Hooker Back in the Ring Saturday

By Robert Hughes
Photos: Stacey Verbeek

While Terrance Crawford is 650 miles north in Lincoln, Nebraska fighting for all the other super lightweight belts, Maurice ‘Mighty Mo’ Hooker will be battling Courtney ‘CJ’ Jackson for the NABO Super-Lightweight [Jr. Welterweight] title on Saturday at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, Texas.

Crawford will be watched by millions on ESPN taking on Julius Indongo and raising lots of money for himself. Hooker [22-0-3, 16 KO] will make somewhat less and headline a non-televised black-tie fundraiser for a DFW-area chapter of The Links, Incorporated. 

Crawford is the top of the rail but ‘Mighty Mo’ is not 650 miles behind the world’s top 140-pounder. Until they meet, if ever, in the ring Mighty Mo is taking on an undefeated, untested fighter who was carefully picked for Hooker’s handlers, Arnie Verbeek and trainer Vincent Parra.

“There was a short list,” Verbeek said. “Roc Nation thought this was the best fight, they presented it to us and we could’ve vetoed whatever we’d like.”

A quick troll through Jackson’s perfect 17-0-0, 10 KO professional record exposes a textbook list of human tin cans. A [not-so random] tally of seven Jackson opponents shows a combined record of 1-98-0 and only three of the 10 others owning winning records. 

“It’s not going 10 rounds – it won’t make it past five,” Hooker predicts.

Nice! Sounds easy. So when will ‘Mighty Mo’ match up with Crawford at 140 pounds?

“We’re ranked No. 2 WBO so at some point they are going to have to put us in there,” Verbeek said, while emphasizing he is not focused on rankings nor titles, right now.

This will be Hooker’s fifth fight under the Roc Nation banner, an organization that undoubtedly would like to see him win some world titles.

Promoters have served Jackson well by arranging this title bout but he can’t have any delusions about walking out of the ring with that perfect record, or an NABO belt. The 29-year-old Homestead, Fla. resident is catching a tough, talented champion on the upswing of his career, a fighter with faster hands, supreme boxing skills and one has been pushed to the brink of defeat without submission.

Hooker is no tin can.

“He’s about to peak,” Parra said about Hooker’s career curve. “He just turned 28 so the next couple years are crucial – we’re preparing Mo to be the best Mo he can be.”

Style-wise this is not a good matchup of Jackson’s short hands against Hooker’s long arms. Jackson doesn’t look slow, he just doesn’t get his arms away from his body like he will need to against a taller, faster fighter. It’s hard to imagine Jackson hitting Hooker with anything that matters. If Mo keeps him away from the body it should be a quick main event.

“He’s tough, he’s inspired, he’s got a little bit of history behind him and built himself a nice little record,” Parra said about Jackson. “He’s about to find out there’s levels to this; Maurice is gonna handle business.”

Putting aside respect for the other camp, this is a classic tune-up for one of North America’s best true junior welterweights. A can’t-lose matchup in front of a hometown audience, dressed wonderfully for the occasion while raising money and awareness for a 36-year-old organization that helps lower-income families in the Mid-Cities region of the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Hooker trained in Dallas for this weekend’s fight but usually spends much of his camp-time in San Diego and in the San Bernardino Mountains, training where other boxers go to suck in the thin air above Southern California’s air pollution at 6,750 feet elevation.

“I love Big Bear training camp, there’s nothing to do but train,” Hooker said.

Hooker has no problem weighing in under the super lightweight limit of 140 pounds. His slim build hides a powerful right hand. Hooker feels his best assets in the ring are his jab and his power. He sparred this camp with welterweight Greg Jackson, of Philadelphia, Johnny Garcia from Michigan and DFW lightweight Manuel Rey Rojas, among others. 

Hooker is a family man who he thinks he has two or three more fights at 140 pounds “And go from there, he said. “I want to retire around 154 with a couple title belts.” 

NABO Super Lightweight Title – Maurice Hooker vs. Cortney Jackson
Saturday, August 19, 2017 – Omni Hotel, Dallas, Texas

www.fightnews.com/hooker-back-ring-saturday/3121

Hooker poised for PPV debut

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By Jeff Zimmerman
Photos by Stacey Verbeek

From the hardscrabble streets of Dallas, Texas to the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nevada NABO Junior Welterweight Champion Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker (21-0-2, 16 KOs) is well on his way to hitting the proverbial jackpot. Guided by his manager Arnie Verbeek, owner of Maple Ave Boxing Gym in Dallas and promoter Roc Nation, Hooker will make his PPV debut as the lead in fight to Kovalev-Ward when he fights former world champion Darleys Perez (33-2-1, 21 KOs) on Saturday, November 19th.

For Hooker, with his slender build and powerful right hand and of course his signature lollipop that he brings into the ring and enjoys post-fight, the path to this point has been anything but easy. Nothing has been handed to Hooker and every fight to date has been an important stepping stone to get to this stage of his career. Perhaps that is why he seems unfazed of the moment and the fortunes that potentially lie ahead.

“It’s another fight, another big fight. It’s still a ring, I still go in there and do my thing. I try not to let anything get to me, just another fight.” 

His trainer Vincent Parra is also a calming influence on Hooker.

“We try to make sure he knows and he does, it’s just him and the other guy in the boxing ring we have been training in. The people get blanked out when you’re focused and the only thing you can see is Darleys Perez, that’s where the focus comes in,” stated Parra.

This will be Hooker’s third fight under the Roc Nation banner as well as fighting alongside promotional stablemate world champion Andre Ward. Like past camps, he has trained and sparred with super lightweight champion Terence Crawford and also added the young but talented lightweight Devin Haney to the mix.

“Sparring with Crawford I learn a lot. We talk after sparring. He tells me what I am doing wrong and what I am doing right. I had to be patient sparring with him. Sparring with Devin, it was good. He brings a lot of energy and is very quick. He reminds me of myself when I was sparring Miguel Cotto. I think he is the next up and coming. He is young and willing to learn the game.”

At 27, Hooker is still relatively young, far from his prime and still learning but with a breakout performance preceding this year’s biggest fight in Kovalev-Ward, this could be the fight that truly launches his career. Roc Nation must hope so by putting him in this position, but Hooker takes it all in stride.

“No, I don’t feel any pressure, this is what I do for living, just another big fight for me. It’s just another big fight for me, my fight before that was a big fight for me, my fight before that was a big fight for me. I’m just moving up one fight at a time. I see Darleys Perez, he’s beatable. I see my skills can beat him. No pressure on me, I’m just ready to fight, this is what I do for a living.”

Don’t expect Hooker to look past Perez either even though an impressive win could line him up for big fights in 2017.

“I am not worried about that, right now I am just worried about Perez. After this fight we’ll see, but right now I am just worried about Perez. He’s a dangerous little guy and I just don’t want to lose focus and look to far down the road, I’m just focused on him right now.”

Parra is not taking any chances with his prized pupil and knows that Perez is a dangerous fighter and will have Hooker prepared.

“There’s the obvious thing, we are bigger, he’s moving up to Mo’s division, we have the reach advantage which he does on most guys and he’s a pure puncher, but with that being said this is boxing and anything can happen. We just keep it in perspective that he was a world champion and he made it to that point and not a lot of guys do and we have to respect that,” explained Parra.

Parra added, “I just expect if Maurice fights Maurice fight, he’s definitely the better all-around fighter. Maurice has to fight his fight and if he does that I think we are going to take care of business and move on to the next.”

Hooker also takes great pride of being a part of an exciting crop of fighters hailing from Dallas that include Errol Spence Jr., Charles Hatley and Samuel Clarkson just to name a few.

“It’s a good feeling. I hope everyone makes it from Dallas. It’s a good feeling that Dallas is coming up but everyone has their own pace and I wish all of them the best. Right now I am just worried about me, but it’s a good feeling. We are coming up.”

Hooker is ready to test Perez early.

“I will go in there and box him, just look for an exciting fight, I am going to box him. I am going to test his chin early and see what he’s made of coming up from 135. He has been hurt a couple of times and I am going to test his chin. Go in there box, stay relaxed and take my time with him.”

Parra just wants Hooker to be himself.

“Just be Mo, if you watch us, we approach every fight the same. Mo will go out to the middle of the ring and meet him and either he will go out and meet Mo there or he’ll start dancing and go from there. We like to plan on guys having a plan for us, we are not worried about what he’s going to do, and we are more focused on what we are going to do. Maurice is going to fight his fight and make Perez fight his fight.”

Parra continued, “The plan is to be himself. Mo is going to come up and fight at range and look for opportunities and if there is blood in the water I send him at him. Everything is going to be done very methodically. Like Mo said, he’s going to take his time. You can plan all you want, but fights play out and act out and do what we want to do and see how Perez can handle and how he can adjust.”

Although Hooker and Parra are 100% focused on their fight, both weighed in on the Kovalev-Ward mega matchup.

Hooker stated confidently, “Ward is going to outbox him, he is going to make Kovalev adjust to him, and he has ring smarts. Andre Ward is just a good fighter. I see Andre Ward winning.”

Parra expects a great fight and sees it as a toss-up.

“If you’re a fight fan, it’s a fight fan’s fight, it’s going to be interesting. For me, it’s a 50-50 fight, I’m a fan of both guys. Obviously we are stablemates of Andre Ward but on the other side John David Jackson is one of my really good friends and I have been following him and Sergey for a lot of years so for me it’s just a hard fight to dissect because both guys do so many things well. Both guys have very good camps. I look forward to a great fight I think it’s going to be tremendous, it’s very hard for me to pick at this point.”

Hooker, as always, will look to steal the show with his one punch knock out power. And although he is taking the right approach and sees this as just another fight, it is far from it. An impressive performance could put him on a “fighters to watch list” in 2017. So far for Hooker, his manager and promoter have made all the right moves. A big win next Saturday could lead to those potential jackpots that only fighting in Las Vegas could bring. But don’t expect Hooker to be blinded by the bright lights.

“I have no pressure, I am always looking for the knockout, it’s going to be a very good fight and I am going to take it to him.”

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