BOSTON — Russell Lamour won again Saturday night. The maturing middleweight boxer from Deering High and Portland took his career on the road to a nightclub in Boston’s theater district to beat Saul Almeida.
It was a unanimous six-round decision. Lamour staggered Almeida several times although there were no knockdowns. Lamour had total control of the fight’s pace. He did everything he wanted except for one thing: He didn’t satisfy himself.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give myself an 8 1/2.”
If I gave Lamour another 30 seconds to play it back in his mind, he probably would have dropped another point.
Ouch. This sport can be hard on the body and soul.
“Russell when he’s at his best is like a machine gun,” said Bob Russo, his longtime trainer, manager and Yoda. “Tonight he was firing one punch at a time.”
They were far from their home turf of Portland and far from the thousands of adoring fans who saw Lamour win the New England middleweight championship on Fathers Day weekend. He was nearly perfect that night, a whirlwind of fury and precision that led to knockdowns, an eighth-round TKO and local acclaim. Saturday he was less than perfect.
His opponent? Almeida, an unknown puncher from nearby Framingham, Massachusetts, had won 16 mixed martial arts fights in a cage. He hadn’t won anything in a fight ring but was available and willing when Lamour’s original opponent pulled out of an eight-round fight last week, saying he was hurt.
Quickly, Lamour’s title defense was pulled off the table. The fight was downgraded to six rounds. So was the enthusiasm. But this is what it means to call yourself a professional. Lamour still had a job to do, a promise to keep. He had to fight. He had to win.
This is boxing, where hope is put on hold or sometimes put away completely. Lamour doesn’t want that to happen. He’s unbeaten in nine professional fights. He’s 30 years old. Russo says Lamour is ready to fast-track his career and get the top-10 ranking that opens doors.
Lamour won’t fight in August although he’ll continue training. There are three options for a September fight and Russo will choose one. Come November the plan is to fight for a vacant North American title at the Portland Expo. Win that fight and Lamour would most likely be looking at a top-15 ranking. Maybe top 10.
After more than 100 amateur fights, a long apprenticeship of more than 10 years is nearly over.
Which is why Lamour wanted to raise his personal bar Saturday night in an old nightclub with its 1920′s art deco look of chandeliers and faux gold scrolling on a black ceiling. Several hundred fans crowded the dance floor where the ring stood next to the stage.
Dozens more crowded the balconies.
This was the Roxy nightclub. Now it’s the Royale. Saturday night the only dancing was in ring.
The crowd was noisy and appreciative. Here and there, Mainers cheered Lamour. He had fans but it wasn’t his crowd. The loudest applause was for Jason Estrada and Steve Vukosa, heavyweights trying to resurrect careers by winning the New England championship.
Earlier, welterweight Jimmy Smith of Biddeford and the Portland Boxing Club lost a four-round majority decision to Joe Wilson Jr. of Hartford, Connecticut.
“I made some mistakes,” said Smith. “He was quick.”
Lamour thought of his own mistakes.
“I was too tentative and I don’t know why,” said Lamour. “I was ready. I was overthinking, probably. I learned something tonight.”
Almeida clowned a little, even after Lamour hurt him in the first round. They shared the same lanky body type although Lamour’s upper body strength was more apparent. Almeida moved his feet well and had a survivor’s instincts.
He was overmatched and everyone knew it.
Russo took the blame for some of his fighter’s dissatisfaction. The fight might have been over in the first round but Russo believed Lamour needed a longer workout. A little hurt, a little fatigue replaced the small grin on Almeida’s face when, in the fifth, Lamour cut loose a left-right combination to Almeida’s lower ribcage and followed with shots to the head.
Almeida stayed on his feet and Lamour stepped back. Out of compassion?
In the ring while the clock is ticking there’s no place for that.
After his hand was raised, Lamour stood in his dressing room up a flight of stairs and behind the stage. Sweat beaded on his body. He was somber.
He fought a forgettable opponent but he won’t forget.