Demetrius Andrade had everything going for him: great skills, a winning personality and an undefeated record and a junior middleweight world title. The 2008 U.S. Olympian had just looked very impressive polishing off mandatory challenger Brian Rose in the seventh round of his first defense. That was June 2014.
Then Andrade essentially self-destructed. Here we are two years later and the Providence, Rhode Island product has fought just once, in a non-televised bout against a low-level opponent in October. He was also stripped of his 154-pound title for inactivity.
He turned down fights for career money, battled with co-promoters Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions and Star Boxing's Joe DeGuardia over his contract and got into a beef with Roc Nation Sports, which he sued after it supposedly promised to buy out his contract last year but never did.
Andrade all but torpedoed his career for the past two years but seems to finally have come around. He has smoothed things over with his promoters, sounds happy and excited to get back to work and will do so in an important fight against contender Willie Nelson in a world title elimination bout on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET with preliminary action on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 ET/PT) at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, on the eve of the annual inductions into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (which is a few minutes away from the casino in Canastota).
So, welcome back, Mr. Andrade, who has said all the right things as he embarks on a return to the spotlight.
"I've been staying busy, staying focused knowing that there's a bigger picture at the end of the day," Andrade said. "All great legends and all Hall of Fame fighters have their storylines. My time is coming around. The tables are turning and people are going to have to step up and fight each other in one way or another."
The winner of this fight will become the mandatory challenger for Jermell Charlo (28-0, 13 KOs), who won a vacant belt by eighth-round knockout of John Jackson on May 21.
Andrade said he is not upset by how the past two years have played out for him. Not upset by watching the sport pass him by. Not upset that, for reasons that he has not explained, he gave up two years of his athletic prime in terms of his earning ability.
"Sometimes, where you are in life is more conducive than your bank account," Andrade said. "So, I'm not upset, or mad or frustrated with a thing that is going on and how everything played out.
"Me and the promotion team, we got back together. We figured out our situation. We resolved it. And, you know, here we are right now today, and it was all a learning lesson."
The way Andrade looks at things, the past two years have been a great learning experience about life.
"At this point, there is a lesson in everything that you go through in life and I learned my lesson through that point in time," he said. "Me trying to be frustrated and take it out on people? No. I took it out in the ring."
And in that ring Andrade (22-0, 15 KOs) is getting no favors by having to face Nelson (25-2-1, 15 KOs), 29, of Cleveland, who is a huge junior middleweight at 6-foot-3 with a long reach and excellent boxing skills.
"I've seen him in the amateur program," Andrade said of Nelson, with whom he has been friendly since their amateur days. "I've seen him fight tough guys that are top guys today. I know he's bringing that experience. I know I'm going up against a giant but I consider myself a giant as well and it's going to be a great matchup, a great fight for the 154 [division]. I feel that it is one of the best fights in the 154 division that has ever been made."
Showtime's Stephen Espinoza gives all the credit to Andrade and Nelson for the fight. "For Willie, on stepping up to this challenge," Espinoza said. "We have one of the most avoided guys in the division in Demetrius, who's taking such a tough fight after a relatively long layoff and period of inactivity. It just shows what kind of guys these are and how they are anxious to step up to the next level of their careers."
Andrade is aiming to topple Nelson and then win another world title before unifying belts in the talent-rich but wide-open division. He said he long ago made peace with the fact that world title was taken away from him.
"A belt doesn't identify me," Andrade said. "That doesn't change anything about me, my fighting style, who I am or anything like that. Nowadays you don't have to have a title to be king of the ring, but this is an opportunity for me. Fighting on the Showtime card is going to be good movement for me.
"I'm not looking past Willie Nelson but me, my character, my hard work and my [work] ethic, I'm looking to be the best and fight the best out there. I want to put out there and say congratulations to the Charlo twins [Jermell and Jermall] on making history for being twin brothers to win [titles in the same weight class], but I'm going to make history by taking both of those titles and beating both of them."
Andrade has always been vocal about wanting to fight lineal middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez and now is one of the rare fighters calling out for a fight with unified middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin.
"I definitely want to fight Golovkin," Andrade said. "Let me build myself up first by cleaning out the 154 division, and then we'll have a megafight with two different styles. GGG is known for his knockouts. I knock out people, too, but I'm a better boxer than him. It'll be one of the biggest fights in the sport of boxing. I'm going to clean up the 154 division, make my reputation and then it's a go with GGG."
None of that is going to happen, however, without a victory against the dangerous Nelson, who has won two fights in a row since a 10-round decision loss in October 2014 to Vanes Martirosyan, the opponent Andrade outpointed to win a vacant world title in 2013.
"I'm excited for this fight. I think that both of us feel like this fight right here is going to be the shot that both of us have been looking for," Nelson said. "I feel like this is my time right now. With me and [Andrade's] past history, unfortunately we have to come to this fight. We're pretty cool as friends but it's our time so we have to get in there and show the world what we're made of."
Andrade knows what he is made of. He believes that even after two years without a meaningful fight, it is his time to shine again.
"I'm ready to re-introduce myself to boxing fans," he said. "And show them I'm the best 154-pounder in the world."
In the main event, Russia's Ruslan Provodnikov (25-4, 18 KOs), a former junior welterweight world titleholder in the first fight of an exclusive contract with Showtime, will square off with fellow action fighter John Molina Jr. (28-6, 23 KOs), of West Covina, California, in a scheduled 12-rounder expected to produce major fireworks.
The opener will pit Dejan Zlaticanin (17-0, 10 KOs), of Montenegro, against Bolivia's Franklin Mamani (21-2-1, 12 KOs) for a vacant lightweight world title.
There will also be two bouts featured on the Showtime Extreme portion of the card: a 10-round middleweight bout between former Boxcino tournament winners and former world title challengers Willie Monroe Jr. (19-2-0, 6 KOs), of Rochester, New York, and John Thompson, (17-2-0, 6 KOs), of Newark, New Jersey, and a 10-round heavyweight match between 2015 Boxcino champion Andrey Fedosov (28-3, 23 KOs), of Russia, and Mexico's Mario Heredia (11-1, 9 KOs).