ATLANTA — His tone dejected, his body language deflated, Gainesville nativeTyrese Hendrix couldn’t even break into a smile looking at his first professional title belt. The Gainesville boxer’s dressing room was strangely subdued in the moments after a unanimous victory at the Rialto Theater late Friday night.
"I’ll give myself a ‘B’ grade," he replied when asked about his 79-73, 78-73, 76-75, decision over Curtis Smith. "No, make that a ‘C’ minus."
Happy or not, the self-critical Hendrix is the first CAM (Canadian-American-Mexican) welterweight titleholder, even without administering a flashy knockout.
Perhaps, though, he touched on a new reality: winning in boxing isn’t always pretty. There were times, particularly in the later rounds, when things were more even than Hendrix has come to expect from a thus far blistering career.
"I didn’t get established enough," he admitted. "I’m going to go back to the drawing board, but I felt like I deserved it."
Certainly the judges agreed — about the deserving part, that is. As early as the second round, Hendrix showed superior class to shatter a stalemate opening by rattling Smith with a series of combinations, the best of the fight.
As Smith led with a left, Hendrix quickly countered with a jab, snapping his opponent’s head back, then shooting a right-left combination that sent Smith onto the ropes for more unrelenting punishment. Referee George Chip halted Hendrix’s bull-like charge and administered the ‘standing count’ seconds before the bell.
But the expected onslaught in the third round never materialized, and Smith was back into contention when most assumed the canvas would be a more realistic destination. Hendrix, instead, performed in flashes, not sustained enough to guarantee a knockout but enough to keep Smith at bay.
This phase of the fight later left Hendrix a little gloomy. "He was tough but I know I should have done better," he said. "He was leaving himself open."
The fight’s tone certainly didn’t reflect the heated rhetoric of its build up. Smith, at a press conference earlier this month, taunted Hendrix with insults and vowed to deliver his first loss.
Hendrix dismissed Smith’s insults as nothing more than "just hype" and insisted the impetus to win had nothing to do with it.
Instead his camp reflected on future plans following the CAM title. According to his manager, ESPN is considering May 9 as a possible date in what would be Hendrix’s first live televised fight.