Written by Terrell Groggins
Photography by Terrell Groggins
As the dust settles in Flint, MI, from last Saturday, Ja'Rico O' Quinn hopes that he has taken his first steps towards genuine boxing greatness. This is one of those defining moments of his career. He participated in an epic superfly weight battle with James Gordon Smith. For this Detroit vs. Detroit fight, reputations were on the line for both fighters. "I'm the king, and he's trying to dethrone me. I can't let anybody take my crown," says O'Quinn during last week's interview at his training camp. If James Gordon Smith had won this fight over O'Quinn, it would've seated him nicely in the top rankings of the super flyweight division, but the 13th rated WBO nicknamed "Great Lakes King" had other plans. Still early in his boxing career, O'Quinn is sure to have many more defining moments. But in his most recent fight, his victory claimed the vacant WBO International title.
The hype around O'Quinn vs. Smith started months before fueled by their social media feud. Both fighters headed into this bout determined, one to prove that his undefeated record was well earned, the other that he can fight his way back to a top ranking, which you can watch it below.
It's unfortunate that this fight wasn't televised as it was by far, one of the most entertaining bouts on the card. Both men stepped up to the plate to deliver in the absence of intended headliner, Claressa Shields. If styles make fights, this had all the ingredients to make it fascinating to document. The fight was beautiful to behold as the pair of Detroit born boxers refrained from the conservative strategies, throwing an abundant amount of punches matched with intensity all the way up to the final sound of the bell. The result was dramatic; the size of the ring produced phone-booth fighting for the entire fight.
Smith gave O'Quinn the toughest test of his young career. O'Quinn had to dig deep to beat his more experienced opponent. There is no secret in the strategy. The 27-year-old Smith was determined to be the aggressor, putting non-stop pressure on his opponent with thunderous body shots and two-fisted attacks on the inside. Smith's excitement seemed to keep him off balance throughout the fight, as if he never could execute the way he intended. O'Quinn thrives in a situation where he can counter-punch. When Smith bored in, as he surely did, O'Quinn used his mobility to beat his man to the punch with speed and crispness thrown from the least expected angles.
For Smith to be victorious, the key would have been his power. While it would be ludicrous to say he had only the proverbial puncher's chance of victory - from my perspective, Smith not being able to plant his feet lead to inaccurate, wide punches. Ultimately O'Quinn composure lead him to be the man in control.
As the fight wore on, it appeared that Smith was hoping to land the one big hit to counter the issues he was having with balance - there is no doubt that the outcome for Smith depended on whether or not he could focus and get his legs under him. One of O'Quinn's keys to victory was using Smith's pressure against him; he was able to find his shots in those pockets of exchanges. He wasn't perfect, but it got the job done.