4, 28 KO's). On February 23rd, he fights in his hometown for the first time in 12 years.

It's unique relationship between the cities and one of their most accomplished fighters. Echols is contrite about his past in Davenport, referring to a history that includes multiple arrests and shootings.

"How I was in the past is why I get a bad rap. I got what was mine. This is a new chapter," Echols says from his home in Dade City, FL.

Turning the page, Echols is eager for his chance against a hot prospect in the region.

"Ask Bernard Hopkins who hit him the hardest. He'll tell you Antwun Echols. No way I'm letting this kid beat me."

He faces rising Galesburg, IL middleweight George Carter (8-0, 6 KO's) for the CBA North American Middleweight Championship.The encounter between 26 year old George Carter and the former world title challenger, is a classic match of generations. The old attempting to stave off the new.

Carter isn't listening to those who point at Echols' long string of recent knockout losses.

"In my mind, I'm fighting the Antwun Echols from 15 years ago. I'm preparing like it's Floyd Mayweather standing across from me," Carter said before a recent workout in Galesburg.

The co-feature is another intriguing match between an older and younger fighter from the region.

Accomplished Moline fighter Gilbert Venegas has long been called the mythical "King of the Quad."

It's an unofficial title that Lance "Lay Em Down" Williams (4-0, 4 KO's) hopes to assume after the fight.

"It's my time," the former standout amateur says in quite confidence.

Supporters of both fighters are clear in their opinion, but Williams won't be one to trash talk before this contest for local bragging rights.

"I respect (Venegas) majorly. I grew up watching him win tournaments," the reserved Muscatine boxer shared.

Gilbert Venegas (15-6-1, 9 KO's) has his believers in the greater Quad Cities. Many in the gym circle quietly saying Lance has bit off more than he can chew with the experienced, 35 year old Venegas.

Williams plans on using a win over Venegas as a spring board for bigger opportunities in his career. According to Williams; he has an open invitation from Roger Mayweather to train in Las Vegas.

"To hear that from a great trainer like him was special."

Anticipation for the co-main event has created buzz in the area not seen since Davenport hosted the Michael Nunn-James Toney IBF title bout in 1991.

After a long absence, boxing has again become a fixture in the Midwest on the banks of the Mississippi.

Highlighting the undercard will be middleweight "Lightning" Limberth Ponce (2-0, 1 KO). Ponce, the 2012 Chicago Golden Gloves champion, will face Eli Smith 0-1 in his third pro bout.

Davenport natives Travis Thomas (1-0, 1 KO) and Donovan Dennis (1-0, 1 KO) will perform in front of their hometown fans.

The "Civil War" is presented in conjunction with Armer Boxing and Calkins Sports Productions.

Tickets are $20 for general admission and $75 ringside. The card will also be streamed live online at

Author Jeff Reiners is a failed broker turned columnist, sports writer, historian, web designer and investigative reporter. His upcoming book, The Underbelly; Boxing and the Business of Hurt, was called "Well thought," by Top Rank Senior PR Spokesman Lee Samuels, "I enjoyed every word of it."

Jeff grew up in Chicago, but now lives in Des Moines with his three loves; baby mamma Erin, daughter Avery and 90 lbs black lab Rose.

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