Underrated spoiler Marcus "Hurelius" Upshaw (15-8-2, 7 KOs) has returned to Mexico, seeking revenge on Saturday night (Mar. 23) for his last fight south of the border, against two-time world title challenger Marcos Antonio "El Veneno" Rubio (56-6-1, 49 KOs) for the vacant World Boxing Council Continental Americas middleweight title.
Upshaw is a true throw-back fighter, who will really fight anybody, anywhere, anytime. The 32-year-old Floridian has done just that throughout most of his seven-year professional career, earning a reputation as a dangerous opponent who has made a reputation for pulling-off major upsets.
"If I'm in the gym and in good shape," Upshaw said, "I will fight anybody, anywhere, even on short notice. My problem was I'm a very late starter. I didn't get going until the fourth, fifth or sixth rounds. It just took me a few rounds to get going. I like to adjust to my opponents' style to decide what style I need to use. Since I've been with my head trainer, (two-time world champion) John David Jackson, I've decided to let it go early. He knows I'm a slow starter but, by the third round, I'm now firing."
In 2001, Upshaw derailed 19-1 James McGirt's ascent to the top with a controversial 10-round majority draw, in which many felt Upshaw should have had his hand raised. Two fights later, Upshaw upset 10-0 prospect Ashandi Gibbs (10-0) by way of a fourth-round technical knockout for the Florida State middleweight championship. Upshaw traveled to Quebec City in 2010 and won his signature fight to date, a stunning 10-round decision over 21-1-1 local hero Renan St. Juste, which catapulted Upshaw into the world ratings (IBF #6, WBO #9, WBC #11).
In his next fight, though, Upshaw was stopped in the fourth round by future world title challenger Osumanu Adama (18-2) for the USBA and IBO Inter-continental middleweight titles. The dream-breaker returned this past January in his last fight, as Upshaw registered am eighth-round technical knockout of local favorite Vladine Biosse (14-1-1).
"I know what they expect," Upshaw spoke about fighting favored opponents in their backyards. "It's not a surprise to me. I don't get upset. They talk tough, right up until the time we step in the ring, but once I touch them, they know. I have had a few fights taken away from me."
Upshaw acknowledges undefeated super middleweight contender Edwin Rodriguez and Gilberto Ramirez Sanchez as the best he's ever fought. Last November, Upshaw lost a 10-round decision in Mexico to Sanchez (23-0) for the WBC Youth World middleweight championship.
"After the fifth round," Upshaw noted, "I thought I had him. He's a helluva fighter, like a southpaw Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. We went 10 hard rounds. I hurt him and should have beaten him. I haven't been the same since that fight. Now, I'm out to destroy. I'm a changed fighter. This time I'm going there (Mexico) to get revenge. After my first experience fighting in Mexico, I'm going for a knockout this time. If we go 10 rounds everybody will know that we duked it out."
Rubio lost world title fights to Chavez (DEC12) and Kelly Pavlik (RTD9). The rugged Mexican has defeated Carlos Manuel Baldomir, David Lemieux, Jose Luis Zertuche twice, Enrique Ornelas, Frankie Randall, Fitz Vanderpool and Saul Roman during the course of his 13-year prizefighting career.
"As you can see by his last fight, you can't go by Marcus' record," explained his manager for the past four years, Si Stern. "Earlier in his career, his management team didn't have a plan in terms of what weight class to fight him. He was fighting light heavyweights and super middleweights, thrown to the wolves as a fill-in fighter. It took us some time to get him on the right track but, today, Marcus is a very good middleweight. There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to win this fight."
The son of a career military man, retired U.S. Navy E6 Harry Upshaw, Jr., Marcus has rich athletic DNA in his system. His uncle, the late Gene Upshaw, was an NFL Hall of Fame offensive guard for the Oakland Raiders; younger sister, Antonette, played professional basketball in the WNBA and Europe; brother Harry III played basketball in Italy, and his 15-year-old cousin, Braden, is a blue-chip Maine running back/defensive end who'll reportedly be playing college football in a few years for the University of Miami.
Tough shoes to fill, for sure, but an upset of Rubio could very well position him for the biggest fight of his life.