If press conference brawls are par-for-the-course theatrics ahead of a title fight nowadays, then Tyrese Hendrix needs no auditions before the biggest challenge of his boxing career on Feb. 29.
Moments after promoters confirmed the Gainesville native would contest the light welterweight CAM (Canadian-American-Mexican) title, Hendrix and upcoming opponent Curtis Smith became embroiled in an ill-tempered shoving match — complete with colorful insults — which delighted attendees, bemused diners, and kept burly security men busy at a downtown Atlanta steakhouse Monday afternoon.
Six belts in total, all of them CAMs, are up for grabs at the Rialto venue in Atlanta next month, yet the pairing of Hendrix and Smith attracted center stage.
According to Hendrix (11-0-1), the trouble brewed when he first entered the steakhouse, where, egged on by associates, Smith (8-3) started the taunts. When the two were asked to do a customary face-to-face pose and say a few words, Smith continued with insults.
"You’re just a front-runner," he snarled — among other, more profane remarks— suggesting that Hendrix’s caliber of previous opponents hollowed his unbeaten record. At that point, the two briefly tussled until security stepped in. But it wasn’t finished.
Shouted barbs further interrupted the introductions of other fighters, who, in light of the ongoing saga, frequently passed on the microphone to prolong the duel.
It was the kind of drama that promoters hope will boost ticket sales for, arguably, one of the metro area’s most competitive boxing cards in recent years. Matching fighters with comparable records has become a rarity, let alone the prospect of six title fights.
And while a CAM belt, which has more familiarity on the West Coast, is not among the sport’s most coveted prizes, the prospect of a first
professional title would be a significant step for Hendrix.
"I’m going to get that title belt, I’m very excited," he boomed, while being dismissive of his opponent’s chances. "From what I’ve heard he’s pretty good but doesn’t have what it takes to beat me. He’s been in less competitive fights and I’ve got youth on my side."
At 27 years old, Hendrix said he expects to out-speed Smith, seven years his senior, despite moving up to welterweight from his preferred lightweight, 137 pounds. "I walk around at 156 pounds so it’s not an issue. In fact, it means I can eat what I want. I’m hungry for the title, and when I get it, he’ll have to eat his own words."