Gainesville native Tyrese Hendrix has come a long way since his days of fighting mid-card in a nightclub a stone’s throw from his opponent’s hometown.
A little more than five years after making his professional boxing debut in Smyrna, Tenn., a de facto home away from home for his opponent that night, Hendrix is headlining Friday night’s event at Fitzgerald’s Casino and Hotel in Tunica, Miss.
Since that night in 2004, Hendrix has won 16 straight fights, claiming the NABA US Lightweight Championship and the CAM Lightweight Championship in the process. But asked about the only blemish on his record — Hendrix suffered a four-round draw in his debut — it’s clear he’s still upset the decision didn’t go his way.
"They robbed me of that fight," Hendrix (16-0-1) said. "It was just one of those moments where you got robbed in somebody’s hometown."
He’s determined not to let it happen again, and he’s left no doubt in the minds of judges and fans ever since.
Fighting between 134 and 144 pounds, the 28-year-old Hendrix has shredded opponents, scoring six knockouts and overwhelming foes with superior precision to notch nine wins by unanimous decision.
Hendrix credits his success to quickness, footwork and conditioning, and says he’ll need to exploit his advantages in all three Friday when he takes on 23-year-old Missourian Robbie Cannon (12-3-1, six knockouts), possibly one of his toughest opponents yet.
"I’m looking at this guy as a dangerous guy," Hendrix said. "I’ve seen him fight and he’s pretty crafty, so I’ve got something to look forward to."
Hendrix said sticking to a game plan will be crucial to his success. For the lefthander, that means doing the simple things well.
"I just need to do my thing and not make the fight harder than I need to," Hendrix said. "I’ve been working on the fundamentals and really just the basics. With me being a southpaw, it’s going to be harder on him to catch up with me."
Friday marks a return to Tunica for Hendrix, who earned a win by unanimous decision there over veteran Phillip Payne in March. Though Payne entered the fight against Hendrix with a losing record for his career, Hendrix’s last four wins came against boxers with a combined record of 63-16.
Hendrix believes his ability to comfortably go the distance in any fight has made the biggest difference at this point in his career.
"A lot of fighters that have been undefeated have taken steps up, but couldn’t pass the test," he said. "And I’ve been taking steps early in my career and fighting guys with big records and passed the test. I think (my endurance) is what separates me. I train hard. I feel like I train harder than anybody in Georgia."
Cannon enters the weekend as a loser in three of his last five fights, due largely to increasingly tough competition. His three losses have come against Ira Terry (22-2), NABO featherweight champ Rafael Valenzuela (13-1) and Leon Bobo (18-3).