Depending on which fight record provider you trust for information, Trotwood, Ohio native and junior middleweight prospect Chris Pearson is set to hit the biggest stage of his career. A former national middleweight champion with four Olympic scalps on his record (including 2008 Beijing welterweight gold medal winner Bakhyt Sarsekbayev of Kazakhstan), Pearson recently learned he will fight on the undercard for “The One” Showtime pay-per-view broadcast featuring Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. For a young fighter to be chosen for this most high profile of assignments says a lot about what Pearson’s manager, Al Haymon, thinks of the rising 154-pounder.
“I’m not sure if I am the opening bout but I know I am on the card,” Pearson told Maxboxing.com Sunday evening. “I am like third or fourth or something. I pretty sure some other guys that are on the card that are with [Mayweather’s promotional venture] TMT that have less fights than me are probably shorter rounds than me. It’s the biggest card in the game right now so I am excited. I can’t wait.”
Pearson’s record on BoxRec.com is listed at 8-0 with seven knockouts but according to FightFax, his record is 11-0 with eight knockouts from his time spent fighting with the World Series of Boxing as a member of the now-defunct L.A. Matadors. Pearson came to the team in season two and was an immediate crowd favorite for his take-no-prisoners style in the ring.
The WSB was comprised of top amateurs fighting in a pro style with no headgear and billed as “semi-pro.” The “semi” part comes in the lack of experience fighting this way. By and large, it made for awkward but intense fights. However, in Pearson’s case, it made for action affairs.
“As far as the transition [from amateur to pro], as an amateur, I had a pro style anyways, so I never really worried about making the transition. I do what I do. I’m a boxer. I’m a fighter. That’s what I do,” said Pearson. “I just adjust accordingly. I know it’s going to be longer fights, more rounds, but since I have turned pro, I haven’t faced any tough opposition like I dealt with in the WSB and that’s because I was fighting guys I wouldn’t normally fight unless it was for a world title and a bunch of money. I’m enjoying the process. We have had some ups and downs but that’s fighting, period. I’m just excited to be moving forward and have the opportunity to do what I love to do. I am looking forward to putting on a great show and moving up the ladder.”
Pearson’s debut on the Matadors was against Christopher Jerrell Jones in a scorcher that Jones’ corner stopped after the fourth heat, hence the eight knockouts. His bout with Brazil’s Olympian Yamaguchi Florentino wasn’t exactly boring either. Pearson suffered an injury to his nose and he bled heavily throughout. Fighting through that for the decision victory proved to be an invaluable experience for his next test: a bloody battle with Sarsekbayev. Both men suffered cuts as they fought at a frenetic pace. The bout slowed as the blood from both men flowed with Pearson coming on strong late to seal the win.
“Having that type of stuff going into these types of fights, I don’t really worry. I know I am battle-tested. I know how I’m built. I know that if it gets hot in the kitchen, I just put on my gloves and keep it cooking,” said Pearson of his time in the WSB.
As for how he is faring in the pros, other than an awkward second fight, he has yet to meet the kind of desperate adversity he faced in the WSB.
“I actually haven’t been in there with anybody that made me say, ‘Man, this is a tough guy.’ My second pro fight, my only pro fight other than the WSB where I went the distance, I fought an awkward guy (Cleven Ishe). He was weird but he wasn’t. He didn’t really come to play. I just couldn’t knock him out. I probably could have but I don’t know. I just didn’t knock him out. So far, it’s been pretty easy. The way I feel, I think it will continue to be easy even when I am stepping up the competition. I’m fresh out the amateurs where I still have the mentality of fighting of other top guys whether it is in the amateurs or other countries, so I am not really worried about ‘who I fight’ Whoever they put me in with, believe it that I am going to dominate them.”
For this fight, Pearson will attempt to take his conditioning to the next level, using the latest techniques at a facility in Ohio called “Ignition APG,” a service dedicated to helping athletes reach their potential through physical, mental and spiritual self-awareness.
“It’s where the Cincinnati Bengals, all the pro athletes go for their strength and conditioning,” explained Pearson. “I’m actually their only fighter they work with, so they got a ring for me. My coach, Al Mitchell is there with me. I’ll be bringing in sparring and I’ll be going to Cincinnati to spar. The last fight [against Arturo Crespin], I trained in Vegas. The previous fight [against Yosmani Abreu], I trained in Colorado. They feel like I have a lot of bright things coming, so we are working together now.”
Pearson is part of a wave of fighters coming out of Ohio. Cincinnati boasts Rau’Shee Warren and Adrien Broner and Terrell Gausha is out of Cleveland, to name a few. Pearson is from Trotwood, a suburb of Dayton. Pearson explained that growing up with Broner and others who are from much harsher Ohio regions has helped him appreciate what he has and shaped who he is.
“I’m from Trotwood. I stay in Dayton the majority of the time. Trotwood is like the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. Nice area, quiet, bunch of trees and cornfields and stuff just like the country,” he explained. “Guys like me can play basketball, football and play baseball, a bunch of athletes. Nobody is getting into trouble like a bunch of thugs but in Dayton, you’ve got all that. So growing up, I saw all sides and that’s why I’ve got that killer instinct, that dog mentality but I know how to carry myself and be a gentleman and be respectful because that’s what people respect more so than my skills. That’s pretty much my background. I saw both sides growing up and I chose to do the right things because I know that that’s what is going to last longer.”
The subject turned to Broner, who many criticize for his publicly wide-open style, be it on Twitter or in person. Pearson explained the judgment perhaps comes from a lack of understanding of who Broner is and where he comes from.
“First of all, the persona of Adrien Broner, you got to understand where he comes from,” said Pearson. “I grew up with Adrien Broner, so I know his heart. I know what type of person he is. He’s a genuine, loving person. He’d give you the shirt off his back but he also is a street dude. His dad talked a lot. They always talked a lot when he was in the amateurs growing up as kids. He’s from a rough part of Cincinnati, so that’s how he’s built. And it ain’t that he’s an a**hole or a jerk. This is just what he is accustomed to and now you give a guy millions of dollars, you know; sh*t, what you expect? I know from being around him, he puts the work in. He talks like he talks because he believes in himself. He’s a human being, so everybody f**k up or do stuff but he’s a genuine good guy. It’s just where he’s from. Where’s he from, they talk a lot of stuff and that’s just how they are and you either understand him or you don’t.
“But with me, like I said, I don’t have any excuse to be like that because for the most part, I’ve been brought up a different type of way. And at this point in my life, I prefer to be…because that’s how you get to be…Don’t let anybody fool you. This sport is about making money. I’ve been fighting for 15 years for trophies. I’m trying to get in the best position to take care of my family for the rest of my life. If that means cleaning up my act, for me, it comes natural because that’s just who I am. But I don’t really play on being the ignorant black guy that talks sh*t because that’s never been me. I’m just as confident as Adrien Broner or anybody. I don’t believe no prospect or anyone in the game, if I am prepared, can beat me. But I don’t have to necessarily go out and say, ‘Hey, I’m the best and ‘F’ everyone.’ This is not my style but I understand it. And I understand fighters that are like that because a lot of guys come from nothing and this is all they got. So if you try and take something from them, they take it a certain way. I get it. Like I said, I’m just a little different.”
Pearson started fast as a pro, turning pro in November of 2011 and fighting 6 times in 2012. But he’s fought just once this year following eye surgery in March. Though he has spent time giving and getting work in elite company at the Mayweather Boxing Club among other places, the setback has Pearson chomping at the bit to get into a live firefight again.
“I was supposed to fight February but I didn’t get cleared because of my vision. I am very nearsighted,” Pearson explained. “So I went home and got Lasik surgery. Then I couldn’t fight for a few months because I had to let my eyes get back to being acclimated. Just some simple stuff but it took time. I started off ahead of a lot of guys because I turned pro early because I didn’t go through the Olympics. So then, I felt like guys was catching me and on the verge of passing me up because I hadn’t fought.”
Pearson said he had an unexpected result from the surgery that for a moment made him wonder if his career might be in jeopardy.
“I was nervous for a second because they told me the recovery would be quicker. And even though my vision was back quick and I was able to see, [I had trouble during sparring initially],” said Pearson. “When you get Lasik, your eyes get real, real dry all the time, so you have to keep lubricating them. And that’s fine for the average person but when you’re sparring, a guy might flick you with the jab; it might not be a hard punch but if he touches you on the eye, it’s like somebody throwing sand in your eye almost. So if you have to fight…there was times when I was sparring, I’d have to spar for 30 seconds with one or both of my eyes closed. So I was thinking, ‘OK, what the hell am I going to do if this happened in a fight?’ and thank God this stopped happening with more and sparring. That doesn’t happen anymore but I definitely was worried. But now, I am ready. I went five rounds and got in the eye and it didn’t bother me. I’m happy with the surgery.”
The stage is now set for Pearson to get on the radar of every major boxing media outlet the world has to offer. “The One” should be do very well at the box office and if Pearson takes advantage of this spotlight the way he has stepped up in the past in big moments, this could be a huge turning point for the 22-year-old.
“Skill for skill, I feel I am there. Skill for skill, I feel I am a world champion,” said the quietly confident Pearson, “but I understand that it’s a process of learning how to go longer rounds and all that. So I’m anxious but I’m not in a rush. I know it’s coming so every day, I am just building. I am building so that when I get these opportunities, I shine the way I am supposed to shine. Mentally and physically, I know I am ready.”