Opportunity knocked, entry was given, and then things got weird.
Mikkel LesPierre got word that he’d be fighting Jose Pedraza on June 18th in Las Vegas about six weeks ago, and this bout would be a stern test for the Brooklyn resident, aged 35 (see below).
Pedraza held a title, at 140, and is promoted by Top Rank, the promotional outfit based in Vegas.
LesPierre had been working at an NYC hospital deluged with COVID patients while trying for this battle. The man repping Gleason's Gym told me he saw the fight as a 50-50 deal, and said that even though he’d done his training prep outside, because gyms are closed in NYC, he perceived he had edges over the Puerto Rican pugilist, age 31.
He’d soon see…he went to bed Wednesday evening with dreams of victory at MGM and on ESPN in his brain.
Then, the weird. Before 6 AM, a phone call came.
Your fight is off, man, one of your crew tested positive for the virus.
LesPierre is not an excitable sort, he’s not about to stomp or shout or throw a wastebasket at a TV. The fight was scratched from the Top Rank card, and on Thursday evening, viewers saw Gabriel Flores Jr meet Josec Ruiz in the featured bout.
So, I reached out to LesPierre, for an update. Time marches on, and generally, time isn’t a sentimentalist. People look forward, not back as much, because who knows what might be gaining on you.
“Right now they have us quarantined at another hotel,” LesPierre said Thursday, while still mulling the shift in fate, after his manager Taveras tested positive. “I’m scheduled to take another COVID test Saturday morning and once the results come back negative I’ll be on the first flight back to New York, on Sunday. Then, it’s right back to work because they are rescheduling the fight I believe for July 14th, nothing set in stone yet but thats’ the talk.”
Manager Taveras also touched based with NY Fights.
“I have no symptoms and with God’s blessings I feel amazing,” the Bed Stuy resident said. “I leave it in God's blessings, the next test I will be negative and continue this journey on being the best manager I can be. Mikkel is a humble amazing fighter and brother to me. We looking forward to a new date with Jose Pedraza and execute it to the best of our ability. Mikkel will showcase to the world that he is world champion-caliber fighter.”
And, yes, he heard about what analyst Tim Bradley said about his virus positive, that the manager didn’t even need to be onsite and that, basically, he messed up the main event.
“Yes, and I agree to a certain degree,” Taveras said.
I didn’t agree with Bradley's take, and made clear on Twitter. See, also, Lou DiBella, promoter of LesPierre, weighed in on the matter as well.
“I am actually a fan off Bradley and respect his opinion,” Taveras continued. “Me and Mikkel’s bond is more than just boxing, he’s my brother, he says I’m his guardian angle. I got Mikk to 18-0 with two minor titles, which put him in the rankings. In a three year grace period with no promotions just from learning the sport as I go, and learning from my mentors Eric Bentley and Ron Rizzo and being open minded to learn new things. You have to follow before you lead, it’s a marathon, not a race and I wanna listen to learn. Staying humble and having a pure heart got me this far.” Yes, he wasn't going to hit Bradley with a counterpunch that the ex fighter might well have deserved. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, that bubble ain’t no joke. It really is lock down so for a manager or promoter to be there, that's out of love for the sport and their fighters. Top Rank is doing an amazing job with great hospitality and with my second test being positive they've been taking amazing care of me and I’m greatly appreciative for the doctors and commission.”
I got a final update from LesPierre as well.
“As of right now me and my team are still quarantined,” LesPierre said. (Note: They are being housed at a ‘secondary’ hotel, off the strip, not the MGM, which is the main facility for people taking part in these Top Rank events with pandemic protocol.)
“We have testing tomorrow (Saturday) at 8 AM and should get the results back eight hours from then. God willing everything comes back negative and we can be on the first flight back to New York Sunday morning.”