Domonique Dolton was a mystery to Keith Thurman entering their 152-pound clash in the opening round of the 2007 U.S. Olympic trials.
“I think Domonique was the youngest participant and he was representing Kronk Gym,” says Thurman, referring to the legendary Detroit-based boxing venue. “I’d maybe fought one other guy from Kronk. I knew he’d have to be a good fighter.”
Although just 17 at the time, Dolton entered the scrap against Thurman infused with confidence after holding his own in sparring sessions with Kermit Cintron and Jermain Taylor, who at the time were professional world champions at 147 and 160 pounds, respectively.
“Jermain Taylor was getting ready for his first fight with Kelly Pavlik [in September 2007]. I was sparring with those two guys and felt like I was getting the best of them,” Dolton says. “I knew Keith was a big puncher, but I decided to go punch for punch with him. I had a big head.”
Dolton and Thurman both agree that their 2007 match was filled with ferocious start-to-finish action, but they differ a bit on how things concluded.
Recalls Dolton: “Keith gave me a standing eight count, I gave him a standing eight count and he gave me another standing eight count. After the last eight count, the referee told me to walk forward. I didn’t have [my] balance, so he thought I was going to fall forward and stopped it. I never hit the mat, though.”
Counters Thurman: “Domonique was having a good fight, but I saw what I needed and went for the knockout. I remember pressuring and landing punches easier. He was unguarded for a big left hook that dropped him. He stood up and the referee stopped the fight.”
After the bout, Thurman—who went on to win the silver medal at the trials—offered some encouraging words to his beaten foe.
“I told him he wasn’t the only person that had happened to, so don’t be mad,” he says. “I knew he still had a ways to go and he had a bright future, so I just gave him a pep talk like, ‘You’ve got skills, so don’t worry about it.’”
For Dolton, the loss to Thurman was very much a teaching moment.
“I learned that anybody can be hurt, a fight can change at any moment, and that the key to boxing is to hit and not get hit—not to always bang, punch for punch,” he says.
Domonique Dolton (17-0, 9 KOs) has relied on that knowledge as much as his jab as he’s steadily climbed the ranks of the 154-pound division. On Tuesday, he’ll try to take another step closer to his first title shot when he faces 2012 Mexican Olympian Oscar Molina (13-0, 10 KOs) at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
The scheduled 10-rounder will precede the 130-pound title defense by Javier Fortuna (28-0, 20 KOs) against Carlos Ivan Velasquez (19-1, 12 KOs) in a Premier Boxing Champions Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays affair (Fox Sports 1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“Domonique is in tough with Molina, but I’m expecting him to win,” says Julian Williams, who, like Dolton, is an unbeaten 154-pound contender, having just dismantled Luciano Cuello with a first-round TKO Tuesday.
Just as Thurman has a connection to Dolton, so too does Williams: The two squared off as amateurs, with Dolton earning the victory.
“We had a super-duper fight,” Williams says. “A lot of people thought I won, but I’ve got nothing bad to say about Domonique. He’s underrated, but he’s one of the best 154-pound fighters.”
A former 154-pound and current 160-pound champ would likely second that opinion.
In early 2010, Miguel Cotto was sitting at 35-2, coming off a TKO loss to Manny Pacquiao and prepping for a 154-pound title clash against then-unbeaten Yuri Foreman. Looking for a quality sparring partner, Cotto called on a young Dolton, who at the time was 5-0 with two knockdowns as a pro.
“Domonique was the hardest work for Miguel Cotto,” says Javan “Sugar” Hill, Dolton’s trainer. “I’m not going to say who got the best of who, but people in the gym were angry with Domonique for turning it up on him.”
Hill might be reticent to judge the sparring sessions with Cotto, but Dolton isn’t.
“If you sit in front of Cotto, he’ll tear you apart. His downfall with me was he was a little too slow,” the Detroit native says. “You’ve got to box him, time him, take advantage of his problem with fast fighters. I was getting the best of him, and he gave me credit.”
Dolton ended up stopping four straight opponents after working with Cotto in Florida, where he actually reconnected with Thurman, who lives in Clearwater.
“Domonique got my number, gave me a call,” says Thurman, now a 26-year-old 147-pound champion. “He thanked me for what I had said after our fight. I’m happy that he’s still undefeated, moving up and doing great.”
For Dolton, the immediate focus is getting past Molina on Tuesday, but the long-range goal remains fighting for (and winning) a championship. The only question is at which weight.
“I’ve been as high as 160, but I want to be the next undisputed [147-pound] champion,” he says. “I’m not thinking about going back to 160 for Cotto.
“Being in the ring with 16-ounce gloves and headgear on is a different ballgame from 10-ounce gloves with no headgear on.”
For complete coverage of Dolton vs Molina, make sure to visit our fight page.