“Don’t blink,” boxer James Bernadin said Monday evening. “Might come in the first round. Don’t blink.”
Bernadin was talking about his plan to put down Nick Baez, who is making his pro debut, maybe in the first round when they fight in Harrisburg on Dec. 14.
“If he survives one round, the next one is going to be even worse,” Bernadin said.
Over the past year, Bernadin (2-0-1) learned what happens when you lose focus, when you blink.
You go a solid year without stepping into the ring.
In September 2018, Bernadin made his pro debut, a lightweight match against Christopher Burgos, and won with a knockout. A month later, he faced Jordan Morales and knocked him out. Bernadin’s third fight, against Sheldon Deverteuil, ended in a draw.
It was between the second and third fights that Bernadin lost focus, and lost a year of fights in the blink of an eye. He’d been arrested, charged with a DUI and driving with a suspended license.
“I messed up,” Bernadin said. He spent months in and out of court
rooms, dealing with the personal and legal ramifications of the arrest, eventually pleading guilty to the charges.
During that time, he got offers to fight, but had to turn them down. On the practical side, he wasn’t allowed to travel to fights. But on the boxing side, there was more at stake, according to coach David Rivera, of Lancaster City Boxing Club, where Bernadin trains.
“This is not a game,” Rivera said. “Fighters die (in the ring).’’
Neither Rivera nor his business partner, coach Will Torres, was going to let Bernadin fight when he was distracted and stressed.
“You can’t fight a pro fight with those things on your mind,” Rivera said.
But they didn’t give up on him either. Rivera gave Bernadin a membership to LA Fitness so he could work out every day, which he did. Torres took Bernadin to parks on the weekends, challenging him to run, Bernadin said.
Time was spent “drilling and drilling,” Torres said. Instead of rushing from fight to fight, they were able to work on defense and going to the body more.
“He’s a different fighter than last year,” Torres said. All three men agree on that point. Both inside and outside the ring, Bernadin has changed and matured.
He’s also more hungry to fight than ever, Bernadin said.
“I plan to go in there and give it my all,” Bernadin said. “Let my hands fly.”
Especially his jab. “Jab is key,’’ he said. “Let it fly every minute every round.”
Whether he’ll make good on his promise to take down Baez, a 30-year-old boxer from New York who has a strong amateur record, remains to be seen.
Andrew Foy, of King’s Promotions, said they matched the two because of their similar backgrounds at the amateur level. Foy said he expects it to be a close fight, and a good one.
The 140-pound bout will be early in the evening, which features eight professional matches. The main event will pit former WBC Female Super Featherweight champion Alycia Baumgardner (8-1) against Cristina del Valle Pacheco (11-12-2).
King’s Promotions Championship Boxing will be held at the Zembo Shrine Auditorium, 2801 North 3rd St., Harrisburg. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets range from $25 to $50.