As 31-year-olds in a 147-pound weight class stacked with young talent, Phil Lo Greco and Joseph Elegele are trying to remain relevant while realizing that time is of the essence.
Which makes Sunday’s battle between the two at the Lakeland Center in Lakeland, Florida (Bounce TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT), all the more intriguing: Both Phil Lo Greco (27-2, 15 KOs) and Joseph Elegele (15-2, 11 KOs) are keenly aware they need a victory to at least remain on the fringe of title contention.
They also know the loser could very well be relegated to gatekeeper status.
“This fight with Elegele means a lot to me,” Lo Greco said. “One win gets me closer to a bigger fight since this is on TV, but a loss … it’s a tough situation to deal with at this stage.”
Said Elegele: “I can’t take this fight for granted. This is an opportunity for me to showcase my skills and to improve my standing in the 147-pound division.”
Further adding to the sense of urgency is the fact both boxers have sputtered a bit lately after getting off to scintillating starts to their respective careers. Lo Greco won his first 25 professional fights (14 by knockout), but has alternated wins and losses in his last four outings.
The Toronto native fell to former 147-pound champion Shawn Porter by unanimous decision in May 2013 and was stopped in the third round by unbeaten contender Errol Spence Jr. last June in a fight Lo Greco agreed to take on two days’ notice.
After losing to Porter, Lo Greco took nearly two years off—he was actually close to hanging up his gloves for good—before returning in March 2015 with a unanimous decision victory over Rafael Cobbs. Next came the Spence defeat followed by a fifth-round stoppage of Pablo Munguia in October.
Meanwhile, Elegele raced out to a 12-0 start to his career (10 KOs) before losing two of his next three fights. The Melbourne, Florida, native has since rebounded with consecutive victories over Jonathan Garcia (split decision in October 2014) and Alex De Jesus (sixth-round TKO on January 31).
Those represent Elegele’s only two bouts since March 2013.
Beyond the must-win part of the narrative, what makes this matchup one to watch is the fact it’s a total contrast in styles. While Elegele is a heavy-handed, 6-foot southpaw, Lo Greco is a 5-foot-8 boxer-puncher who fights orthodox.
During preparations for this clash, Elegele said he learned a lot from watching Lo Greco’s brief fight with Spence, a fellow lefty.
“I saw that when Errol’s straight left hand landed, it really hurt Lo Greco,” said Elegele, whose trainer, Jason Galarza, has predicted that Lo Greco won’t last more than six rounds. “I’m working on my controlled aggression and fighting from range, but I have a really good straight left, so I will be looking for that punch to work very well in this fight.
“I want to beat him better than Spence and Porter did.”
Like his opponent, Lo Greco said he too has looked back at the Spence fight to help develop a game plan. Specifically, Lo Greco wants to sustain the pace he established in the first round against Spence, when he landed several right hands and attacked the body well.
“I need to pick up where I left off in that first round against Elegele, who is a very tall southpaw with fast hands and a good boxer,” Lo Greco said. “I don’t want to pressure myself by saying I need a knockout, but my toolbox is ready to go, and I’ve found out all that I need to know to put on a good, smart performance and come out with the win.”
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