There’s something about spending time away from boxing that makes a fighter appreciate what he had and motivates him or her to get it all back.
Both Artie Lopes and Marqus Bates, who face one another Friday night at Twin River Casino on the undercard of CES Boxing’s Nick DeLomba–Jimmy Williams World Boxing Council championship showdown at Twin River Casino, have endured ample layoffs during their careers.
Lopes (1-0, 1 KO), a Marshfield, Mass., native, returns Friday for the first time since making his professional debut in 2009, fighting in honor of his late brother, Manuel Antonio Lopes, who passed away in December following a long bout with depression and addiction.
Bates (1-1, 1 KO), from nearby Taunton, lost three years to incarceration, a byproduct of him straying further and further from the sport after losses in the Golden Gloves left him discouraged and questioning his future. It was a humbling experience for Bates, who had a 4-year-old son at home.
Locked behind bars from ages 25 through 28 in a facility in upstate Massachusetts for what he describes as “being in the streets, selling drugs, playing with guns,” Bates never gave up on his dream of boxing professionally. If anything, the time away from friends and family further legitimized what he wanted to do in life.
“The whole time I was away from my son and my family, I just came up with a format,” Bates said. “I thought to myself, ‘What do I want to do so I’m not living with regret? What can I do to make my life better for myself, my son and my family.’
“As soon as I got out, I hit the pavement running.”
At the age of 30 — two years after his release — Bates debuted against Springfield’s Miguel Ortiz, losing via first-round knockout shortly after sending his opponent to the canvas in the opening minute. Five months later, determined to correct his mistakes, Bates returned and earned his first professional win, stopping Aaron Muniz in the first round.
Now he faces his next challenge, the 31-year-old Lopes, who returns on an emotional night alongside his stepmother, welterweight Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes (16-4-2, 1 KO), also appearing on the undercard in an eight-round bout against Mexican challenger Paty Ramirez (11-3, 5 KOs). Later that night, CES president Jimmy Burchfield Sr. will induct Manny Lopes into the promotion’s prestigious Ring of Honor.
Suffice to say, Bates must overcome more than just the opponent standing across from him Friday night, but this is a much different Bates than the one who lost his focus seven months ago in the loss to Ortiz. For the second consecutive training camp, the Taunton native is working alongside New England legend “Sucra” Ray Oliveira, who’s helped Bates develop both in and out of the ring.
“From that first camp to this one, I can see myself building. Usually, when you work for so long you get to a plateau, but now I’m getting to a wall and I keep knocking it down,” Bates said.
“The next camp, we’ll get to that wall and knock that one down, too. [Oliveira] just helps me to be myself. He always tells me, ‘Be you. Be the guy you are.’ He sees I’m very humble, down to earth and open-minded. I’m willing to learn. I’m willing to push myself to the next level.”
Like Lopes, Bates will carry his own source of motivation into the ring with himFriday night; in fact, that source — his younger brother, Trevor Bates, a professional football player and member of the New England Patriots practice squad — will be there to walk him out from his dressing room.
Born into an athletic family (the Bates’ father was a standout high school and collegiate football player), the elder Bates has always competed with his younger brother. The idea of both of them being professional athletes is surreal to Marqus, far from the scenario he envisioned while behind bars, locked away from those important to him.
“Years ago, I couldn’t even tell where I would be,” he said. “I didn’t envision this. I really didn’t.”
Twenty-four hours after Marqus won his first boxing match at Twin River, Trevor watched his teammates complete the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history to win the franchise’s fifth championship. A week later, Trevor brought his brother with him to the Super Bowl parade in Boston.
“I get on the bus and all of a sudden I see this big, 6-foot-7 behemoth walking toward me. What do you know, it’s [Rob Gronkowski],” Bates recalled. “He was sitting behind me the whole way up there. He’s a funny a dude – a big, funny dude.”
With a strong team behind him that includes Oliveira and his manage Brian Johnson, Bates is looking to make the most of his second opportunity in boxing. There are some similarities between he and his opponent Friday (both actually trained with the legendary Goody Petronelli at one point in their careers), none bigger than the fact they’re both hungrier than ever.
“It boggles my mind sometimes,” Bates said. “I was a little scared, to be honest. I didn’t know how everything would work out. If you believe in God, my grandmother says, you can make plans, but God un-plans.
“Your plans don’t always work out the way you want them to, but I knew one thing for sure – I wanted to step back in the ring. I never knew I’d turn pro or get this far. Now I’m here and it’s full steam ahead. It’s truly a blessing. I just want to give it my all and see where it can take me. I plan to go pretty far.”
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Cranston, R.I., vet DeLomba (11-1, 2 KOs) faces Williams (12-0-1, 5 KOs) of New Haven, Conn., in the 10-round main event for the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) USNBC Welterweight Title. Also fighting April 7th, Springfield, Mass., vetZack Ramsey (7-1, 3 KOs) battles unbeaten Augusta, Ga., native Divante Jones(9-0, 6 KOs) for the vacant New England Lightweight Title.
Junior middleweight Ray Oliveira Jr. (7-0, 1 KO) and Portland, Maine native Casey Kramlich (6-0-1, 3 KOs), face one another in the six-round co-feature. Worcester, Mass., lightweight Jamaine Ortiz (3-0, 2 KOs), fresh off a hard-fought win over unbeaten Canton Miller in February, faces another undefeated challenger in a four-round bout against Glenn Mitchell (2-0, 2 KOs) of Steubenville, Ohio, and Lynn, Mass., welterweight Khiry Todd (2-0, 2 KOs) battles Coconut Creek, Fla., pro debut Adriano Moraes in a four-round bout.
Junior welterweight Jonathan Figueroa (2-0, 1 KO) of Hartford, Conn., returns to Twin River to face Springfield’s Miguel Ortiz (1-0, 1 KO) in a four-round showdown between two rising New England prospects and amateur standouts Ricky Delossantos of Providence, R.I., and Philip Davis of Worcester make their professional debuts against one another in a four-round super featherweight bout.
Junior welterweight Cristobal Marrero (3-0, 2 KOs) of New London, Conn., by way of Worcester, returns for the first time since December in a four-round bout against New York’s Sidney Maccow (4-4, 3 KOs) and Worcester super middleweightKendrick Ball Jr. (5-0-2, 4 KOs) puts his unbeaten record on the line against Rhode Islander and U.S. Air Force vet Zachary Christy (1-0-1) in a six-round bout.