Omar Douglas considers himself a throwback fighter, one who is willing to take on all comers in his quest to win a world championship.
While the 26-year-old prospect hails from Wilmington, Delaware, which isn’t exactly synonymous with big-time boxing, he honed his skills as an amateur often competing outside of the First State.
It was in nearby Pennsylvania that Douglas won five state Golden Gloves championships before making his professional debut in Dover, Delaware, in May 2011.
As a pro, the 5-foot-7 Douglas has fought exclusively in those two states. His first 12 bouts all were in Dover, while his last six have all been contested in Pennsylvania.
Omar Douglas (17-1, 12 KOs) now prepares to do battle in the Keystone State once again on March 17 when he takes on two-time world title challenger Edner Cherry (35-7-2, 19 KOs) in a 135-pound bout at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania (Bounce TV, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“Super O” enters the 10-round contest coming off of his first career loss against former 130-pound world champion Javier Fortuna in November. In that fight, Douglas gained a first-round knockdown, but Fortuna battled back to earn a close unanimous decision.
Now preparing to take on an even more experienced opponent next week, Douglas recently took some time out from training to talk about his trademark dreadlocks, his favorite lemon-flavored vice and how a meeting with the “Hands of Stone” would play out.
Let’s start with your hair. What’s the story behind your dreadlocks?
For one, it started [growing out] when I was about 12. It takes hours. Growing up, my father being from the Bronx [in New York], their side of the family had them and I always thought they were cool.
My uncle told me that it represents strength, so I just allowed it to grow and grow and grow. My hair is so long, now, that when I’m moving around during the day, it’s right above my butt.
What is the process of wrapping it up before getting in the ring?
There’s a lot. For one, when I’m training, I tend not to keep the maintenance up on it. After a few workouts, I’ll get my girlfriend to work on it. It takes about two hours, washing it, separating it, and re-twisting it, then my girlfriend braiding it.
So I come home from the gym, sit up all night and allow her to do it. What normally takes the longest is the cleaning and the re-twisting process. That can take forever, like two hours. I’m watching movies, falling asleep. The braiding doesn’t take that long.
Then it takes about three days for it to loosen up the way I want it because I don’t like to go into a fight with it being extra tight. Right before the fight, my father, Omar Sr., wraps it in the dressing room, which takes about five minutes.
Have any opponents ever made your hair an issue before a fight?
Not really. Javier Fortuna did grab it at one point during our fight, which is crazy. It unraveled one time at the end of the Frank De Alba fight (in December 2015). The tape had come off of the back, but that was in the last round.
In my first-ever television fight, against Braulio Santos (in September 2015), one of the dreads unraveled. That was actually my first time I had to cut it. My corner was like, “I don’t know what to do.” So I was like, “Just cut it.”
You mentioned your fight against Fortuna. What did you learn from that loss?
I enforced my will a little too much after scoring the first knockdown, because once he felt the power, he did what fighters usually do, which is run and duck and move. One thing I did learn was the need for patience.
I could have allowed him to come to me a little more. But instead, I was on the hunt and he did a good job of boxing and trying to stay out of the way. So we’ve worked on some things mentally, like just sticking to the game plan and making adjustments on the fly.
Edner Cherry is a tough, seasoned opponent who has twice fought for a world title. What do you expect from him in your fight?
I’ve been watching him for a long time now. Growing up, I watched him fight on ESPN a lot. I just think he’s a solid, veteran fighter with no real tricks or anything. He comes forward and tries to land the right hand. That’s his most decent punch.
I think that I’m just all around the better athlete and the younger fighter. I feel like for this fight, I can stay on the outside and box, and I haven’t been in as many wars as he has.
I believe that I can use my jab and stay on the outside if I choose to. If I want to make it a firefight, I can also do that. I’m going into my toolbox for this one. The game plan can change from round to round, depending on what he gives me.
If you could pick the brain of any prizefighter, living or dead, who would it be and what would you ask?
I’m going to have to go with Sugar Ray Robinson because I believe that he was, pound-for-pound, the greatest fighter who ever lived. Some of the questions I would ask him would be about his ring savvy and his ability to make adjustments.
I really appreciate the way he was able to box and slug, and determine when and when not to do it. I’d ask him about facing a guy like Javier Fortuna in my last fight. What adjustment would he have made after scoring the first knockdown?
Another question I’d like to ask is: How would he beat the other top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, Floyd Mayweather?
“ When I’m training, I tend not to keep the maintenance up on it. After a few workouts, I’ll get my girlfriend to work on it. It takes about two hours, washing it, separating it, and re-twisting it, then my girlfriend braiding it. ” Omar Douglas, on caring for his dreadlocks
What boxer in history would you most like to have fought, and how would it have gone down?
A classic fight for me would be somebody like Roberto Duran. That would be a dream fight for me. I feel like we mirror each other in some aspects as far as fighting on the inside and being able to box when we choose to do so.
I could have picked other fighters, like Arturo Gatti would’ve made for a great fight with me. But I picked Duran because he has better boxing skills than Gatti, and he knew how to make adjustments on the fly. He could also take a punch.
I believe that it would make for an amazing fight. I believe he was nastier at 130 pounds, but he was smarter at 154. It would be tough to beat him at 130 because he would be pressing, but I can’t see myself fighting him at a higher weight than that.
Duran is one of those guys who could draw you into a firefight, but I would box him and hold him. I would do what Sugar Ray Leonard did in their second fight. I believe I have the tools to do so. I wouldn’t make the same mistake Ray did in the first fight. I would try to box him unless I caught him with a big shot.
Not including yourself, who is the best fighter in the 130-pound division right now?
Vasyl Lomachenko, for the fact that he beat Nicholas Walters and Roman “Rocky” Martinez (in 2016). I feel like with him knocking out two world champions, that makes him the most elite fighter at 130 pounds.
What is your favorite punch to throw?
That would have to be the left hook. I like the jab, too, but I’ll go with the left hook. I did land that decent left hook against Fortuna, and it was sharp and dropped him. I’m not going to say that I was surprised that he got up, but a lot of people were.
I haven’t landed one of those clean left hooks yet for a knockout on television, where I absolutely know that it’s over and the guy doesn’t get up from the shot. I’m still waiting to land that one.
If you had the ability to change your body type, what weight class would you like to compete in?
I would have to say at 126 against somebody like Leo Santa Cruz or Abner Mares or Gary Russell—that’s the closest division to me that’s really stacked. At 126, you have so many big fights, like with Carl Frampton. All of those guys are close in weight to me, so I could maybe get one at a catchweight of like 128½ if I could get one of them to come up.
What is the one thing food-wise that’s tough to give up when training for a fight?
Oreo Lemon Thins. The thing about those is I could eat a lot of them because they’re thinner than regular Oreos. They’re supposed to be, like, diet Oreos. So when I’m not in camp, I’ll eat an entire pack of them.
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …
… I love sports, so I would probably be a gym teacher. I do like history, but I couldn’t see myself as a history teacher. I would want to be more involved in activities every day. Being active is my thing.
If Hollywood made a movie about the life of Omar Douglas, what actor do you see portraying you?
That’s hard to say. This guy doesn’t look too much like me, but I do like him as an actor, and that’s Wood Harris. He played Ace in Paid In Full. I just believe that he’s a great actor and he’s cool, calm and collected. I see some of the same qualities in him that I have.
What’s the one thing about the life of a pro boxer that the general public doesn’t understand?
I think they’re not so much aware of the sacrifices that a boxer has to make along with the inner workings of the sport and how those things affect a boxer. If the casual fans knew the sacrifices that boxers make, there wouldn’t be as much criticism.
Fans can give you a hard time, but if they could only really [see all the missed] family events—weddings, funerals, holidays, family engagements. And if you’ve got a lady in your life, then it can be really complicated. You’re away from home so much. I don’t think we get enough credit.
If you could have dinner with four people in the history of the world, who would be on your guest list?
Jay Z, Michael Jordan, Erykah Badu and Angela Yee from The Breakfast Club [syndicated radio show].
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
It would probably be racism. That separates people in the United States of America, but I feel like we’re all here and should learn to work together. Stereotypes are divisive and unnecessary.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: 160-pound world champion Daniel Jacobs.