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Local boxer Henry Namauu’s dreams get bigger

Once competing just to bring family respect, Namauu starting to believe in world title run

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Steve Marcus

Former UNLV boxer Henry Namauu bows to the audience after knocking out Patrick Liles during a cruiserweight fight at The Orleans Friday, May 22, 2009.

When former UNLV boxer Henry Namauu began his professional career in 2008, he had no dreams of taking on the top names of the sport or ever competing for a world title.

Two years and 10 professional fights later, that's exactly what's on his mind.

Namauu, 26, will look to record his fifth consecutive win when he meets Jason Douglas in the main event of the Crown Boxing card scheduled Friday at The Crown Theater and Nightclub inside the Rio.

The winner of the fight is expected to compete for the vacant IBA cruiserweight title in December — an opportunity Namauu believes would be a significant step toward holding a world title someday.

"Before, all I wanted was to have 40 fights and bring respect to my family," Namauu said. "Now, I can actually see myself fighting for a world title. I can put my hands around it. I can breathe it, smell it.

"I get so excited just talking about it. Yes, it's something I do believe can happen."

Although Namauu's accomplishments as an amateur were impressive, including regional and national collegiate titles at UNLV, he never used to consider himself talented enough to make a world-title run as a pro.

That mindset changed, however, in January, when Namauu posted a unanimous-decision win over Erick Vega.

The win was significant in that Namauu admits he entered the ring that night as scared as he'd been in his career. It was Vega, after all, who had knocked Namauu out in just 59 seconds in his professional debut in 2008.

"You know, I get scared, too. I'm just like everybody else," Namauu said. "For me to get over something like that and actually come away with a win — it was like, man, what else can I do? It didn't seem like anything was unattainable after that."

While Namauu has allowed himself to dream of bigger and better things down the road, he also knows he has a long way to go to be able to take on the most elite competition in his weight class.

Defensively, Namauu is prone to leaving himself open when he punches and has been knocked down in the third round or earlier three times in 10 fights.

The fact that he'll sometimes take a punch to give one has given Namauu the reputation of being one of the most entertaining fighters under the Crown Boxing banner, but it's not the best strategy when it comes to building a win streak.

According to Namauu's longtime head coach Skip Kelp, the goal isn't to change Namauu's crowd-pleasing style, just to balance it out.

"Henry is a real gutsy fighter. He fights with his emotions on his sleeve," Kelp said. "Sometimes he can get overzealous and not put his offense and defense together.

"I think there can be a happy medium there — fight with the same tempo and the same type of fight, but instead of getting hit with punches, let them graze off you and catch your opponent coming back."

It's a strategy Namauu (7-3) will look to impose on Douglas (8-4), who also is looking to punch his first ticket to an IBA title fight.

With both fighters looking to give their careers a boost, Friday's eight-round main event could turn into one of the closest fights of the night. At least that's the way the oddsmakers have it, as the betting line on both fighters opened at minus-120.

Although Namauu says he's expecting a close fight, he's not about to allow the biggest opportunity of his career to date pass him by.

Even though the dream of becoming a world champion wasn't his until just recently, he's not going to waste any time trying to make it come true.

"I'm real quiet and real reserved. But man, on the inside I'm boiling over," Namauu said. "This is a big step for me and I've earned it. I've worked hard for it. I've been through my downfalls, and I'm finally in a position where I can stand up and own my career.

"I know I'm not ready (for a world title) yet. But this is a great step in the right direction."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at LVSunFighting

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