Boxing NABO Lightweight
Who: Tyrese Hendrix vs. Hank Lundy
When: 10 tonight
Where: Memphis, Tennessee
Records: Hendrix (18-0-1, 7 knockouts); Lundy (17-0-1, 10 knockouts)
Few times in life does a person have a chance, clear and pure, to seize what they’ve always wanted. Fewer still are the times we recognize those opportunities for what they are in the moment.
Tyrese Hendrix considers himself one of the lucky ones.
This moment, this fight, is what the 29-year-old boxer has spent nearly half of his life working toward. He knows it, now all he has to do is win it.
He has the confidence: For Hendrix, whether he’ll win his next fight is a matter of when, not if.
He has the résumé: 19 professional fights, 18 wins, one draw, no losses.
He even has title belts: The Gainesville native is the CAM and NABA U.S. lightweight champ.
What he doesn’t have, and what he wants, is recognition and respect that stretches beyond his hometown. His chance to earn both comes tonight, live on national television.
In a bout that will air on ESPN2, Hendrix will meet “Hammerin’” Hank Lundy, a highly regarded lightweight contender, at 10 tonight in Memphis.
It’s expected to be the biggest test of both fighters’ careers and it could springboard the winner into boxing’s top tier.
“This fight right here, I would say it’s a fight where everybody’s going to get to see the real me,” Hendrix said earlier this week in a phone interview. “In the previous fights I’ve had, I tend to lower my level to my opponent, so I haven’t really given everybody what they want to see, I just do enough to win. So this fight is going to bring it out of me. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
Hendrix came to boxing as a scrawny 16-year-old who got picked on in school. Like so many others, he found a path to a better future in the sport.
Without boxing, “I’d probably be in trouble somewhere, to tell you the truth,” Hendrix said in a 2007 interview with The Times. “It was just the way we grew up. Boxing has taken me a long way. It made a man out of me. It made me humble.”
He found a niche in the sport quickly, and by 2003 he was fighting professionally.
His first pro fight ended in a draw. Since then he’s never had so much as a split decision.
A year and a half after his debut, Hendrix’s career took another fortuitous turn when he won a unanimous decision at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. The event’s promoter, Shea Bailey, signed the fledging fighter shortly thereafter and helped him flourish.
“He was in an environment where the only types of decisions to make were bad decisions,” Bailey said in 2007. “Now, we’ve been able to take Tyrese and put him in a situation where he can make the right decision.”
Since then, with a pair of quick hands and a lot of hard work, Hendrix has pulled himself up. When he couldn’t support himself solely through boxing, he found a day job and fit in time to train around it. He’s risen from the depths of the rankings to the No. 16 lightweight in the United States.
All the while, a night like tonight was on his mind.
At 10 p.m., Hendrix will touch gloves with the toughest fighter he’s ever fought. The NABO title will be up for grabs, and the winner will be in line for a shot at the WBO championship — that’s the big time.
It will be his chance to seize the glory he’s sought since his first amateur bout at 16 years old.
He may win. He may not. He may go on to become a world champion. He may fight till he can’t anymore and never get that opportunity.
But in a grander scheme that an athlete couldn’t — and shouldn’t — be expected to see in the moment, what happens tonight is of lesser importance.
Three years ago, Hendrix called boxing his “way out,” his way “to step up in life.”
So when he steps into the ring in front of a national television audience, hundreds of miles and a lifetime away from the troubled future that might have been his, he’ll have already seized his moment.
Brent Holloway is the sports editor for The Times. Contact him at email@example.com.