“Who Dat,” Tigers, Creole/Cajun cuisine, the Superdome, and Mardi Gras. Upon reading these words, you are right if you instantly blurted “Things you can find in Louisiana” like some crazed contestant on a game show.
Now, what if I had added the word boxing to the list. Would you have been stumped for a second? Would you still guess Louisiana but with a slight hesitance? If I had added the word boxing to the list and your answer was still Louisiana, you again would be correct.
According to an article written for Countryside Roads Magazine titled “The Golden Age of Boxing-Recalling the sports epic in Louisiana high schools,” boxing rivaled football as Louisiana's favorite sport up to 1958. Louisiana is the birthplace of several world champions, including Tony Canzoneri, Harry Wills, Joe Brown, Willie Pastrano, and most recently, Regis Prograis. Will, Brown, and Pastrano are enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Keon Papillion (5-0, 4 KOs), a native of Lafayette, LA, looks to add his name to the storied history of Louisiana boxing. If you recognize the name Papillion, it's because the 24-year-old prospect is the son of former welterweight contender Jason Papillion. Jason challenged for the IBF welterweight title in 2002 against Ronald “Winky” Wright. “My dad was a professional; he was ranked number three at one time. So, I'm just trying to do what I can to follow in his footsteps,” said Keon to NYFights.
Growing up, the young Papillion wasn't drawn to boxing even though his father initially forced him to take up the sport. “Growing up, I never wanted to fight. Everyone wanted me to be a boxer. People would say, ‘oh man, your dad is a boxer; you got to box.' Plus, everybody used to try me, so I got into a lot of fights,” said the young prospect.
Trying to establish a name for himself and step outside of his father's shadow, Papillion decided to take his athletic talents to his school's football and basketball teams. But, after not achieving the stardom, he sought on the gridiron or the hardwood, a 14-year-old Keon would bring his talents back to a place he tried to avoid, the boxing gym.
As the adage goes, “the apple doesn't fall far from the tree,” and soon enough, with his father as his trainer, Keon Papillion, took to the boxing ring like a duck takes to water.
As an amateur, Keon would compete sixty-one times and amass forty-seven wins against fourteen losses. According to Papillion, injuries, surgeries, and a fighting style more suited for the professional ranks contributed to his fourteen losses. “They always said I had a professional style in the amateurs. They would say I was flashy because I would be patient and pick my shots. The other guys would just be punching and punching, and that's how I would lose a lot of my fights,” said Papillion.
After a reasonably successful run in the amateur ranks, the then twenty-one-year-old pugilist would take his talents to the professional levels. “It wasn't a hard transition. It feels more natural-we were shooting for the 2020 Olympics- I was coming off of bicep surgery and fell short in the trials. So, it was time to turn professional,” said the welterweight prospect.
Papillion made his professional debut on August 2nd, 2020, at the Evangeline Downs Casino in Opelousas, LA. He knocked his opponent out in the first round, a trend that would continue in his next four outings. During the opening stanza, Keon has knocked out three of his last four opponents. When asked to describe his fighting style to our readers, Keon modestly said, “I can't pinpoint my style because I feel like I can do it all and whatever is necessary. In the amateurs, people would say I fight like Roy Jones Jr. I mean, it was nice to hear (Keon shrugs humbly, dismissing the comparison). In the pros, I'm a boxer-puncher.”
In boxing, the sons of former professional boxers, especially former world champions, often don't live up to expectations or achieve the same level of success that their fathers garnered during their careers. I asked Keon if he felt some added pressure being the son of a former world title contender. “Growing up, yeah, because you're a target. But I really don't care what people say. My dad may care, but I don't because people are going to talk regardless. As long as they know, and we know who is better, that's all that matters. So, I feel it's a great set-up. He has the experience; he's been there. Our main goal is to win, and I will do what it takes to win.” said Papillion confidently.
Team Papillion is all about team Papillion. They are self-promoted, self-managed, and they don't let anything deter their preparation. Their focus is solely on boxing. When he's not in the gym, Keon can be found at the basketball court or spending time with his family. Other than that, they are serious about the business of boxing.
Papillion's next fight is scheduled for June 25th, 2022, at the Youngsville Sports Complex, in Youngsville, Louisiana. However, he doesn't have an opponent yet. Undiscouraged, Keon isn't focused on anything other than his own preparation. He's not concerned about who his opponents are. “I don't care about my opponents-I adjust. That's who I am as a fighter. Because I'm going to have to adjust later on when I get to bigger opposition,” said Papillion.
Keon Papillion wants to make a name for himself. He wants to make his own mark on boxing with a lofty goal. “I want to be a legend. A multi-divisional champion from welterweight all the way to heavyweight because it's never been done. I want to be the first,” said Keon. The once prodigal pugilist is now referred to as the “chosen one.” A nickname dubbed by his cousin; Keon didn't think he was worthy of such a moniker. “I never thought I was worthy of it. Everyone says you will be the one to make it there- make a difference- make a change, and I liked it,” said Keon humbly.
Keon has the skills and pedigree that make him a solid prospect. He was raised around some of the greatest fighters in the world. So, it was only natural that he would find his calling within the squared circle. He has a confident yet modest approach to his craft. He can be perceived as a self-centered individual with a dismissive attitude. However, Keon was respectful throughout our interview, laughed often, and addressed me as either sir or Mr. Jacob after answering my questions. He just wants to be recognized as a fighter all his own.
While Keon appreciates being compared to his father and Roy Jones Jr., he respectfully dismisses the comparisons. Keon wants to be respected for who he is as a fighter and what he believes he can achieve in the sport of boxing. “If y'all don't know about me, y'all will eventually,” concluded Keon Papillion.