Starks ready to rebound from first defeat, hang first ‘L’ on Price

Javontae Starks had a bad day at the office in his last fight, and it resulted in his first professional loss. The defeat left a bitter taste in Starks’ mouth, if only because he’s certain the result would’ve been different had he put forth a little extra pre-fight effort.

Javontae Starks

Javontae Starks fires a big left hook at Carlos Galvan during their bout last August. Starks won a split decision, but followed that with a close loss to Samuel Figueroa in his last fight. (Suzanne Teresa/Premier Boxing Champions)

A 27-year-old Minneapolis resident, Javontae Starks (13-1, 7 KOs) blames a “limited camp” for his eight-round unanimous decision loss to fellow unbeaten fighter Samuel Figueroa on October 30 in Orlando, Florida.

While all three judges sided with Figueroa, the scores were close (78-74 and 77-75 twice). Hence the reason Starks is still irked at himself for his subpar training efforts leading up to the bout.

“Figueroa’s a good, skillful, patient southpaw, but I wasn’t as dedicated [in training] as I should have been,” Starks says. “I wasn’t living in Orlando, and I only had about two or three weeks to get ready.

“I wasn’t as locked in with the hunger that I have for this fight.”

By “this fight,” Starks is referring to Saturday’s scheduled 142-pound, eight-round clash with undefeated Darwin Price (10-0, 5 KOs) of Houston at Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio (NBCSN, 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).

In advance of this contest, Starks has been staying with agent Erik Polnett in Orlando, and training at the nearby Winter Haven Boxing Gym under the guidance of lead coach Tony Morgan and co-trainer Marco Fazzini.

Morgan, whose résumé includes helping Andre Berto to a pair of 147-pound world titles, believes getting Starks away from the comforts of home will only benefit him come fight night.

“Javontae is someone who needs to go away from his hometown so that he can zone in on training, and I’ve seen growth in his sparring sessions,” Morgan says.

Being laser focused in camp is extra important for Starks, who will be required to fight Price at a career-low weight. In his last nine bouts, Starks has hit the scales between 148-154 pounds, and he’s never fought below 147 as a pro.

Price, meanwhile, will be in his comfort zone, having weighed between 138-142 pounds for his 10 career contests.

“Javontae’s been fighting at 152 and 147, but we thought it would be better to go to 140,” Morgan says. “With his height and strength, it’s going to be tough for anybody to beat him at that weight.”

Starks, who has been as high as 154 pounds on three occasions, says he’s had little difficulty in shedding the extra pounds. “Ten days out, I was already down to 143 or 144 pounds and looking good in my sparring sessions, so the weight isn’t an issue,” he says.

Like Starks, Price is right-handed and stands 5-foot-11, two characteristics Starks believes will make for an easier fight than when he faced the 5-foot-8, left-handed Figueroa.

“Figueroa was a little more confusing because of the short preparation time and being the first southpaw I had fought in years,” says Starks, who has been as high as 154 pounds on three occasions. “Darwin Price is tall, and he’ll step to you and box, taking his time.

“Darwin's style is something that I’m used to, since I’m also a guy who likes to be selective and patient with my punches.”

Starks will have to be at his best against Price, a 27-year-old native of St. Louis who trains under Ronnie Shields in Houston. Among Shields’ stable of fighters are unbeaten 154-pound champions Jermall Charlo and Erislandy Lara, both of whom offer support and encouragement to Price.

In addition to having a couple of champions in his corner, Price will be returning to San Antonio, where he scored a first-round knockdown of previously unbeaten Semajay Thomas on his way to a near shutout victory back on June 25.

Starks is mindful of Price’s backstory, but unconcerned that it will have any effect on the fight’s outcome.

“I understand the situation and his trainer’s legacy in Texas, but we’re in a gladiator sport where you can’t pass the ball or call a timeout,” Starks says. “Once we’re in the ring, I don’t have to worry about the crowd, the judges or Ronnie Shields. It’s me and Darwin Price, and I’m confident that the outcome is in my own two hands.”

For complete coverage of Price vs Starks, visit our fight page.

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