What started as one fighter’s innocent plea for competition more than a year ago and exploded into a vicious, online war is about to reach its peak Thursday night at the Twin River Event Center.
“The Vermont Bully” Kevin Cobbs (4-0, 1 KO), one of New England’s rising stars in the light heavyweight division, will face the colorful Donte “Mr. Magic” Wiggins (1-0, 1 KO) of Queens, N.Y., in a four-round bout fight fans have been waiting for since last summer when Cobbs first included Wiggins on his now-infamous checklist of regional fighters he wanted to face.
“I’m not worried about him,” Cobbs said. “Whatever he comes with, I’m confident in my ability and what my coaches and trainers will provide for me. I’m ready for the next step, and the next step – I guess – is Donte Wiggins.”
The long-awaited showdown between Cobbs and Wiggins will be one of nine bouts on Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports’ “Built to Last” professional boxing card, scheduled for Thursday, July 19th, 2012 in Lincoln, R.I.
The feud started last summer when Cobbs, only 1-0 at the time, publicly posted a list of fighters in the 175-pound division he felt he needed to beat in order to get to the top of his weight class. The list included Reinaldo Graceski of Springfield, Mass., and Alex Amparo, but the initial target was Joey Gardner, who had recently won the New England light heavyweight title by beating Keith Kozlin.
According to Cobbs, Wiggins wasn’t even on the list until Cobbs’ manager at the time, Bobby Smead, told him the road to the title would ultimately have to go through Wiggins, so Cobbs made a revised list that included his soon-to-be opponent.
Wiggins caught wind of the list through Smead – who, coincidentally, is now managing him instead of Cobbs – and began challenging Cobbs with a viral onslaught of online videos and postings through the social networking giant Facebook, most of it not fit for print.
“[Wiggins] made it sound like I was calling him out specifically,” Cobbs said. “I was just letting people know these are the guys I have to go through. Then he stepped up and said, ‘I’ve never even heard of you!’ and so on and so forth.
“We kind of just ran with it.”
The two agreed to face one another in August of 2011, but the fight fell through. Wiggins, who trained in Providence with Jose Santos, grew tired of waiting for an opponent and ultimately moved back to Queens since he hadn’t fought since November – a first-round knockout win over Paul Gonsalves in his first and only professional fight.
“I stayed in Rhode Island, because those were the people I was comfortable training with, but without any fights, I wasn’t making any money,” Wiggins said. “I was so far in debt I had to get another job, and then I had no offers to fight because I wasn’t in the gym. I honestly though it was over for me.”
Wiggins soon linked up with Smead, who promised to get him back in the ring. Last month, shortly after the July 19th show was announced, Wiggins made Cobbs another offer to fight at 180 pounds, which Cobbs ultimately accepted, sparking another round of verbal assaults that haven’t stopped since the two signed their contracts.
Why, after a year, did Cobbs answer the bell?
“Because he called me out,” Cobbs said. “After everything with the first fight fell apart, we weren’t even looking at him. He was inactive. He was gone – nowhere to be found. He’d have to call me out. I’m 4-0. He’s only 1-0. It’s not helping me to call him out, but if he wants to fight me I’ll take the fight.
“The last thing I’ll do is duck somebody.”
The pre-fight hype includes a video interview in which Wiggins – surrounded by his entourage – questions Cobbs’ resume (Cobbs has won three fights since the two began feuding last summer) and predicts a win next Thursday.
“I wish the videos were done better. Then I’d probably like them,” Cobbs quipped. “They’re in a dark alley shooting dice – in dirty T-shirts. It just shows what kind of goons they are. That doesn’t hype me up at all. It’s not professional. It’s a joke to me.
“If anything, I got a great laugh out of it. All of that is just talk. He just constantly talks. The best thing he can do is try to get in my head. That’s the only way he can beat me, because there’s no way he can beat me in the ring.”
“Of course he doesn’t like [the videos], because he doesn’t want to get punched in the face,” Wiggins said. “He’s boring – very boring. Kevin Cobbs is an intermission fighter. CES puts him in the ring when they want people to go to the bathroom or get drinks. He’s a model, too; he’s got a six-pack so he can look good on posters.”
Come Thursday, Cobbs may have the edge in stamina; he’s remained active within the past year while Wiggins hasn’t fought since making his debut, but Wiggins has been working extensively with Mike Ocasio at former welterweight world title challenger Aaron Davis’ gym in the Bronx and promises a new look Thursday.
“I’ve been training for almost two months now; I feel good,” he said. “A lot of things came back to me rather quickly. This was more about weight and stamina than anything else. We’re doing lots of running and wind sprints, really building up my cardio so that I can take down the weight without being weak the night of the fight.”
The equalizer could be Wiggins’ power; he prefers to stand toe-to-toe and trade punches. He willingly exchanged with Gonsalves in their fight two years ago before catching his opponent with a right hand that sent Gonsalves tumbling to the canvas.
“Everyone says he’s a slugger. He likes for you to stand in front of him and bang with him,” Cobbs said. “He wants to close that distance and land that one big shot. He’ll have to do a lot of that because I’m not going to be standing in front of him. He’s been going online and telling me to just stand there and not run.
“Obviously, he doesn’t know boxing. In boxing, you have to do everything and anything to survive in the ring, whether it’s hold, move around the ring … play head games. The last thing I’m going to do is exactly what he told me to do.”
With the fight less than a week away, the talk has finally subsided. Cobbs and Wiggins are set to face one another in a long-awaited showdown that has grabbed most of the headlines leading up to this event, and could wind up stealing the show Thursday night.
“I’m not saying I’m the best in the world, but I have a lot of heart and I don’t mind getting in there as long as the people who buy tickets see that I give 100 percent,” Wiggins said. “I’m an action fighter, like an Arturo Gatti or Emanuel Augustus.
“That’s the style I’m trying to bring back. These other dudes want to pick and choose their fights. I want to make the crowd happy.”
Providence native and reigning New England super middleweight champion Vladine Biosse (13-1-1, 6 KOs) will star in the eight-round main event against face Saskatchewan, Canada naitve Mike Walchuk (9-5, 2 KOs) while Providence’s Matt “Too Smooth” Godfrey (20-3, 10 KOs) will face veteran Jesse Oltmans (10-3, 7 KOs) of Bartonsville, Pa., in the six-round co-feature. Super middleweights Keith Kozlin (6-3-1, 4 KOs) of West Warwick, R.I., and Reynaldo Rodriguez (6-4-1, 3 KOs) of Woonsocket, R.I., will look to settle the score in a rematch from their fight last July, which ended in a draw.
Attleboro, Mass., light heavyweight Rich Gingras (11-3, 7 KOs) will be featured in a special six-round attraction. Also on the undercard, Pawtucket, R.I., middleweight Thomas Falowo (6-1, 4 KOs) will look to bounce back from his first loss in May when he faces Rahman Yusebov (8-8, 6 KOs) of Dallas in a six-round bout. Benny Costantino (7-1, 4 KOs) of Warwick, R.I., will face Dennis Ogboo (6-5, 5 KOs) of Lexington, Ky., in a four-round middleweight bout.
Lightweight Zack Ramsey (1-0, 1 KO) of Springfield, Mass., and welterweight newcomer Jansy Rivera (0-0) of Providence (San Juan, Puerto Rico) will also be on the undercard in separate four-round bouts. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Twin River has waived its 18+ rule for “Built to Last.” Anybody under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and must enter through the West entrance.