Delaware is known for being the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution and the second smallest state in the union, but it’s not exactly known as a hotbed for world-class athletes. Omar Douglas is on a mission to change that.
A 25-year-old from the nontraditional fight town of Wilmington, Douglas is on the cusp of becoming Delaware’s first world champion boxer, and he longs to compete as such in the state where he won his first 12 bouts, nine by knockout.
To achieve that goal, though, Omar Douglas (17-0, 12 KOs) must first get past former 130-pound world champion Javier Fortuna (30-1-1, 22 KOs) in a 10-round bout on November 12 at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia. The Douglas-Fortuna scrap, which is set to be contested at 133 pounds, is on the undercard of Danny Garcia’s non-title fight against Samuel Vargas (Spike, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
“Omar’s gonna get a title shot after this fight,” says Stephen Edwards, who advises Douglas and also trains Philadelphia-based 154-pound contender Julian Williams. “So he has to win this fight and the next, [and] I’m laying the groundwork for his first title defense at the Chase Center in Delaware. That could make him the state’s first franchise.”
The list of notable athletes to hail from Delaware is as short as a counter left hook. Hall of Fame defensive tackle Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys ranks at the top of that list, which also includes Elena Delle Donne of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky. Like Douglas, White and Della Donne are Wilmington natives.
When it comes to the fight game, the state’s most successful boxer is New Castle native Dave Tiberi, who lost a controversial split decision to James Toney in a 160-pound title fight in February 1992 in his final career bout.
“Delaware doesn’t have a [professional] sports franchise,” Edwards says. “So Omar can be its first world champion.”
Says Douglas: “I want to fight for a world title. That’s the goal, and 2017 is my year to make a run for a title."
Douglas has been steadily marching toward a title shot over the past year, during which he’s posted a trio of victories over his most accomplished opponents to date. He closed out 2015 with points wins over Braulio Santos (12-3) and Frank De Alba (17-1-2), then scored a seventh-round stoppage of Miami-based Cuban Alexei Collado, who was 19-1 with 17 knockouts, in June.
Now he runs up against the Dominican-born Fortuna, a hard-hitting southpaw. Fortuna won his first 29 fights—21 by knockout—before suffering an 11th-round TKO loss to Jason Sosa in his second title defense on June 24 in Beijing.
Although Fortuna quickly rebounded with a second-round TKO of previously unbeaten Marlyn Cabrera on September 23 in the Dominican Republic, Edwards believes the 27-year-old will be facing a different class of fighter come November 12.
“Omar's stronger, more physical and has a superior chin. I see him knocking Fortuna out late,” Edwards says. “This could be a Meldrick Taylor-Julio Cesar Chavez sort of fight where Taylor was winning but Chavez inflicted more damage and got the knockout in the last round.”
When Douglas earned a 10-round majority decision over De Alba in December, it represented his third consecutive victory over a southpaw. However, none of those fighters can match the skills of Fortuna, a well-rounded boxer who possesses a combination of power, accuracy, movement and pressure.
“Fortuna has quickness and boxing ability, but he’s a front-runner—good early but coming apart later on,” Edwards says. “Omar's heavy-handed with the strength of a welterweight—the ultimate dog who could have fought in the 15-round era. Fortuna will slow down in the fifth or sixth, and I think Omar knocks him out between rounds 8 and 10.”
To prepare for Fortuna, Douglas sparred Philadelphia-based, 140-pound switch-hitting veteran Hank Lundy as well as left-hander Gary Antuanne Russell, a 2016 U.S. Olympian and the 20-year-old sibling of 126-pound world champion Gary Russell Jr.
Douglas, who is trained by Doug Pettiford and sibling Olu Douglas, is certain those sparring sessions have him well prepared for the biggest fight of his life.
"Fortuna’s explosive, but I’m the most dangerous fighter he’s faced,” he says. “I expect him to move around, [but] if he wants a firefight, I have better weapons.
“I’ll attack his body, cut off the ring, use my great jab and reach. If I can stop him late, I'll become a true boxing star.”