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August 29, 2014

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Dean Juipe: No pressure on welter champion

Name recognition is essential for anyone making a living in the public eye, and World Boxing Association welterweight champ Ike Quartey is trying to maximize his reach in preparation for a major fight or two later this year.

Quartey, who fights Friday at the Las Vegas Hilton on the undercard of the Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Junior Jones main event, is in an enviable position. His immediate opponent, Ralph "Tiger" Jones, figures to be competitive yet is unlikely to pull off an upset, a scenario that can only add to Quartey's stock and public acceptance.

"There's no pressure for me," Quartey said in his halting English. "I'm coming on, people are finding out about me. I have a lot of confidence."

A native of Ghana, Quartey has been the WBA champion since 1994 and is 33-0 with 28 knockouts. He's 6-0 in title fights, with his better wins coming in his two most recent outings, against Vince Phillips and Oba Carr.

"He's not talked about that much, but he's starting to get noticed," promoter Dino Duva said of Quartey. "He's definitely the best welterweight out there."

(Duva extracted himself from a potential tight spot by saying welterweight Pernell Whitaker, who he also promotes, is actually a natural junior welterweight.)

Quartey, 27, recently signed a promotional agreement with HBO, which is televising Friday's card. Down the road is a lucrative bout with WBC welterweight champ Oscar De La Hoya.

"I think Oscar has the guts to get in with Ike, but I'm not sure his promoter (Bob Arum) does," Duva said, firing a verbal salvo. "That fight, if it happens, will make Ike a superstar instead of just being known in the tight-knit boxing community."

This HBO fight, with Jones in as something of a sacrificial lamb, is designed to increase the public's awareness of Quartey. A few bucks have come in on Jones since the numbers initially went up, but Wednesday in the Hilton sports book it was Quartey a --1500 favorite and Jones a +1000 underdog.

"I've prepared myself a long time for this," Jones said. "Styles make fights, so this should be a great fight."

Jones, also 27, is 29-1 with 27 KOs. He's a quality opponent for Quartey, yet, in truth, his lone loss was to the only real recognizable name on his ring resume, Reggie Green.

Jones is trained by U.S. Olympic team coach Pat Burns, who replaced Richie Giachetti last month.

Quartey, who has been trained throughout his career by Dan Odamtten, is already looking ahead to greater things. "I want De La Hoya or Whitaker," he said. "That way I prove that I'm the best welterweight."

Around the ring

* HILTON NOTES: Friday's card opens at 4 p.m. and also includes four other bouts that feature 4-0 junior lightweight Joel Cassamayor, 9-0 heavyweight Cedric Boswell, 8-0 lightweight Lemuel Nelson and 10-0 light heavyweight Jesus Ruiz. Tickets are $50 to $200. ... The Hilton also has a Saturday afternoon card to be televised by ABC that offers heavyweights Michael Grant and Lionel Butler in the main event. Grant, formerly of Las Vegas, is 24-0 with 17 KOs, while Butler is 26-12-1 in a classic journeyman's career. First bell is 1:30 p.m.

* OSCAR'S PLANS: Although his fight last Wednesday in Las Vegas didn't go as planned, David Kamau is on as the next opponent for Oscar De La Hoya. They'll fight June 14 in San Antonio, with HBO televising. "It's an HBO, not a pay-per-view fight," said Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler, explaining why a lesser opponent is acceptable for the new WBC welterweight champion. "I know Kamau almost seems like a comedown, and he certainly couldn't be a pay-per-view opponent. But he's had some quality performances." Yet he didn't have one last week at the Aladdin, getting cut in his eight-round fight and winning only by majority decision over lightly regarded Juan Rodriguez, who came into the bout 32-7-2. Kamau, who received a 45-day suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission as a result of the cut, is 28-1 with 21 knockouts. De La Hoya is 24-0.

* CURRY UPDATE: After losing to Emmett Linton last Wednesday at the Aladdin, Donald Curry announced his retirement from boxing. Now, however, he's contemplating fighting again despite being in and out of Valley Hospital three times since his loss to Linton. "As it turned out, he ended up going into the fight with a virus," said Curry's manager, Phil Hamilton. "That condition pre-existed the fight. We're thinking maybe that explains why Donald felt so weak during the fight, and why maybe he deserves the chance to fight again." Curry, 34-5, is 35 years old and was a TKO-7 loser to Linton. After leaving the Aladdin that night, Curry's condition worsened and he made three trips to Valley -- and had three CAT scans -- before it was determined he had an acute pancreatitis problem.

* QUICK HITS: De La Hoya, by the way, weighed 151 pounds moments before he stepped into the ring for his fight last Saturday with Pernell Whitaker. (The 147-pound weight limit only applied to the Friday weigh-in.) Whitaker ballooned to 157 pounds by fight time. ... De La Hoya vs. Whitaker broke the pay-per-view record for a nonheavyweight fight, attracting an estimated 865,000 buyers and grossing some $36.5 million. ... HBO will rebroadcast the De La Hoya-Whitaker fight Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ... Promoter Dino Duva said Wednesday that negotiations for the WBC heavyweight title fight between champion Lennox Lewis and challenger Henry Akinwande were continuing and that something should be ironed out soon. ... The next local card is April 23 at the Tropicana, with BAM Promotions presenting a rather nondescript main event, Ted Cofie, 13-3-1, vs. Terry Pitts, 9-2-2. Two other featured fights: Simon Brown, 45-6, vs. David Mendez, 15-9; and Lonnie Smith, 39-5-2, vs. Miguel Jarocho Gonzalez, 37-10-2.

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