The Rich Gingras most New England fans remember is the heavy-handed, self-admitted flat-footed brawler who stood toe-to-toe with every opponent he faced and left everything in the ring no matter the outcome.
The same Gingras (15-5-1, 9 KOs) whose ring wars with Peter Manfredo Jr. and Angel Camacho Jr. in 2015 earned him a spot in the CES Boxing Ring of Honor is likely the one Antowyan Aikens is studying feverishly as the Atlantic City native prepares to face the Rhode Island icon in Gingras’ comeback fight Friday, May 11th, 2018 at Twin River Casino.
Tickets are priced at $47.00, $102.00, $127.00 (VIP) and $152.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesboxing.com, www.twinriver.com or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
The event, promoted by CES Boxing, begins with preliminary bouts at 7 p.m. ET with the main card streaming on Facebook via FIGHTNIGHT LIVE beginning at 8.
Logic suggests the 37-year-old Gingras can’t possibly be faster, sharper and even more prepared than he was in the his mid-30s, but the veteran super middleweight always had a few tricks up his sleeve in his heyday and figures to unearth a few more next month in front of what is expected to be another sold-out crowd in Lincoln.
A fight is simply a fight. This is almost child’s play compared to the way Gingras used to push himself to extremes shortly before he retired three years ago, back when he cut weight and trained for championship fights in between professional bodybuilding competitions. Those who doubt he can still succeed at 37 will do so at their own risk.
“I have the kind of drive most human beings would like to buy,” Gingras said.
Gingras’ six-round super middleweight bout against Aikens (12-4-1, 1 KO) is his first since September of 2015 when he went seven hard rounds with Camacho Jr. before finally getting stopped in the eighth, a fight remembered for the lasting image of a bloodied Gingras staring across the ring in disbelief. To this day, Gingras still hasn’t watched that fight in its entirety.
“It makes me nauseous,” he said. “I watch myself flat-footed. I was concussed. I don’t even remember a couple of the rounds. I was just standing there. It’s something that doesn’t sit well in my stomach.
“That’s just motivating me — that, and to be honest with you, it might be a little vain to say this, but I want people to say, ‘Holy shit, he looks three years younger, not older.’ That right there alone is intriguing me enough to get up and dig every single day.”
Still, there’s more to Gingras’ comeback than erasing past defeats. Truthfully, Gingras knows he can’t change the past, but since his work with Parkinson’s Disease has taken off in recent years, he’s become more dedicated to his craft, even more of a workaholic than he’s been most of his life.
Gingras’ commitment to fitness started with his Fight 2 Fitness gym in Pawtucket. He eventually began teaching boxing classes to patients suffering from Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders. He teamed with Rock Steady Boxing, a program designed to treat Parkinson’s patients, to open his own branch within the confines of Fight 2 Fitness and ultimately expanded to a second-floor workspace above his original gym.
With more than 100 clients, many of whom suffer from Parkinson’s, Gingras’ schedule is typically booked solid. A year and a half ago, when he first began thinking of returning to the ring, he quit lifting weights altogether, which, for those who don’t exercise regularly, is like a 10-year chain-smoker quitting cigarettes cold turkey.
He dedicates his days and nights to treating others, but in between sessions he always had this free time at his disposal – free time and a lot of pent-up energy he desperately needed to turn into something positive.
“I have anywhere from two to four hours in the afternoon to train and I’m sitting here and I’m in phenomenal shape thinking, ‘I’ve got to do something. I’m not done yet,'” Gingras said.
“I’ve had some things go on in my life over the past year and this is really going to put a bull’s eye on something positive and get me driving toward something.”
Gingras admits he’s not the typical boxer. He’s constantly surrounded by others in the fitness profession, whether it’s trainers or dieticians. He takes care of his body meticulously, watches every calories and counts every macro. He entered the sport fighting at cruiserweight, undefined and tipping the scales at close to 200 pounds. Now he’s a lean, chiseled wrecking machine who clocks in at 168 with ease.
He’s also self-aware. He knows what others are thinking as he prepares to end a three-year layoff in a sport typically unkind to those who try to relive their glory years at his age.
“I’m 37 years old. I’m not young. I’m almost 40. I’m 10 years older than Aikens,” he said. “I know what everyone is thinking: ‘First of all, he’s older, and he’s not going to be faster than he was. Could he be?’ It’s really intriguing.
“Despite what people may say or think, I guarantee you they’re going to show up just to see what’s going to happen. I’ve sat in that seat several times and I’ve seen so many old boxers in the ring, and I’ve always said to myself, ‘I will never be that guy.’ Let’s get one thing straight: I’m definitely going to have some baggage from not fighting for more than two years. Who wouldn’t have baggage? But what kind of baggage is that going to be? We won’t know until we get there.”
As a well-traveled observer aware of his surroundings, Aikens has seen plenty of Gingras through the years and has his own game plan on how to handle the proverbial untamed animal May 11th.
“I’m going to be the matador and he’s going to be the bull,” Aikens said. “We know how he fights. He comes straight at you. I’ve got to be the superior boxer that night.”
Asked if there’s any scenario in which Gingras can outbox him, Aikens said matter-of-factly, “No. Not in a million years.”
“That’s what everybody thinks,” Gingras added. “He’s a tall fighter. He fights tall. He will want to use his legs. In a 20-, 22-, 24-foot ring, you can only go so far. It’s going to come down to me not chasing somebody, which I’ve been famous for in the past. I’m not afraid to admit my own faults. I can fix them, hopefully. It’s going to be him trying to get away from me and me trying to cut the ring off and not chase him and be patient.”
Aikens has every reason to be confident. Two months ago, he made his Rhode Island debut against another familiar face on the regional circuit, Vladine Biosse. After absorbing a flash knockdown in the opening round, Aikens blocked out the pro-Biosse crowd and rallied for a split-decision win.
“That’s nothing new to me,” Aikens said. “I used to get knocked down in the gym every day and I always got back up and always came back, so that was nothing new to me. I just had to find a way to weather the storm, that’s all.
“My jab was on point, my boxing was on point. I could’ve done a whole lot better based on my footwork, but that’s something we’ve been working on in this camp. We’re going to come as little stronger and let our hands go a little more.”
Can Gingras rediscover the magic at 37 after more than two years away from the sport? Can Aikens spoil the party for a second time in as many fights? A lot of questions will be answered May 11th while others may need more clarification beyond just one fight. One thing, however, is certain: this is a comeback fight fans won’t want to miss.
“When you see me fight, regardless of who’s standing in front of me, you’re going to get your money’s worth,” Gingras said. “I fight like I’m fighting for my life. Everybody knows that.”
In addition to the Gingras-Aikens bout, the May 11th extravaganza features a rematch between female welterweights Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes (18-4-3, 1 KO) of Marshfield, Mass., and Ontario’s Natasha Spence (8-3-2, 6 KOs), scheduled for eight rounds. The two fought to a draw in December.
Undefeated super lightweight Anthony Marsella Jr. (8-0, 4 KOs) of Providence returns in his toughest to date, a six-round showdown against Arlington, Wash., native Ricardo Maldonado (8-7-1, 1 KO), and Sicilian heavyweight Juiseppe Cusumano (14-1, 12 KOs) puts his 12-fight win streak on the line in a six-round bout against Bernardo Marquez (8-3-1, 5 KOs) of Riverside, Calif.
Also on the main card, unbeaten Worcester, Mass., native Jamaine Ortiz (8-0, 4 KOs) faces the dangerous Tyrone Luckey (9-8-3, 7 KOs) of Neptune, N.J., in a six-round lightweight bout and regional rivals Marqus Bates (3-2, 2 KOs) of Taunton, Mass., and Mohamad Allam (3-2, 1 KO) of Holyoke, Mass., battle one another in a six-round bout.
Featherweight Ricky Delossantos (4-0, 1 KO) of Pawtucket, R.I., puts his undefeated record on the line against Maryland’s James Early (3-2) in a four-round bout while cruiserweights Jake Paradise (0-1) of Worcester and Leandro Silva (0-1) of Sao Paolo, Brazil each search for their first career win when they face one another in a four-round preliminary bout.
Johnston, R.I. super lightweight Nicky DeQuattro (3-0, 1 KO) returns to Twin River to face Andy Aiello (0-1) of Bridgewater, Mass., in a four-round bout and Derrick Whitley (3-0) of Springfield, Mass., makes his Rhode Island debut in a separate four-round welterweight bout.