Archdeacon: Trotwood-Madison grad Pearson plans a ring rewrite

Chris Pearson will fight unbeaten, IBO super middleweight champ Carlos Gongora in a 12-round title bout April 17 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Nick Graham/FILE
Chris Pearson will fight unbeaten, IBO super middleweight champ Carlos Gongora in a 12-round title bout April 17 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Nick Graham/FILE

His plan is to flip the script.

“They’re bringing me in on the B-side to fight a world champion,” Chris Pearson said as he headed to the gym in San Antonio a couple of mornings ago. “I know they’re bringing me in as an elite contender, but I’ve also been brought on short notice – just three weeks – and because I haven’t fought in two years.

“They’re bringing me in as the opponent. They’re bringing me in to lose.”

“But I’m going to interrupt those plans and take his belt.”

Nearly 10 years into his pro boxing career – and much longer than he ever thought it would take to get to this point – Pearson is fighting for a world title.

On April 17, the 2009 Trotwood Madison grad who is now based in Texas, will fight unbeaten, super middleweight champ Carlos Gongora in a 12-round bout at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

The Florida-based IBO (International Boxing Organization) is considered a minor world title by many and is not recognized by the sport’s four primary sanctioning bodies (WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO.) But it is acknowledged by the European Boxing Union and by BoxRec, the official record keeper of boxing.

Over the years the IBO has had several champions of note, including Tommy Hearns, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.

Gongoro, a 31-year old southpaw from Ecuador who fights out of Boston – won his crown in stunning fashion last December with a come-from-behind, 12th round knockout of previously unbeaten Ali Akhmedov at the Seminole Hard Rock.

Gongoro came into the fight an 8-1 underdog and left with a new multi-fight promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing.

Matchroom is putting on the April 17th show in Florida.

“I know they’re trying to get him another solid win and then try to teleport him into a fight with somebody like Canelo (WBA and WBC super middleweight champ, Canelo Alvarez, Ring Magazine’s best pound for pound fighter in the sport.)

‘I’m not sure what they got planned for Gongoro, but they see things in me they figure will help them. I come with the kind of prestige and accomplishments and accolades that pose me as a real threat on paper.”

Pearson – who had an impressive 93-8 amateur career and won several national tiles – turned pro in November of 2011. Since then he’s had 20 pro fights, going 17-2 with one eight-round bout ruled no contest.

He had considerable fanfare early on, signing with celebrity manager Al Haymon, who was voted manager of the year five times by the Boxing Writers of America Association. He figured that connection would get him a title shot within a few years, but it did not.

While living and training in Las Vegas, Pearson had a promotional deal with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and twice fought on Mayweather undercards. He later signed a promotional deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy promotions.

Pearson registered a notable 10-round upset decision over previously unbeaten Brazilian Yamaguchi Falcao for the WBC Latino Middleweight title on May 2, 2019 in Las Vegas.

But he has not fought since. He blamed COVID-19 cancellations and “contract disputes.”

He now has a new promoter – San Antonio-based Davies Entertainment – and, for this fight, a new trainer in Alex Espinosa.

But he will be fighting at an old weight. He last fought as a super middleweight (160 to 168 pounds) as an amateur.

In his 19 pro fights, Gongora – who at 6-foot-1 is three inches taller than Pearson – has fought several times at super middleweight and won a bronze medal at the London Olympics as a light heavyweight.

During Pearson’s 23-month layoff, Gongora has fought four times.

All that seemingly gives Gongora an advantage and Pearson said that’s just the way he likes it.

“I’m at my best when the odds are against me, when I’m the underdog and have a chip on my shoulder,” he said.

“I don’t think I’m a guy that does well in the lead. I’ve always been motivated off doubt. Off trying to prove myself. It’s been that way my whole life, going all the way back to when I was a chubby little kid.”

‘They called him Tank’

In the past, Milt Pearson – Chris’s dad and a family specialist with Trotwood Madison Middle School – has told me about his son’s introduction to boxing as a 7 year old at the old Team America gym on Salem Avenue.

“He was short and chubby, just a round, pudgy little guy who wore glasses. They called him Tank.”

Not everybody, Chris once corrected.

He said his cousins had called him “Lil’ Fat Boy.”

The first time he sparred at Team America, he was matched against a more experienced boy who repeatedly hit him. Chris didn’t have the skills to counter those punches and the frustration left him in tears.

Milt – who had raised his son on his own – told him he didn’t have to continue with boxing, but that only fueled the boy more. He began showing up early at the gym and sought more and more sparring sessions.

By age 10 he was a Junior Golden Gloves champion and a Silver Gloves champ.

“I was still chubby then,” the 30-year-old Pearson said with a laugh the other morning. “I didn’t start getting lean until I was 14.”

Eventually, he played basketball for Trotwood Madison High, but boxing was his forte. He won a national Police Athletic League (PAL) title and the National Amateur Middleweight title and eventually made a splash in the World Series of Boxing, fighting for the Los Angeles Matadors.

He won his first 13 pro fights, but then was upset by 32-year-old Eric Walker, who had spent 13 years in prison. Surprisingly, two fights later he also was stopped in two rounds by Justin DeLoach.

For both of those fights, Pearson – who said between bouts his weight was “nothing less than 185,” – had to make a 154-pound weight limit.

“I was just a shell in those fights,” Pearson said. “For Walker, I had to lose 20 pounds in four days. That’s not healthy.

“It’s nobody’s fault and that’s not an excuse, it’s just the facts. I wasn’t the most disciplined, but regardless, I think my body was telling me it didn’t want to do any of that. It was too much

“But a lot of times when you turn pro, you get wrapped up in what everybody else is saying, about how you need to go down to 154 or whatever.”

“As much as those losses hurt, I’m proud I’ve come back from those doors being closed on me and was able to beat a guy like Yamaguchi in my last fight. And now I’m preparing to do the same in this fight.”

‘I’m going to transform’

As the pandemic closed things down in Ohio, Pearson moved last July to San Antonio. It’s where his girlfriend, Cierre White, a Chaminade-Julienne and Miami University grad in the U.S. Air Force, is stationed.

Pearson said he is better prepared for success this time around than when he first experienced it:

“I think God’s timing is the best timing and I think my time is now. Prior to this. I don’t think I was ready for the things I was striving for.

“When I signed with Floyd Mayweather, I started getting all this praise – not from the boxing world as much as my peers – and I was like, ‘See, I told y’all!’ But it took my hunger away.

“I got a nice taste of everything – lifestyle, prestige, success. It was a nice sample size, but now I want the full meal.

“I know the promoters of this fight expect me to lose, but it was the same at the Yamaguchi fight.”

Promoters hadn’t even bothered to bring a new belt along in case Pearson won.

Going all the way back to those chubby, bespectacled days as a kid, Pearson was asked how he’s continually been able to step up. He thought a moment, then quietly laughed:

“It’s the same way Clark Kent did it. He took off his glasses, transformed into Superman and saved the world.

“Now, I’m going to transform, too.”

He plans on going from the B-side to a world championship.

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