Eimantas Stanionis: A Technician With a Warrior’s Heart

The skilled unbeaten welterweight would love nothing more than to go toe to toe versus veteran Thomas Dulorme when they throw down in a 147-pound battle Saturday night on SHOWTIME.

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Stanionis vs Gonzalez - Watch Fight Highlights | December 16, 2020

There are no data charts to back it, but the gut feeling in some circles is that boxing has seen a drastic decline in the percentage of fighters that are brawlers and a general uptick, if not downright explosion, in those that might characterized as stick-and-movers. 

Which is why when Eimantas Stanionis, an undefeated welterweight prospect from Lithuania who trains out of Los Angeles, starts riffing on about how he is congenitally wired to stalk after his opponents inside a boxing ring, about how he is not averse to taking a punch or two to satisfy the audience, about, in short, how much he loves to brawl, it is worth pointing out that this makes him something of an endangered species in a culture that values self-preservation before all else, often to a fault. 

“Most fighters, they just come and they want to be clean and not be touched,” Stanionis said after a recent weekday workout. “Of course, that’s understandable, that’s smart. You don’t want to get hit. But, you know, I like to bang. That’s what I chose.” 

There is some irony to unpack here. Mild-mannered, affable, with a cherubic, porcelain-clear face devoid of the slightest trace of a five o’clock shadow, the 26-year-old Stanionis hardly cuts the gristly profile of a fighter who indulges in trench warfare. But as he keeps talking it is evident that his stylistic bearings come from a place of genuine introspection. 

“I like Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. I like all the wars,” Stanionis said, in reference to two of the most adored sluggers this sport has seen this side since the early aughts. Still, those are a pair of tall – some may say, impossible – standards to live up to. When asked if he was suggesting that he would be fine being involved in such savageries, Stanionis responded as if he were asked if he wanted ketchup on his hotdog. 

“I want to be in one of those [wars],” Stanionis said, with a barely-concealed giggle. “It’s strange that I’m telling you this now, but I think I will get knocked down [someday] and I want to know how I will react. I think I will get up and get down again. But until you get down you never know. You can say whatever you want, but until you get down you never know. 

“Even if I lose in the future, I think I will be an exciting fighter because I always give my 110% in the ring. It’s going to be a tough fight for anybody standing in front of me.” 

Stanionis’ preference for sandbagging his opponents in the ring also comes from more a more technical provenance than simply consuming Gatti-Ward highlights on repeat. He grew up reared on hand-to-hand combat back home in idyllic Kaunas. The satisfaction he got from pummeling his opponents at short range eventually bled over into boxing. For Stanionis, throwing potshots from afar just does not have the same appeal as ripping apart an opponent’s ribcage up close. 

“Something that nobody knows about me is that I started in mixed martial arts, in kudo,” Stanionis said. “It’s similar to MMA. You can go on the ground and grapple, wrestle. So I was doing that and also kickboxing. I had about 60 fights. I was doing pretty good. But I had no interest because I was beating everybody. So I went to boxing.” 

Now, with 12 wins (nine by stoppage) and no losses as a pro, Stanionis is at the point in his career where the fights are about to get a lot tougher. Such is the path for those wishing to transition from prospect to contender. This Saturday, April 10, he faces the most credible and dangerous opponent of his career, Puerto Rican contender Thomas Dulorme. The 12-round welterweight showdown will be the co-feature match on the Jaron Ennis- Sergey Lipinets headliner at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT)

It’s going to be a tough fight for anybody standing in front of me. Undefeated Welterweight Contender - Eimantas Stanionis

“He can bang, he gets down, he gets up,” Stanionis said of Dulorme. “He’s a tough opponent. Very good matchup stylistic and everything. The fans will win.” 

Should he get past Dulorme, and cobble up a few more wins before year’s end, the expectation is that he will be in position for a welterweight title shot sometime in 2022, according to his manager Shelly Finkel, the longtime boxing lifer who also handles former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. 

“I want two, three fights this year,” Stanionis said, “but I know I have to prove something to get a shot. I have to climb to the top, little by little. It’s boxing, so you have to earn your shot.” 

Patience has been a chief virtue for Stanionis ever since he broke into the professional ranks in 2017, but that does not mean he has been unwilling to shake up his routine. He left his longtime trainer Ronnie Shields at the beginning of 2020 because he was finding life miserable in Houston, where Shields is based. Something had to give. 

“Ronnie Shields is one of the best coaches and one of the best human beings and I love him from the bottom of my heart,” Stanionis said. “But I’m from Europe and I’m all alone [in Houston] and it was tough. I was mentally broke. It was not a place I wanted to be. You go training and then you go home. That’s it.” 

Stanionis figured he would fare better in the sunnier climes of Los Angeles where he could be surrounded by some familiar faces. So he gave his former co-trainer Marvin Somodio a ring. Somodio, an assistant with world-renowned, Los Angeles-based trainer Freddie Roach, (who was, incidentally, Stanionis’ first head trainer as a professional), said he did not hesitate to take up the job – but only after getting Roach’s blessing.

“I had a connection with Marvin,” Stanionis said. “I know he’s hungry, too. He wants to create a world champion. A name is a name; it doesn’t matter to me. The person works hard for you and gives you all the attention – that matters to me. In my training I give my entire heart, so I expect the same [from my trainer]. Marvin has the biggest hunger to make you a champion and pushes you because he wants to build a champion, too.”  

In addition to improving his psychic equilibrium with the move, Stanionis believes he has become a better fighter as well, benefiting from the world-class sparring that only Southern California can provide. At Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Gym, the de facto west coast temple of professional boxing, Stanionis sharpens his trade by trading punches with a glut of world-class talents on a daily basis. 

“[Stanionis] was having a hard time finding sparring for himself [in Houston],” noted Somodio, adding that his charge has sparred the likes of blue-chip prospects Elvis Rodriguez, Aaron McKenna, Raul Curiel Garcia, and Blair Cobb at the Wild Card. “Unlike in Houston, here in L.A. he can get a lot of sparring partners. There are a lot of 147 pounders in L.A.”

If Somodio could nitpick one thing it is that he would like to see Stanionis utilize a few more defensive-minded principles in the ring.

“I want to see more head movement,” said Somodio. “Instead of just blocking. I want him to dodge and counter. Of course he can’t change right away. It’s a process. He’s still young and there’s a lot of room to improve.”

Old habits tend to die hard, though. 

“I know how to box, how to backpedal,” said Stanionis, “but I haven’t shown that yet. But, you know, I just like to bang. It's more fun and the people come for entertainment. We’re like entertainers. They pay for the fights, you know.”

“Everything now is almost done. Now you’re just waiting, making weight. The fight is the easiest part. The training is the hardest part, but nobody sees that.” 

But they will undoubtedly see him fight, brawl, or as he would prefer to say, bang. 

For a closer look at Eimantas Stanionis, check out his fighter page. 

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