An extended family connection has raised the stakes for an already intense and intriguing showdown between Darwin Price and Javontae Starks.
The talented prospects will meet Saturday night in a headlining eight-round bout at Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio (NBCSN, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) that could heavily impact the direction of both fighters’ careers.
Adding drama to the mix is the fact that Starks’ agent, Erik Polnett, is related to Price.
Starks and Polnett grew up together, along with 147-pound prospect Jamal James, as part of a group of Minneapolis youngsters who bonded at the Circle of Discipline gym run by Sankara Frazier.
“It’s a community program for the kids … an element of which includes boxing,” said Frazier, who is James' stepdad. “Boxing is cool if the guys can really apply themselves with their mind, body and spirit. Javontae was serious about it. He won the nationals for us.”
Said Starks: “Jamal, Erik and I grew up in the same house” and “have been boxing together since we were about 8 years old.”
Price has now been married to Polnett’s cousin Kiana for two years, and the couple has two daughters. But the agent says that has no bearing on his allegiance Saturday night.
“Darwin and I have talked about it several times, and I’ve met him once,” Polnett said. “At the end of the day, Javonte’s my little brother and that’s who I work for. It’s business.”
On the surface, the matchup of 27-year-old boxer-punchers looks very similar, but there is one big difference: While Javontae Starks (13-1, 7 KOs) has fought at no less than 148 pounds in the last three years, Darwin Price (10-0, 5 KOs) has not competed at more than 140 since December 2013.
“I know [Starks is] used to fighting at junior middleweight, so he’s coming down in weight,” Price said. “But we’re both coming in at 142, so who knows whether the weight will affect him?”
At Friday’s weigh-in, Price hit the scale at 141 pounds and Starks came in at 141.6.
Price weighed 137¾ before his last fight in June, also in San Antonio, where he floored previously unbeaten Semajay Thomas in Round 1 on his way to earning an eight-round unanimous decision.
It was the second straight time going eight rounds for the Houston-based Price, a St. Louis native who starred in track for four years at Grambling State University before becoming a pro boxer in 2013.
“Price did a good job in his last fight, but the fight he’ll have with me is going to be very different,” Starks said. “His strength is staying on the outside and picking his shots, but I’m patient and I can figure him out.
“I definitely predict an impressive victory. Being in his backyard, I believe that I’ll have to win every round to get a unanimous decision. I would love a knockout; if it comes, I’ll take it.”
Starks is trying to bounce back from his first career loss in October, a narrow eight-round unanimous decision to then-unbeaten southpaw Samuel Figueroa in Orlando, Florida.
The Minnesota native weighed 148 pounds for that bout, and has competed as high as 154 in his 6½-year pro career, but he believes that losing a few pounds won’t result in a decrease in power or speed.
Price also stressed that weight won’t have any bearing on the fight—not even the weight of family ties.
“I’ve seen footage of [Starks], but I can’t go off his last fight. He might have switched up to be able to do something differently,” Price said. “I plan on dominating every round, anyway. That’s my mindset. I’m going to win by decision or knockout, but I’m going to dominate either way.”
For a complete look at Price vs Starks, visit our fight page.