Wilson's Jamar Freeman, left, plotting his next move against Miguel Queliz during their Wilson Fight Night bout in Feburary at Bill Ellis Convention Center, returns to the ring Thursday night at the Durham Armory to face Jeremy Ramos in a six-round middleweight main event.
Hunt graduate Austin Bryant, left, stands toe-to-toe with Akeen Brown during February's Wilson Fight Night card at Bill Ellis Convention Center. Bryant bids for a 4-0 start to his pro career Thursday night in the Durham Armory when he faces New York's Lawrence Gabriel. Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times
By Jimmy Lewis
The grind of the fight game at the professional level simply does not stop for Wilson boxers Jamar Freeman and Austin Bryant.
After resounding knockout victories in their hometown in February as part of Wilson-based Top Catz Boxing’s inaugural show, both fighters will quickly return to the ring Thursday night inside the Durham Armory.
Freeman (15-5-2, 8 KOs), a veteran middleweight, will associate with Top Catz for the second straight card as he takes on Jeremy “The Boxing Barber” Ramos (9-5, 4 KOs) in the evening’s six-round main event. Bryant, a product of Hunt High, goes for his fourth win in as many fights when he battles New York’s Lawrence Gabriel (1-0) in a four-round cruiserweight encounter.
Both fighters, reached Monday afternoon either at the gym or en route, had flashy stoppages at Bill Ellis Convention Center. Freeman, no stranger to opponents on short notice, dispatched replacement opponent Miguel Queliz in Wilson with a first-round body shot. Bryant took a bit longer, but still floored Akeen Brown in the second round.
It’s a significant fight for Freeman, who hopes to parlay a victory over Ramos into regaining some of his luster in the middleweight division. The combined record of the five opponents that have defeated Ramos sits at 71-15-3.
“I’m in great shape right now,” Freeman said. “I’m stronger, faster and I’m more prepared. I’m definitely prepared for this fight and for my future. The only thing with me has been preparation. Whenever I’ve had a chance to prepare for a fight without taking short-notice fights, I always come out on top.”
Thursday’s main event hasn’t been without an exchanging of words between the two camps. After Ramos’ team indicated that it reached out to Freeman for the bout, Freeman promised to make Ramos regret the decision.
“I just responded, letting them know it was a bad choice,” Freeman said. “It will show Thursday. That’s just my thing. I heard that they hand-picked me; so we’ll make them pay for it Thursday.”
In preparing for his fight with Gabriel, Bryant has stepped up his training under the tutelage of Leroy Gray.
“I think I’m more prepared for this fight than I have been any of my three fights,” Bryant said.
Indeed, the youngest fighter in the Top Catz stable may have no choice this time.
When Bryant steps between the ropes to face Gabriel on Thursday night, he’ll encounter an opponent that has overcome more than his fair share of adversity. Gabriel hasn’t fought since February of 2016, when he won his pro debut in a four-round unanimous decision.
But two years ago, Gabriel, a U.S. Army veteran, was shot multiple times while working as a bouncer at McAvan’s Pub in Syracuse and left in critical condition. After a number of surgeries, he was able to return to the ring.
“I expect him to be tough,” Bryant said. “But I’m going to walk through him.”
Gray, whose quips and one-liners can fill a scrapbook, opined that Bryant’s last opponent would receive a “ham sandwich and a cup of coffee” in the second round when predicting a knockout. Sure enough, Bryant dispatched his opposition in the second.
Gray predicted an identical fate for Gabriel, but wouldn’t offer up a meal this time.
“Not this time!” Gray said. “I’ve got a new thing for him. We’re going to step on his shoes and give him a dime’s change.”
Four fights on the card, including Bryant-Lawrence, feature battles of unbeatens. Top Catz founder and promoter Tony Meeks expects the event to be a sellout.
“What I really like about this is these young guys coming up are setting the example of you don’t have to keep a zero just to be good, just to be one of the best fighters,” Meeks said. “You’ve got other fighters who are up in the top 50 in the world that are trying to protect that 0. They’re trying to protect that loss by fighting lesser opponents to keep that security. It’s just wrong.”
Among the other fights featuring unbeatens are Marko Bailey (3-0) facing Vinnie Denierio (1-0) in a lightweight bout; Donnie Marshall (3-0) drawing Carltavius Jones Johnson (1-0) in the super welterweight division; and new Top Catz signee Carlos Olmeda (1-0) facing Usiel Hernandez in the super featherweight division.
In the heavyweight ranks, Nathaniel Williams makes his pro debut against Brandon Maske (0-1). Osnel Charles (10-16-1) is the opponent of Joseph Figueroa (11-61-5) in a super lightweight contest, while promising Top Catz prospect Anthony Sonnier (1-0) battles Sean O’Malley (0-1), also a super lightweight bout.
Johnny Mitchell (0-3) opposes Alan Lawrence in his pro debut. All fights, with the exception of the Freeman-Ramos main event, are scheduled for four rounds.
As for Top Catz, Meeks is well aware of the criticism from social media and other sources that came the promotion’s way after their debut card in February, where below-average matchmaking produced a number of one-sided contests. Six of the 10 fights didn’t get out of the first round, and none made it to the scorecards.
“The card was one-sided a lot,” Meeks said. “Not that I approved of that — trust me; that’s not what I wanted to see. But we did have some good fights in there. Part of the people that’s coming down on me and maybe saying stuff are saying...look, it’s a business. And in any business you’re in, especially in the entertainment business, you’re always going to have people that are trying to come up with some kind of negative statements to make. And that’s fine. That goes along with it. The more that we get negative and positive input, the better for us. Because I learn from both sides of it.”