Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Ardreal Holmes: The Newest Player In The 154lb. Jr. Middleweight Division

 It is something that this observer has said frequently over the lifetime that I have been covering Boxing and by extension combat sports, but the sport of Boxing is truly one where the search for prospects and the next line of contenders truly never ends. Over the years, Boxing fans have been accustomed to seeing such would-be prospects showcased on various platforms where the ultimate goal has been to showcase a prospect towards what most would consider world title contention. The close of 2023 saw the close of one such platform in Showtime Sports and along with it, it's popular ShoBox: The New Generation series. While the series was known to air world championship bouts from around the world from time to time, ShoBox was primarily known as a breeding ground for fighters who were on the way up towards challenging for world championships and in some cases, superstar status in the sport.

In the latter stages of the series one prospect emerged for what became the first of only two appearances on the series, undefeated Jr. Middleweight Ardreal Holmes, who subsequently scored two ten round decisions over fighters named Vernon Brown in March 2022, and Ismael Villareal in March of last year. Holmes followed those two victories with a step up in winning the United States Boxing Association (USBA) Jr. Middleweight championship with an eighth round stoppage of Wendy Toussaint in June of last year, which was also his first fight away from Shoowtime/ShoBox and his debut on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN

While winning the USBA title was a step up, due to the organization’s affiliation with the International Boxing Federation (IBF) in terms of establishing Holmes in the world rankings in the 154lb. Jr. Middleweight division, there are countless fighters looking to establish themselves on the regional title level and often, it takes a performance that will both turn heads and create buzz that will determine how quickly a fighter at that level will be able to move up towards world title contention. This leads us to Holmes’ most recent outing on February 20th in a main event of a card once again broadcast by DAZN and promoted by former world title challenger Dmitry Salita’s Salita Promotions at the Wayne State Fieldhouse in Detroit, MI. In what was the first defense of the USBA title for Holmes, a native of Flint, MI, faced a fellow prospect in Marlon Harrington of Detroit. 

Although Holmes was coming off of a stoppage win in his previous fight over Wendy Toussaint, he seemed more like a tactical boxer to this observer based on his two outings prior to that fight where he was able to box his way to decision victories by outworking his opposition. It is also worth noting that Holmes had only scored knockouts in five of his fourteen career wins coming into this encounter, which seems to support the view of yours truly that Holmes is a fighter more known for his Boxing ability as opposed to his punching power. In contrast to the champion, Harrington entered the bout with a record of 10-1, with 9 of those wins coming by knockout, registering a career knockout percentage of 90% compared to Holmes’ near 40%.

What this indicated to me as someone who was seeing Harrington compete for the first time was that he would try, at least in theory, to back Holmes up and look to limit his ability to use lateral movement and use angles, two of the most valuable tools in the arsenal of a skilled boxer and attributes that Holmes had used in his previous bouts. The first round appeared to indicate that it would indeed be Harrington’s strategy to try to apply pressure on Holmes and back him up against the ropes. While Holmes has shown a willingness to fight off the ropes in previous fights, he displayed great ring awareness and discipline in being able to turn slightly just as he was getting close to the ropes and avoid being caught and trapped where Harrington might have been able to do damage.

The opening round of this fight did not offer much in the way of action, but it did serve as being as good a demonstration as any as to the intelligence or “Boxing IQ” that the twenty-nine year old Holmes appears to have. In round two, Holmes showed something new, something he has not shown before previously, the ability to bring a fight to a sudden end and do so in impressive fashion. An overhand left in the early seconds of round two that seemingly came out of nowhere sent Harrington down hard on the canvas. Harrington struggled to get to his feet,but was able to continue. Sensing the end was near, Holmes proceeded to deck Harrington for a second time with a flush right hook to the jaw. Despite my feelings at this point that the bout should have been stopped after the second knockdown, the heart Marlon Harrington showed in being able to get up a second time on very unsteady legs, cannot be questioned, even though the decision to let him attempt to continue probably should. A justification for asking why the fight was allowed to go on beyond the second knockdown was validated when Holmes sent Harrington down for a third time seconds later, the bout was mercifully stopped. 

Questions regarding why this fight was prolonged longer than should have been the case aside, what this victory for Holmes at 1:25 of the second round did show is not only is Ardreal Holmes an evolving world-class boxer, but now, he has shown the ability to be a sniper in the sense of being able to recognize a vulnerability in his opponent and take that opponent out if given the opportunity. Whether this is an indication of a new approach to his fights or simply an evolving skillset, a victory like this should put Holmes on the radar as a fighter that is on the verge of becoming a legitimate contender rather than being a fringe contender. While as of February 2024 Ardreal Holmes has yet to break into the top fifteen of the International Boxing Federation’s Jr. Middleweight ratings, it would not surprise this observer to see his name appear in that top fifteen list of contenders when the IBF updates their rankings after this latest performance. One should also keep in mind that those who hold regional titles throughout the sport often do not hold onto those titles for extended periods if they continue to win. An additional wrinkle that currently exists in the division that may result in Holmes being able to try and step up against a top contender sooner is the fact that the IBF world championship in the division is currently vacant and as such, with the exception of the upper tier of contenders in the division that will be trying to get in position to fill the vacancy, the rest of the top fifteen likely has plenty of room to maneuver. For now, Ardreal Holmes has established himself as the newest player in the division that should be on the radar of any contender or world champion in the division. Whether he will turn out to be a major player in the IBF and beyond in the days and months to come remains to be seen. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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