It’s already been a busy 2017 for Justin DeLoach. After chalking up a stunning knockout victory in February, “The Chosen One” did some work this month outside the squared circle as a ringside analyst during an FS1 “Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays” broadcast.
While DeLoach has pondered a future behind the mic after his boxing days are over, those days likely aren’t coming anytime soon.
Justin DeLoach (17-1, 9 KOs) unquestionably has made the transition from prospect to contender in the 154-pound division over the past year, going 4-0 with two KOs against opponents who were a combined 57-1-1 entering the ring.
The 6-foot-1 boxer-puncher started 2016 with a fourth-round highlight KO of hometown hero Dillon Cook (16-0) in Miami, Oklahoma, in March, then outboxed Junior Castillo (10-0) in an eight-round unanimous decision in June. He concluded the year in September by earning a 10-round unanimous decision over Domonique Dolton in Las Vegas.
DeLoach brought in 2017 with a loud bang last month as he announced himself with a crushing second-round KO of Chris Pearson (14-1) in Temecula, California, on a ShoBox: The New Generation broadcast on Showtime.
With DeLoach’s stock rapidly on the rise, we caught up with the Augusta, Georgia, native in between fights and asked him about his climb toward a title shot, the pecking order in the talented 154-pound division and how losing actually helped his career.
How do you think you did during your broadcast debut on FS1 for Sergiy Derevyanchenko’s stoppage of Kemahl Russell on March 14?
I think I did pretty well. I’m very impressed with myself. That was one of my dreams after boxing, to commentate, and I knew one day I would be able to do that. I have a lot of room to grow, but I felt like I did great. I just look forward to doing it again.
My biggest critic is my fiancée, Shenaye Coleman. She was telling me that I fumbled a little bit and that I was a little repetitive with some of my words. I need to switch it up a little bit and study my vocabulary some more, but she was basically telling me that I have another gift and that I need to work on that like I do on boxing.
You’ve won seven straight fights since being stopped in the third round by Cesar Vila in February 2015 for your only career defeat. How did losing affect your mindset?
I know it sounds crazy, but I feel like that was something I needed. That loss ended up being a great thing for me. I learned a lot that night. There’s a sign hanging in our gym that says, “Some losses are more important than victories.”
As a young and upcoming fighter, I was training with the Charlo twins, Jermall and Jermell, and Edwin Rodriguez when I was with [trainer] Ronnie Shields. Just being around those guys, that put a lot of pressure on a young fighter.
I was fighting myself and I was fighting my record. Everybody wants to be Floyd Mayweather Jr. But once I took my first loss, I realized that I can only be Justin DeLoach, and that’s why I’m writing my own story.
That loss really shaped and molded me. I’ve returned to the old-school approach, back when champions took a loss and got right back into it. It’s not about the loss, but how you come back from it.
I’m ready to fight the best. I feel like I’ve been doing that ever since that loss, and I want to keep on doing that.
Since the beginning of 2016, you’ve beaten four guys who had a combined record of 57-1-1. What statement did you make with those wins?
I felt like what did in 2016, and the start of this year with Chris Pearson, no other prospect has done that. I was the only young prospect who was fighting the lions. I think I was the underdog in all those fights.
So, for me to come in and sweep those guys, I feel like I really made a statement and put the world on notice.
Can you describe your feelings after your win over Pearson, who was 14-1 with 10 KOs and had never been stopped before you did so in the second round?
I was supposed to fight Chris in September, but he was replaced by Domonique Dolton. Chris was trash-talking and saying a lot of disrespectful things online. I wasn’t playing any games going into that fight, and I studied him really well.
I thought to myself, “He ain’t for real.” I saw right through Chris. He wasn’t hungry like I was hungry. They asked me after the fight if I was surprised that I knocked him out, and I told them, honestly, no, because that’s exactly what I was training for.
How does it feel to have knocked out a guy promoted by Floyd Mayweather Jr.?
I knew it was a Mayweather Promotions card, so I felt like I wasn’t fighting only Chris Pearson, but also Mayweather and the whole Money Team. They stick together, so when I got the victory, I looked at Floyd, like, “I just got a win on you.”
“ [My one] loss really shaped and molded me. I’ve returned to the old-school approach, back when champions took a loss and got right back into it. It’s not about the loss, but how you come back from it. ” Justin DeLoach
How did it feel to be mentioned as one of the top young 154-pound contenders during the FS1 broadcast?
I just said to myself, “It’s about time.” I feel like I’m working harder and fighting tougher opposition, and I think that you’ll see the results in the long run as I climb the ladder and begin to appear in those championship fights. I’ve been through so much adversity, that’s mentally prepared me for the future.
Focusing on champions Canelo Alvarez, Erislandy Lara, Jermell Charlo, Jarrett Hurd and Demetrius Andrade, how do you rank the top fighters in the 154-pound division?
I rank them on the opponents they’ve fought, so I would have to go with Canelo, Lara, Andrade, Jermell and then Hurd. That’s how I would rank them.
In your quest to compete for a world title, who do you want to fight next?
I want to unify the division, like Keith Thurman did [at 147], and I think Jarrett Hurd is the first guy that I would start with and then work my way up. I’ve watched Hurd since he knocked out Oscar Molina [last June], and Dolton fought Molina [to a majority draw in September 2015].
Somebody made a poster about me and Hurd, and his fans swarmed me saying I don’t want to fight “Swift” Jarrett Hurd. I’m not a talker, but once they crossed that line, he was on my radar.
If you could pick the brain of any fighter in the world, living or dead, who would it be and what would you ask?
I would choose two fighters, definitely starting with Floyd Mayweather. Floyd understands psychological warfare. When Floyd gets into the ring, he’s in control. That’s why I love Floyd so much. He knows what he’s going to do, fights who he wants to fight and fights the way he knows how to fight. He understands what it takes to win.
The second guy would be Sugar Ray Robinson. He’s the greatest to me. Back in the old days, he would fight at one weight one day and then another weight another day. For him to take a loss and then to come back like he did, he’s a warrior and a true champion.
What is your favorite punch to throw?
My right hand is my favorite. I think I landed it to the most devastating and satisfying effect when I caught Dillon Cook with it. That’s the punch. I definitely felt it from my feet up through my hand.
You don’t punch to it, you punch through it, and that’s the fight when I knew my right hand had truly come along. It was like, “Boom!” I was so focused to get that punch off that I even took a left hook to deliver it.
If you had the ability to change your body type, what’s the one weight class you’d want to compete in?
I would go to either 147 or 160. It’s all about the competition and being entertaining, and I’m looking to go where the action is, which is at 147. You’ve got Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Kell Brook, Errol Spence Jr., Andre Berto, Shawn Porter.
I would love to get into the mix of that. But then, you go to 160, and you have a guy they consider to be a god in Gennady Golovkin, so I would definitely like to be in that fight. I’m just interested in demonstrating the art of boxing.
What fighter in history would bring out the best in you and what would be the result?
I would say Sugar Ray Leonard. He’s a boxer-puncher and we would go toe-to-toe at times and duke it out. Also, Marvin Hagler. He’s a big puncher, and for my style, the only way you’re going to beat my style is to catch me with a shot.
With Marvin Hagler, you would see a smart strategy from me, because I wouldn’t want to get caught with a shot. I would have to box his lights out. With Sugar Ray, we would be duking it out. I would win both of them by split decision, though.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
If I could change one thing in the world, I would say poverty. Growing up in some parts of Augusta, you have people who give up on their dreams, and that’s what kills everything and your motivation. When you’re in poverty, you don’t see outside of the ghetto.
There are people from Augusta, Georgia, who haven’t been to Atlanta. They haven’t been on airplanes and haven’t seen the dream. It takes a strong individual to see outside of that. I’m a visual person with my own form of meditation.
When I was young, my mother used to rock me when I was a baby, so I’ve kind of gotten into this habit of rocking and visualizing my whole life, being a boxer, graduating from high school, purchasing my first car. Everything that I said I was going to do, so far, I’ve done it.
If you could have dinner with four people in the history of the world, who would be on your guest list?
I would have to say my fiancée, and I would love to meet Barack Obama, Malcolm X and [the late natural herbalist] Dr. Sebi, because he had a lot of different ideas about health and cures and a lot of different views on life. I would discuss religion and finances and authority with all of them.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: two-time title challenger Edner Cherry.