It's not so much the fact Ray Oliveira Jr. is headlining a fight card for the first time in his career that has him a little more amped up than usual for Friday night's event at Twin River Casino. It's the fact he's bringing his hometown with him.
The 27-year-old Oliveira Jr. (9-1, 1 KO) is one of three fighters from New Bedford, Mass., appearing on Friday's 2018 season opener for CES Boxing, joining welterweight Wilson Mascarenhas and featherweight Efren Nunez.
In his 11th professional bout -- all under the promotional guidance of CES Boxing -- Oliveira Jr. stars in the main event against well-known New Haven, Conn., veteran Edwin Soto (11-2-2, 4 KOs), an eight-round bout for the vacant World Boxing Union (WBU) Canadian-American-Mexican Super Welterweight Title.
The vast majority of New England's most accomplished fighters have had opportunities to headline major events, some sooner, and more often, than others. Oliveira Jr. began his climb from the bottom rung, earning his keep in four-round bouts at the beginning of the night, long before the venue is even half full. On Friday night, he'll be the last of 20 fighters to enter the ring with a capacity crowd at its fever pitch anxiously awaiting his arrival, a feeling some never get to experience.
"I put in the work, I fought whoever was in front of me and I never made a fuss about where I was on the card," Oliveira Jr. said. "It made no difference to me. I was putting in my work and putting in my time. That means a lot now that I'm up there. I worked hard for this and now I've got it. That's the thing for me."
Tickets for Friday's event are priced at $47.00, $102.00, $127.00 (VIP) and $152.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesboxing.com, www.twinriver.com o rwww.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Doors open at 6 p.m. ET with the preliminary card beginning at 7 followed by the main card streaming live on Facebook via FIGHTNIGHT LIVE at 8 with play-by-play announcer Michael Woods and color commentator Xavier Porter. FIGHTNIGHT LIVE is available online on all portable devices at www.facebook.com/FaceFIGHTNIGHTLIVE/.
Oliveira Jr.'s work ethic in the ring mirrors the energy and passion he pours into all projects in life. The New Bedford native recently opened his own gym in nearby Taunton, the Glove Dynasty Boxing Club, where he'll train clients and work with young amateurs as a newly-certified USA Boxing coach. He signed the lease on New Year's Day and doors opened Feb. 9. The gym is just his first step toward one day owning his own worldwide training facility, a potential melting pot of professional athletes from all corners of the globe.
Among the classes Oliveira Jr. teaches at Glove Dynasty is his Weekend Warrior program on Saturday mornings, focusing primarily on strength and explosiveness. The idea is to implement minor elements of boxing into each session. For example, clients practice a "squat uppercut" so they can get the effects of a traditional squat while learning the science of a deadly uppercut. He teaches various fitness boxing classes as well, though he acknowledges, "anyone who knows boxing knows if you're training for boxing, that's all the fitness you need right there."
His approach to conditioning falls in line with his ultimate goal of transforming Glove Dynasty into more of a boxing club than a traditional gym and working with young area fighters who'll eventually compete on the amateur circuit. He encourages his pupils to study the sport and understand what it takes to be a professional, including occasional film study. A local couple recently donated a collection of old VHS tapes featuring classic fights and instructional videos, which he'll convert into DVDs so his fighters can watch and learn from the some of the best to ever lace up the gloves.
"Some of the fights on these VHSs were before I was even thought of," he said. "They've got some of my dad ["Sucra" Ray Oliveira], they've got some of Jon Scully on there and then they've got some way before that. They've got some oldPernell Whitaker ones. It goes and goes."
Though he's currently the only certified trainer at Glove Dynasty, others in the boxing community come through frequently to either get in a good workout or help with the younger fighters, including Taunton's Marqus Bates, who also fights on Friday's undercard.
"I have a lot of friends in the boxing community, so there are a lot of trainers who stop by," Oliveira Jr. said. "Being that I'm in this sport as a pro athlete, I have some insight that I can give to the amateur fighters on the etiquette of being a pro and what it takes and what kind of personal sacrifices come with being a fighter."
Oliveira Jr. is no stranger to those sacrifices. Now that the gym is finally open, he will return to school later this year to continue his studies at Bristol Community College so he can eventually transfer to Bridgewater State University and pursue a master's degree in sports facility management. The process of finalizing his paperwork for the gym and preparing to fight three times in 2017 briefly interrupted his schoolwork.
And if he didn't have enough on his plate already, he's now less than a week away from what figures to be the toughest fight of his life. The 27-year-old Soto has been a fixture on the regional circuit since debuting professional in 2009. Friday will be Soto's 10th appearance with CES Boxing and first since October of 2013.
"He comes to fight," Oliveira Jr. said. "I've seen a couple of his videos. I haven't seen much. But from what I've seen he definitely isn't a fighter who uses the ring as much as some other fighters I've been in there with, so it looks like I'm going to be in for a fight. It's not going to like I hit a guy and he runs away. He's actually going to try to throw some tough ones and take some tough ones.
"He looks like he's willing to take a shot to give a shot, toe-to-toe kind of kid. I'm actually looking forward to fighting him. Every time these guys say they want to go to war, I don't see it in their styles so much. This guy, I can see it more. There are going to be some big exchanges where people will be off their seats."
Starring as the main event Friday night is the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice, and a few roadblocks along the way. Oliveira Jr. admits he made mistakes in the past, missing weight a couple of times, but he learned from it, tightened up his diet and conditioning, and now routinely clocks in under the maximum weight.
The best part, for him, is now he gets to be the last one to enter the ring Fridaywhile representing the city of New Bedford.
"It's not enough for me to be a main event. That wouldn't have been it for me. The icing on the cake is I've got the New Bedford kids with me," he said. "it means a lot to me be able to headline as a New Bedford fighter representing other New Bedford fighters who made their way onto the card. It gives me that sense of satisfaction of something I've always wanted to do, to represent my city and be strong for New Bedford."
The Feb. 23rd card also features the return of longtime fan-favorite "Mr. Providence" Vladine Biosse (15-7-3, 7 KOs), who fights for the first time in a year and a half when he faces Atlantic City, N.J., super middleweight Antowyan Aikens(11-4-1, 1 KO) in a six-round special attraction. Hard-hitting Sicilian heavyweightJuiseppe Cusumano (13-1, 11 KOs) stars in the six-round co-feature in his toughest test to date against Pittsburgh's Fred Latham (9-1-2, 5 KOs).
A former standout defensive back for the University of Rhode Island football team, Biosse last fought in May of 2016 when he battled Rhode Island icon Peter Manfredo Jr. to a draw. Feb. 23rd will be his unprecedented 16th appearance at Twin River.
Undefeated prospect Jamaine Ortiz (7-0, 4 KOs) of Worcester, Mass., faces Laredo, Tex., veteran Victor Rosas (9-7, 3 KOs) in a six-round lightweight bout and junior welterweight Anthony Marsella Jr. (7-0, 4 KOs) of Providence returns for his seventh consecutive fight at Twin River in a six-round bout against Cancun, Mexico native Israel Villela (6-8, 2 KOs).
Regional rivalries highlight the preliminary card, starting with Johnston, R.I., junior welterweight Nicky DeQuattro (2-0, 1 KO) making his Twin River debut in a four-round bout against Carlos Galindo (0-0) of Lima, Peru. Providence lightweightMichael Valentin (3-0, 1 KO) puts his unbeaten record on the line againstDemetrius Wilson (2-4) of St. Louis, Mo., and Springfield, Mass., welterweightMiguel Ortiz (2-1, 1 KO) faces Mascarenhas of New Bedford, both in four-round bouts. Providence featherweight Ricky Delossantos (3-0) aims for his fourth consecutive win in a four-round bout against New Bedford's Nunez (0-1). Bates (2-2, 2 KOs) battles welterweight Latorie Woodberry (1-5) of Roanoke, Va., in a four-round bout.
The entire fight card is dedicated to the memory of super bantamweight Luis Rosa Jr. of New Haven, the son of Luis and Marilyn Rosa, who passed away tragically onJan. 14th. Rosa Jr. will be inducted into the CES Ring of Honor.
Visit www.cesboxing.com, www.twitter.com/cesboxing orwww.facebook.com/cesboxing for more information, or follow CES Boxing on Instagram at @CESBOXING.
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