EAST LIVERPOOL - After starting his professional boxing career with three knockout victories, Joey Holt is hoping he's on the fast track up the rankings.
Holt, a 2004 East Liverpool graduate, will look to add another stoppage to his record on Saturday night when he takes on Dustin Caplinger as part of the latest pro boxing card at The Harv promoted by former world champion Roy Jones Jr. and TNT Promotions.
After turning 28 in June, Holt said he wants to fight as often as possible in order to make a run at a title in the next few years.
"I'm trying to line up more fights," he said. "I want to stay active. Even though I'm 28, I've taken no damage in the sport. That's working on my side. I have a great trainer in Tom Yankello and he's bringing me along well."
While nothing has been finalized, Holt said he plans on fighting Aug. 17 and again on Sept. 1.
But first he must deal with Caplinger.
Caplinger (2-4, 1 KO) hails from Chillicothe and last fought Nov. 9 of last year. In that bout, Caplinger, 33, was kayoed in the second round by 2012 U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha in a bout televised on Showtime in Indio, Calif.
"That's all the video I've seen of him," Holt said of his next opponent. "He took that fight on a few days notice. I know he's had 60 amateur boxing matches and he used to fight (mixed martial arts). So, he definitely knows what he's doing. It should be my toughest test yet."
Holt made quick work of his first three foes. He knocked out Allan Moore (3-20, 2 KO) and Roy Sanders (1-3, 1 KO) both in the first round to open his pro career before Austin Marcum (4-3, 2 KO) hung around for four rounds before suffering the same fate.
"You're not supposed to look for the knockout, but if I see an opportunity, I'm going for it," Holt said. "Not only will knockouts help your career by moving you up the rankings, but I do it for the fans. They pay good money to see these fights and I want to make sure they get their money's worth."
In his April 6 bout against Marcum, Holt was initially stymied by his opponent's awkward style. Holt said he was hit more in that fight than all of his previous professional bouts which include three MMA victories.
"Working with Tom, we've focused a lot on defense," Holt said of his work at Tom Yankello's World Class Boxing Gym in Ambridge, Pa. "Coming from MMA, you need a different stance and we've had to work on defense. But, really, good defense can lead to offense so I'm still looking for a knockout, but just trying to be smart about it."
Saturday's four-round fight will be contested at a contracted weight of 156 pounds, two more than the junior middleweight limit. Holt said he plans to attempt a move down to the welterweight limit (147 pounds) after this bout.
"I think with my height, 147 would be a better weight," he said. "I think I can do some damage at that weight class. I think I can do well at 154, but if I can get down, it could be to my advantage."
Holt said he weighed 156 pounds on Monday and he will continue on his diet after the Caplinger fight and see where it takes him.
"As my career moves along, I'll probably end up back at 154 pounds, but while I'm still young or youngish, I'll give it a shot. As long as I can get there healthy, I'm going to give it a test run."
Caplinger, who weighed in at 165 pounds for his fight with Gausha, will be the biggest opponent to date for Holt.
Another coming change for Holt will be the move to six- and eight-round bouts.
"I'm not real sure when, but I'd go for six or eight rounds as soon as possible," Holt said. "The four rounders are tough. There's no time to feel out your opponent. You might give away a round and end up losing a decision."
- Holt has had a luxury that many beginning boxers don't get to experience. He has been training full-time without any other employment during his professional career, a luxury he said is priceless. Holt said he owes the most gratitude to his wife, Melissa.
"I have a great supporting cast," he said. "I get to train every day. It's a huge advantage. I don't have to worry about setting my alarm for a job. I owe a lot to my wife. She'd do anything for me and I have a great family and sponsors."
- Fighting is a family affair for Holt. His younger brother, Kyle, 21, has followed in Joey into the ring and won his first two MMA bouts.
"I train and work with my brother every day," Joey said. "I love my brother. He pushes me a lot. When I'm tired, he doesn't let me quit. My brother and my whole family is why I'm doing this."
- Holt said the support he has received from the East Liverpool community has also been a key to his success. A pre-fight party for Holt was held this past Saturday at The Oasis downtown.
"We had a lot of people come out to show their support," he said. "I was able to sell a lot of t-shirts and tickets and get to talk to some of my fans. They're the best. I can't wait to put on another show for them. This area hasn't always had a lot to look forward to so I hope I can help out in my own little way."
Holt also wanted to thank sponsors Bloody Buddy Fight Gear and West Coast Tatooing.
- A full slate of fights is scheduled for Saturday. In the main event, a welterweight clash, Lorain's Wilkins Santiago (9-0, 1 KO) squares off with Gilbert Venegas (12-9-3, 8 KO). Also scheduled to fight are: Pittsburgh's Morgan Fitch (9-0, 4 KO) and Billy Bailey (12-16, 4 KO) in a super middleweight bout; Akron heavyweight Nick Furtha (20-10-1, 8 KO) against Robert Hawkins (23-21, 7 KO); and Billy Hutchinson (6-1-2, 4 KO), of Pittsburgh, against Angel Rios (9-17, 6 KO). Base ticket prices are: VIP starting at $100, Section A $50, Section B $35 and Bleachers $25 plus service fee. Tickets can be purchased at Mountaineer Casino's Players Club in person or by calling 1-800-80-40-HOT ext. 8297 or online at www.MOREatMountaineer.com. Parking is free. First bell set for 7:30 p.m.