Sometimes, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
New Orleans boxer Marcus McDaniel wasn’t so fortunate several months ago when he was shot three times while sitting in his car by a still-unidentified assailant.
But a few weeks ago, McDaniel, now recovered, was offered the chance to meet undefeated Ali Akhmedov of Kazakhstan in the feature event on a June 8 event headlined by former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
In fabled Madison Square Garden, no less, with the WBC Intercontinental super middleweight title at stake to boot, along with being streamed worldwide on DAZN.
“What a hell of an opportunity,” said McDaniel, whose last bout was before a crowd of about 300 in a converted New Orleans warehouse called the “Calliope Coliseum.” “I really appreciate getting it.
“When they asked me about, I was overwhelmed. It’s like I’m finally getting somewhere in my career.”
It’s certainly taken a while.
McDaniel, 34, began his pro career in 2009. But he’s had only 15 pro fights, all victories, taking off almost three years before that last one, a six-round unanimous decision in February against veteran Brian Vera.
That victory earned him a spot on a ShoBox card in July.
But when Akhmedov’s opponent pulled out because of injury, GGG Promotions’ promoter Tom Loeffler reached out to longtime New Orleans boxing figure Les Bonano through mutual friends after hearing about McDaniel’s availability plus he was already in training.
“This always happens in boxing,” Bonano said. “Somebody take advantage by stepping up and winning when nobody expects them to, or at least they make a good showing.
“Marcus is being asked to handle the big stage. He’s old enough, and he knows what this can mean to him.”
Akhmedov is ranked No. 3 at 168 pounds by the WBC. Akhmedov (14-0, 10 KO) is a natural light heavyweight, and, at 23, is more than a decade younger than McDaniel.
Akhmedov’s last fight was an eight-round decision against Mike Guy in March, but he has had three scheduled 10-rounders, as this one will be, while McDaniel has never gone past eight rounds. The Vera fight was only a six-rounder.
On top of that, McDaniel has only two knockouts in his career.
“This guy is bigger and younger than me,” McDaniel said. “So the odds are against me.
“But I’m going in there taking it round-by-round and maybe show him something he’s never seen before.”
Loeffler said he isn’t looking at McDaniel as a mere “opponent.”
“It’s really a great matchup,” he said. “I know Marcus was off for a little while, but he’s got the pedigree plus he’s an undefeated fighter.
“It’s also every fighter’s dream to fight in Madison Square Garden, and it’s Ali’s first time there, too. We wouldn’t put this fight on the card where it is if we didn’t believe it’s going to be a good one.”
McDaniel is trained locally by Ronald Weaver and Chase Dixon. But he will spend next week in Houston working with Bobby Benton, the trainer of WBA super lightweight champion Regis Prograis.
“The good thing for Marcus is that he’s always stayed in good shape, so he didn’t have to just get in the gym and start working,” Weaver said. “They act like Marcus doesn’t have the power to do any damage, but he can punch and knows he’ll probably have to outpoint him going in.”
“If Marcus just stays focused and follows the guidelines we’re giving him, he’s going to be all right. Marcus doesn’t want to lose this fight any more than the other guy does.”
Along with the prestige of fighting in Madison Square Garden, McDaniel’s $75,000 payday for the event represents far more than he’s earned in his first 15 fights put together.
“The money’s nice,” McDaniel said. “But I’ve never depended on boxing to pay my bills, and I don’t get to keep all of it anyway.
“It more about having a chance to win, and then the sky’s the limit. But whichever way this goes, I feel like I’ve got a lot of fighting left in me.”
Prograis-Taylor bout for Ring Title
Ring Magazine has declared the winner of Prograis’ World Boxing Super Series lightweight championship fight against Joshua Taylor to be for the publication’s vacant 140-pound title.
Already, Prograis was putting his newly won WBA championship on the line against Taylor’s IBF title.
The other two super lightweight title holders, Jose Ramirez (WBC) and Maurice Hooker (WBO) did not participate in the tournament.
“This was a no-brainer,” said Tony Gray, assistant editor of The Ring. “It’s undefeated vs. undefeated and No. 1 vs. No. 2.
“Prograis-Taylor represents the best vs. the best.”
The date and site for the Prograis-Taylor fight has not been determined. The WBSS release on the Ring announcement stated that the decision will happen “in due course,” after the June 15 cruiserweight division semifinals in Riga, Latvia.