Battle-tested boxer Derrick “Double Impact” Whitley (24-25-3, 11 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time in nearly four years to headline a pro boxing show in his hometown of Holyoke, “Homecoming,” June 25 at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke.
The crafty southpaw takes on former Interim WBA light heavyweight champion Richard “The Destroyer” Hall in the eight-round main event at a 190-pound catch-weight on the American Fighting Organization (“AFO”)-promoted “Homecoming” card.
Boxing dates back to 1896 in Holyoke; Rocky Marciano made his pro debut there in 1947, and other Hall of Famers such as Willie Pep, Sandy Saddler, Beau Jack, Sixto Escobar and Fritzie Zivic, along with world champions Tony DeMarco, Paddy DeMarco, Lou Ambers and Lou Salica, fought in the western Massachusetts city where volleyball was invented in 1895. “Iron” Mike Tyson won a Golden Gloves title there in 1984.
However, pro boxing hasn’t been held in Holyoke since 2000 – the only time in the past half-century -- and 15-year veteran Whitley has never had an opportunity to fight in his hometown until now. “When I was asked if I wanted to fight on this show I thought that they were kidding,” Whitley explained. “I had the itch, though, from training (heavyweight) Tony Grano in the gym.
"I was able to move around pretty good in the ring and felt that I still had it. I can slip and roll with the punches. I knew that ‘Chip’ Perez and a few other fighters from Holyoke and (nearby) Springfield were going to fight on the June 25th card. I got excited and said, yes. Maybe this will be a one-time fight. I’ll see how I feel afterwards and make a decision then.”
Whitley and his brothers – twin Darren, Brent and Mark – own Whitley Fitness gym in Holyoke. They also train a number of amateur boxers, which is another reason Derrick is making this comeback. “I’ve always been the type that likes proving people wrong who say I can’t do something,”
Whitley remarked. “Hey, I’m 43, but I’m in good shape and this will be a good experience. I’ll be able to show my amateur boxers what I’ve been telling them. There’s only so much you can learn in this game and the rest comes down to heart and desire. That’s what I’ve always had.”
The Whitley-Hall match-up features a contrast in styles. Both are lefthanders but Whitley has never been floored, never mind stopped in 52 pro fights and 308 rounds, while Hall has knocked out 27 of his 29 victims.
“I guess I can take a good punch,” the unassuming Whitley commented about never being out or even down. “People have always said the Whitleys are tough. I guess it comes from our mixed martial arts program in which defense is a good offense. I don’t stand and trade, I keep moving. Hall is tall with good speed. He’s fought Roy Jones and some other good fighters.
"I know he’s been in some good fights but I never hand-picked opponents and always fought anybody in there with me. I’m not going to change now and take an easy opponent like a lot of fighters do today. I’m training hard and it could be anybody’s night.”
In only his 10th pro fight, Whitley fought future world champion Manny Siaca, and then Derrick moved on to eventually tangle with world title challengers Kabary Salem (twice), Randy Griffin and Rico Hoye.
Hall, who defeated Anthony Bigeni by second-round knockout in their 1999 Interim WBA light heavyweight world title fight, defeated former world champion Byron Mitchell 3 ½ years ago, in addition to testing world champions Jones, Dariusz Michalczewski (twice) and Glen Johnson.
Super featherweight and fan favorite Joseph “Chip” Perez (5-1, 2 KOs) returns home to fight in the six-round, co-feature against an opponent to be determined. Pro debuting junior welterweight Jair “Da-Bully” Ramos, of Waterbury (CT), and Joel Alarcon (0-2), of New Bedford (MA), meet in a four-round bout.
Also fighting on the undercard in four-round bouts is Holyoke light heavyweight Pedro “Tyson” Gonzales in his pro debut vs. George Perez (0-1-1), Springfield light heavyweight Reinaldo Graceski (1-0) vs. TBA, Springfield welterweights Jose Angel “KO” Ortiz (4-6-1, 1 KO) and Noel Garcia (2-9-1, 1 KO) throw-down, and Springfield cruiserweight Jose Torres and Kovon Graham will also be making their pro debuts. All bouts and fighters are subject to change.
Tickets are priced at $40.00, $50.00 and $100.00 and are available at or by calling (413.534.7366) the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke (70 Nick Cosmos Way), as well as going on line at www.afomma.com. Doors open at 6 PM/ET, first bout at 7 PM/ET.