By: Saul Lelchuk
The press conference for the “Now or Never” showdown between legendary junior middleweights Ike “Bazooka” Quartey and Vernon “The Viper” Forrest was held today at Gallagher’s Steak House in New York. With a fight this much hyped, it is no surprise that it is being held at the only New York City venue appropriate for such a duel: The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Forrest (37-2, 28 KO’s) and Quartey (37-2-1 (31 KO’s) are both ex-champions, and the fight is being billed as the platform from which one of them will be boosted onto the track to regain his title – while the other will only be the first rung in that ladder. As promoter Lou DiBella said in his opening comments at the conference, they are “getting in there and putting it all on the line. They both have a hurdle to jump – and that hurdle is each other. One man is gonna climb back to the top of the mountain.”
Both Forrest and Quartey have almost perfect records after fighting some of the biggest names in modern boxing, but for each it has been years since he has been considered to be at the top of the class. Forrest took a two year hiatus after back-to-back losses to brawler Ricardo Mayorga, while Quartey (barring three recent low-profile fights) has been absent from the boxing world for five years after narrow losses to Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas. But both are now eager to make a return to boxing and to reclaim their titles, and while each respects the other, both have the attitude that on Saturday night his opponent is going to end up stuffed and mounted.
Although Quartey admits that “I never thought I’d stay out five years,” he says he is “ready” – and looked it. For his part, Forrest has spent the last three months in training camp and claims that this is the first fight in a long time that he is fighting without the injured arm that he says impeded him in his struggles with Mayorga. There’s “no way in the world I’d fight Quartey half-cocked,” he says. “He’s too good a fighter. [But] Saturday night is gonna be an easy night.”
Fighting in the co-feature is Brooklyn’s Sechew Powell (20-0), taking on Kassim Ouma (24-2-1) in another dramatic junior middleweight bout. Welterweight Andre Berto (13-0) will be making his Madison Square Garden debut against Roberto Valenzuela (37-24-2). At his workout at Crunch Gym on Wednesday, Berto looked fast, strong, and in excellent shape. All told, this Saturday at the Garden looks to be a great night for boxing fans. Tickets are still available, and the fight will be broadcast by HBO.