Pawtucketâ€™s Thomas â€˜The Souljahâ€™ Falowo, right, hits opponent Tylon Burris, of Hartford, with a hard right hand during a 2013 bo ut at Twin
River in Lincoln. On Saturday in Las Vegas, Falowo will make his television debut, facing undefeated super middleweight Ronald â€˜The Thrillâ€™ Gavril in a match to be broadcast live on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET.
(File photo by Ernest A. Brown)
PAWTUCKET — Ten years have gone by since Thomas “The Souljah” Falowo first laced up a pair of boxing gloves, and this weekend in Las Vegas the Pawtucket-based pro will bring to bear every bit of that experience as he steps onto the biggest stage of his career.
Falowo, 12-2-0 (8 KO) in his fourth year as a professional, will make his television debut on Saturday night, taking on highly-touted Romanian-born prospect Ronald “The Thrill” Gavril at the Palms Resort Casino.
The bout is the first of three televised matches on the card, which will be broadcast live on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET.
“I’ve always wanted to fight on TV,” said Falowo in an interview before he left for Las Vegas Thursday. “That’s always been the goal, to get on the TV level – especially on Showtime.”
At the same time, the fight represents both a culmination of his accomplishments in the ring to this point, as well as an opportunity to take his career to new heights. Gavril, born in Bacau, Romania, is a 9-0-0 (7 KO) super middleweight now based out of Las Vegas and promoted by Mayweather Promotions, the company founded by pound-for-pound champ Floyd Mayweather, who will be ringside that night.
Falowo, coming off a first-round stoppage of Jose Ramirez on June 6 at Twin River, said he’s never been more ready for a fight than this one.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity and I’m not going in there by any means as an opponent,” he said. “I’m ready to go in there and go to work and try to get this guy out of there. I’m ready to perform – this is the best I’ve ever felt.”
The last year or so has been an up-and-down ride for the 25-year-old professional. In July of last year, he fought a punishing eight-round war against hard-punching veteran Chris Chatman.
The two traded knockdowns in the fourth, and although Chatman was nearly out on his feet in the final round, he held on until the final bell to win a close unanimous decision, which gave Falowo his second career loss.
That led to a seven-month layoff that was the longest of Falowo’s career to date. He came back in February to fight Jaison Palomeque, but that bout ended abruptly in the third round when Palomeque was disqualified for trying to kick Falowo.
Falowo’s 11-month period of relative inactivity (before his most-recent fight, in June) gave him plenty of time to get back to boxing basics. Known as a pressure fighter whose main weapons in the ring were his volume of punches and stamina, Falowo for most of the past year has been working with trainer Peter Manfredo Sr. to improve his overall ring balance, and to put more weight behind his punches.
“Previously I definitely fell in a lot more, and certain shots I wasn’t getting the leverage that I wanted, which caused me to lose a lot of my power,” Falowo said. “I was throwing a lot more arm punches at that point in my career – I didn’t feel like I sat on my punches until earlier this year.”
Now he says he is more able to apply pressure without putting himself in harm’s way.
“It’s making me less available to get hit for punches. I’m not leaning in as much, I’m not there for the uppercut as I was.”
The refinement in his approach paid dividends in his last fight – resulting in the first opening round knockout of his pro career.
“Once I got that balance, in my last fight I sat down on my punches,” he said. “(The knockout) wasn’t even a big shot, it was just a short right hand. I just put it right on the button and he went down. It was more my form than strength.”
The 6’1” Falowo, previously a middleweight, will be moving up to the 168-pound weight class for the first time to face Gavril. He said the move up shouldn’t be an impediment.
“I feel good, I feel strong at this weight. I’m in shape, feeling strong, and I’m ready to go. I’m running almost every day, sparring and bag drills. Manfredo puts us through some tough workouts,” he said. “I feel condition-wise that I’m at my peak right now.”
If Falowo is at his peak physically and stylistically, it’s only fitting since his opponent on Saturday should be the toughest he’s faced. Although Gavril has fewer pro appearances on his record, the 28-year-old is a veteran of a reported 150 amateur bouts before arriving stateside. He is coming off a fourth-round TKO of Tyrell Hendrix, a fight which was on the un-televised undercard of Mayweather-Maidana at the MGM Grand in May.
Listed at 6’2” and broad-shouldered, Gavril is an orthodox fighter with a come-forward style, keeping his left hand near his waist and looking to capitalize on counterpunching opportunities with a hard overhand right.
“He kind of has that Mayweather style a little bit, with the way he keeps his left low and he likes to roll, but he’s a pretty offensive fighter, which I like,” Falowo said in assessment. “I’d rather have a guy that comes forward and throws, than a guy who I’m going to have to chase around all the time. His style I think matches up good against mine, so it’ll make for a fan-friendly fight.”
With Gavril fighting in his adopted hometown, Falowo expects his opponent will get the benefit of the crowd support, but he said that being the out-of-town underdog doesn’t affect his attitude or approach.
“I really have no problem going in there as the underdog and going into his hometown. I know what I’m able to do and all I have to do is go in there and perform,” he said. “To be able to go in there and win over the crowd in his hometown would be even bigger. That drives me even more.”
Being amongst the select few boxers who ever earn the chance to fight in Las Vegas on national television made Falowo reflect on how far he’s come in the sport. He’s now on the same path that some of his fellow stablemates were, back when he was looking up to them as a 15-year-old amateur.
“I was just thinking the other day, when I first started out (Peter) Manfredo (Jr.) was on The Contender show, Jason Estrada was in the Olympics about to turn pro, and Matt Godfrey was turning pro,” he said, referring to three of the stars who put R.I. on the boxing map in the mid-2000s.
“Now it’s me, Toka Khan (Clary) and Shelly (Vincent) that are the older pros – we came into our own, and Matt and Jason and Pete are pretty much done for the most part. It’s definitely a role change, but it feels good.”
Follow Seth Bromley on Twitter: @SethBromley
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