Rugged Luis on the rebound

Shawn Smith
12/06/2015 11:57am

It’s almost 10pm on a weeknight and, while most professional fighters in the middle of training camp would be settling down, Tony Luis’ night is just getting started. This is the life of a fighter who hasn’t reached the top of the mountain, one who has a family to fight for and a mortgage to maintain.

Luis is just weeks out from his 26 June showdown with Dominican Edward Valdez, which serves as the co-main event on the CBS Sports Network. It’s not the most high profile opponent Luis has faced, but that doesn’t make the bout any less important. A loss would derail his career and remove him from any world title conversations.

Luis settles in to a long shift at the local youth treatment centre. He just put the kids to bed for the night and now has time to breath for a few minutes. “It keeps me sane from having boxing on the brain all the time,” Luis said, with a laugh. “This job is almost my way to wind-down from my job of boxing.”

There’s little time for rest in the life of Luis, who goes from one job to the next. He likes being busy.

Earlier in the day, he travelled to the Grant Brother's Boxing Gym in Montreal, almost two hours from his home in Cornwall, Ontario. While he spends most of his camp training with his father, he likes to travel to Montreal to add variation to his preparation. Training at home might be more comfortable, but comfort doesn’t win world titles. This is how fighters improve.

“Howard and Otis (Grant) are very accomplished pros themselves,” Luis said of the world-class trainers. “It was great to work with some of their amateur and pro fighters.”

This camp has focused on adding variation to Luis' game. He knows there are improvements to be made and training with different sparring partners opens up opportunities to learn. The Canadian is an admitted student of the game and training at Grant's only furthers his knowledge.

“When you're sparring guys at your home gym, at a certain point you can get stale because you get used to each other,” said Luis. “When you go to a new gym, it takes you out of the comforts of being in your home gym. You're on someone else's turf. It somewhat emulated a watered down version of what it's like to be in a fight. It helps you deal with pressures.”

There's a reason why Luis is focused on dealing with the pressures of fighting on someone else's turf, fighting away from home hasn't always been kind to the 27-year-old lightweight from Ontario.

He's 19-3 (7 KOs) as a professional fighter and, of those three losses, two came in the United States and the other in the UK. 

In May, Luis stepped in at short notice to challenge Derry Mathews for the vacant WBA interim lightweight title and, while he was already in camp for a bout, he certainly wasn't preparing for a sharp puncher like the seasoned Englishman.

The bout was perilously close, with pundits and fans split on which way the verdict should swing. Ultimately, it was Liverpool’s Mathews who departed with a razor-thin unanimous decision to claim the interim ‘world’ championship and Luis went home empty-handed.

While Luis thought it would be tough to get a decision in Mathews' hometown, he still felt he did enough to earn the victory. “I absolutely thought I did enough to win,” said Luis. “We had three days of watching his fights on YouTube and from there we shot the dice.  You don't turn down a world title shot.”

The reverse did little to hurt the Canadian’s placement in the rankings. Having now fought in several high profile bouts overseas, the star of Luis is brighter than ever - with fans appreciating his relentless pace and bull-headed style.

During an early June broadcast on CBS Sports Network, Luis was offered the position of guest analyst and took full advantage of the opportunity. “It was interesting to see how things go on the other side of the ropes,” said Luis. “My dream was always to be a boxer, take it as far as I can and afterwards be one of those fighters who goes on to commentary. It’s definitely something I could see myself doing in the future.”

First up is Valdez who - despite his modest 13-10-2-1 (10 KOs) record - is noted for his toughness. Luis is acutely aware of how important this bout is for his fighting future. 

As an analytical admirer of the sport, Luis focuses on breaking down his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. In the lead up to his January 2014 bout against Ivan Redkach, Luis studied Valdez closely, as he had been the only fighter to take the Ukrainian the distance (Luis became the second).

“If Valdez shows up and he’s on, I know I have a tough fight,” said Luis. “He’s a tough, weathered fighter. I’m expecting him to be at his best.”