Perennial middleweight/super middleweight gatekeeper Marcus Upshaw finally opened the gate to the next chapter of his career last Saturday, knocking out previously undefeated Turkish prospect Bugra Oener at Wynwood Stadium in Miami, to capture the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) interim Mediterranean super middleweight title.
The 35-year-old Upshaw (18-4-4, 9 KOs) fought in his home state for the first time in 2 ½ years. He was on a seek-and-destroy mission against reigning WBC Youth super middleweight champion Oener (9-1, 3 KOs).
Upshaw admitted considering retirement after his previous fight, in which he dropped Las Vegas hometown favorite Lanell Bellows (12-1-1) three times yet lost an eight-round decision.
“I’ve been the gatekeeper for so long but I finally opened the gate,” Upshaw said. “This fight felt awesome, especially after my long, long journey. I was stressed out after my last fight. I beat myself up and felt there was no reason for me to continue my boxing career. I felt used and was ready to quit, but I was convinced to give it one more shot. I was ready to put my life on the line, going for it and not worrying about getting hit or hurt.
“I knew that I had to finish this time. My opponent was related to one of the promoters and, along with my history, I knew that I had to keep going to finish the job. I knew I had to knock him out and I trained hard to do just that. I’ve put the past behind me. The problem was always me. This fight was fun. I stepped into the devil’s playground and that brought out the ugly in me to get the job done.”
It may seem strange that a life-long Floridian like Upshaw is the interim WBC Mediterranean super middleweight champion, but he proudly displays his second title belt (see accompanying picture with Upshaw and manager Si Stern), to go along with the Florida State middleweight strap he won in 2009, when he knocked out another unbeaten prospect at the time, Ahsandi Gibbs (10-0). Equally strange were the cheers he heard from the crowd that serenaded him with chants of “USA, USA” as he entered the ring with Florida promoter Dave Johnson waving an American flag as he led the team walk to Upshaw’s corner.
“For a change I was fighting in my backyard and hearing fans shout, ‘USA, USA’ motivated me a lot,” Upshaw noted. “They had my back. I was honored and it got me extra psyched for the fight. I knew had to prove myself. I’m really a middleweight but I took this fight at super middleweight because it was a good opportunity for me.”
Upshaw has always been known for his toughness, going the distance, albeit in losses, with champions, contenders and prospects such as Mario Antonio Rubio, David Lemieux, Gilberto Ramirez Sanchez, Edwin Rodriguez, Patrick Majewski and Tarvis Simms.
“I’m very happy for Marcus after all he’s been through,” Upshaw’s longtime manager Si Stern (SHS Boxing Management) added. “Marcus was a different fighter in the ring this time….like he was a completely different guy,” “Marcus had been mistreated by people in the early part of his career who threw him in against guys weighing up to 175 pounds, fighting them on late notice in their backyards, and a lot of his losses were to world champions.
“Marcus has always had the power he showed against Oner, but he wasn’t taught how to properly use his power until he started working with (head trainer) Orlando (Cuellar). Marcus is very, very strong and he’s never been in a bad fight. He’s lost some fights he should have won, but that’s all behind him now. Coming off this fight, I believe we can get him to fight for a regional title, and then we’ll go from there”