MIAMI (May 16, 2013) -- Rejuvenated by back-to-back victories over favored fighters, light heavyweight Lionell "Lonnie B" Thompson is back on the right track, and still following his dream.
A decorated amateur out of Buffalo, Thompson (14-2, 9 KOs) is now living in Miami and planning to use the invaluable experience he's gained as a sparring partner for Chad Dawson, Carl Froch, Lucian Bute, Troy Ross, Issac Chilemba and David Lemieux.
"I'm the best-kept secret in boxing," a confident Thompson said. "I know it's only sparring, but I've more than held my own against world champions and top contenders. I'm like Marvin Hagler. He kept winning but didn't get recognition until he beat Tommy Hearns.
"My problem was that I needed the right people behind me. I had bad management but not anymore with my new manager, Kevin Dever. All I have to do is train and focus on my fight, not worry about getting enough money to live and eat. I'm just going to keep winning; Kevin has some ideas in mind for me. Others may think I'm only a stepping-stone but I will be world champion one day."
Dever took notice of Thompson in Palm Beach, where Lionell was Bute's sparring partner. "It was only sparring but I saw how quick he was and the way he was connecting with his punches," Dever explained his peaked interest. "I was even more impressed when I talked to him. He's bright with a college background and very respectful. If brought along right, after a few more fights with experienced opponents, I really believe he'll be world champion."
Thompson won his first 12 professional fights, highlighted by a win by decision in 2011 over former world champion Abdullah Ramadan, who had defeated two-time world champion John David Jackson.
A year ago, Thompson took a fight against the show promoter's fighter, then top 10-rated Nicholson Poulard (17-3), former world light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal's brother. Thompson lost a 10-round split decision (97-93, 39-97, 94-96), fighting in his opponent's backyard, and four months later he made an ill-advised decision to fight rising star Sergey Kovalev on only two-week notice. Thompson was stopped for the only time in his career, losing by third-round technical knockout.
"He won't be doing that anymore," Dever noted. "He'll have a minimum six-week training camp from now on. He was rushed too soon. He's a free agent. If a promoter offers us a good deal, great, but, if not, we'll do things ourselves."
Fighting once again as a "B" side opponent, as well as in his opponent's hometown, Thompson bounced back this past February, when Chuck Mussachio (18-2-2) failed to answer the bell for the third round.
In his last fight on May 11 in Huntington, New York, once again as an underdog matched against the show promoter's undefeated prospect, Yathomas Riley (8-0), Thompson reestablished himself as a force to be reckoned with in the 175-pound divisions.
Riley was a blue-chip amateur - 2006 National Golden Gloves champion who came close to qualifying for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team - whose pro career was derailed because he was unjustly incarcerated for two years. Thompson, though, also has a rich amateur pedigree having been rated as high as No. 2 in the US, as well as being a five-time New York Golden Glove and three-time Empire State champion.
Thompson boxed his way to a solid eight-round decision (79-73, 77-75 twice), in which the boxer and his manger both felt, realistically, should have been 79-73 across the board. "He lost the first round but then showed his smarts in the ring," Dever added. "Riley was tough and he wasn't going to get knocked out. Once Lionell realized that, he boxed his way to a good win."
Thompson's career has a new lease on life. He should be moving back up in regional ratings after beating Riley (right now NABA #11, USBA #13 and NABF #16) and outside the ring, he is only one class shy of earning a degree from Buffalo State College, majoring in health and wellness.
At this rate the flashy 27-year-old may not be boxing's best-kept secret much longer.