No favors necessary for Derrick Webster
By the time most prizefighters reach their mid-30s, thoughts about their next stage in life begin to take fundamental shape. This especially applies to fighters on the elite level who are fortunate enough to do one thing to provide for their families – train and fight. While there have been exceptions to this rule by Hall of Fame fighters who were able to not only perform but excel at the highest level, every other fighter tends to start facing the reality that Father Time begins to catch up with their natural physical abilities. Some fighters who are financially stable are able to continue when this occurs, simply to quench their love of competition, while the not-so-fortunate tend to continue out of basic financial need.
Derrick “Take it to the Bank” Webster, 22-1 (11), is indeed banking on the latter as his time in the sport has landed him in his current position. At 34, Webster will face Frankie Filippone, 22-5-1 (7) this Saturday night in a main event for the WBF International super middleweight title. For Webster, rushing toward his ultimate goal of not only winning a world championship of a major sanctioning body but being one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world does not fit the demeanor nor how he has approached his experiences in boxing.
Sitting on the ring apron prior to training at the Camden Boxing Academy (more on this gym later), Webster is a fighter who gives off a quiet, confident vibe that is routinely only found in fighters who are either pound-for-pound ranked, world champions or have been lifers. Currently these designations can’t be assigned when discussing Webster’s career.
Webster recalls his experiences fighting, as well as experiencing the business side of boxing. “Boxing chose me. It’s just that simple,” he said. It did, however, direct Webster to take part in the sport late in his life. Webster had his first professional fight in 2009 at the age of 27, after taking up the sport at the age of 24. Although this is considered a late start by most, Webster was already a success in other avenues of life, including several business ventures.
Prior to boxing, Webster was a college basketball player, an R&B singer and even did some modeling. Providing for his life, in terms of finances, was just something Webster did naturally. Call him a hustler or a Jack-of-all-trades but one thing is clear: Just like inside of the ring, Webster is versatile outside of it. Since becoming a boxer, Webster has also received parts in movies, including the boxing film “Creed.” He also currently owns and operates two construction companies in New Jersey. A proud family man, while not having an extensive amateur background, he feels his time as a professional has aided the astonishing growth that has brought him to the cusp of a world title shot.
“Most fighters have been fighting since they were eight years old, said Webster. “Since I didn’t have a big amateur career, I’ve been learning from the best in the world.” You would be hard-pressed to argue with Webster, a 6-foot-4 super middleweight southpaw, when reviewing his credentials in terms of his growth, since turning professional. “I’ve been in the training camps of the best. People in this industry know who I am. They search me out to help get fighters ready to face southpaws.” Webster was the chief sparring partner for Andre Ward, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Jean Pascal as they prepared for what would become their career-defining victories.
Back in 2012, Webster went to Oakland, California, to help Ward prepare for his fight with Chad Dawson. This was after helping Chavez get ready for his career-best performance against Andy Lee. In 2014, Pascal defeated Lucian Bute after working with Webster. “Ward is just a professional all the way around, man,” he said. “They all are out there. I learned so much during that camp.” Results those fighters delivered after working with Webster are clearly impressive. Helping some of the best in the world in their training camps has increased his knowledge in the sport.
Throughout boxing’s history, there have been plenty of tales of great gym fighters, who were used in elite fighters’ camps, legendary in the gym but not so much when concerning their own careers. Webster has reached a point in his career, in which the only way to find out if he is exempt from this list is for him to compete on a high level on fight night, as well.
With future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Roy Jones Jr. playing the role of mentor to Webster, everything is falling into place for him to take the proverbial next step. Currently, he is not signed with a major promoter and there have been a host of issues that have held up his career progression, including the night when he suffered his first and only professional defeat at the hands of tough Russian middleweight Arif Magomedov.
At the time, Magomedov was also undefeated and competed eight pounds south of Webster’s normal fight weight. “I had to lose 40 pounds quickly, in like two weeks. It was awful. I knew it, after three rounds, that I was spent. I was hitting him with everything. He was just the healthier fighter, not the better one. After the fight, I asked for a rematch and he said, ‘No way,’” recalls Webster with a chuckle. Another lesson for Webster, who took the fight out of his normal weight class in order to perform on a high-profile platform. It’s a mistake he most certainly wouldn’t make again.
So with all of the knowledge gleaned in being part of world-class training camps, having a Hall-of-Fame-bound mentor in his corner and a stable and loving support system from his team and family, one has to wonder how Webster is not anxious for his crack at the upper echelon in his division. “Being anxious won’t get anyone what they want. I’m clear on my goal and will achieve it when the time is right.”
With fighters like Andre Ward now the light heavyweight champion and former WBC super middleweight champion Badou Jack having moved up in weight, while Webster may not be anxious, the current landscape at 168 pounds is opening up for fresh talent to stake their claim as the best.
As far as not having a major promoter, Webster doesn’t seem to be rushing anything, “Look, I know I would make any promoter’s job easy. I don’t need their help financially to survive daily. I’ve already been in front of big-time cameras and could handle any type of promotional work.” Webster’s trainer Denny Brown, who has been with him since day one, is best known for working with Prince Badi Ajamu, a former light heavyweight contender, known, interestingly enough, for fighting Webster’s mentor Roy Jones Jr. “Sometimes when they don’t open the door, you got to kick that mother in,” fiercely states Brown. Brown is pure intensity and takes everything he does seriously. Simply put, he is an old-school trainer who gives off the vibe that guiding Webster to the top is a calling, not just a job.
Before Webster can even start to contemplate his career as a fighter when he turns 35, close to a month after his fight on Saturday, he needs to handle the business in front of him. That said, with all of the experiences that he has encountered since boxing chose him a decade ago, Webster is clearly not a typical professional fighter, not just inside the ring, since he has the height to fight as a heavyweight, a fact not lost on Webster, “I would love to finish my career at heavyweight. I told you; Roy is my hero.” Derrick “Take it to the Bank” Webster is certainly not looking or asking for any favors from anyone involved in the sport, as he prepares for the next stage of his career. He is doing what any talented contender does: He is banking on himself and his family and letting the rest fall into place.
CAMDEN BOXING ACADEMY
Webster trains out of the Camden Boxing Academy, the only prominent boxing gym in the city. Unfortunately Camden is mostly known for being the city across the river from Philadelphia. It’s also known for being a city rife with all of the socioeconomic ills that put a stranglehold on an urban setting with few economic opportunities. Due to the boxing culture in Philadelphia, Camden is over looked but that is were Denny Brown and Charles Williams step in.
“I used to run the Roberto Clemente Center in Northern Camden,” states Williams. “That’s where most of the kids would go to train. It was run by the city’s recreation department. One day we were told that they were renovating.” What happened next to Williams and his boxing home was something he wasn’t expecting. “They told us that the city’s recreation department didn’t want competitive boxers to train there anymore. They made it more of a workout facility.”
To this day, this is something that clearly bothers Williams, considering he ran the center as a safe place for youth to get away from the rampant violence and drugs in Camden. Williams wound up connecting with Brown and moving to the Camden Boxing Academy in the southern part of the city, allowing for a place where aspiring world champions can come to train without having to cross a bridge into Philly.
This gym plays host to all types of fighters and folks from different walks of life just looking to work out. Not only does Derrick Webster use it as his main base of operations, so does Prince Badi Ajamu, who, while no longer professionally active, mentors fighters in the gym. Williams gushes about a 17-year-old heavyweight amateur named Jamar Talley, who was getting ready for the New Jersey Golden Gloves.
The impact the gym has had on the city isn’t the only thing evident about the area; fighters from Philadelphia are also aware of the quality in Camden. A car full of amateur fighters drove across the bridge into Camden to get some sparring, as they prepared for the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves.
Twenty-five-year-old featherweight Vidal Rivera, 5-0 (4), who is also a Camden police officer – and Williams’ son – also calls this gym his home away from the streets he patrols. “It’s all about making this place a positive one. I enjoy being a positive role model for these kids,” remarks Rivera, who had an extensive amateur background, which includes a close decision loss to current IBF super featherweight champion Gervonta Davis.
Derrick Webster and Vidal Rivera will both be in action this Saturday night at the Grundy Arena in Bristol, Pennsylvania, among eight other fights on the card.
Tickets are still available for this card presented by Deuce, Mis Downing and Kane 5 Promotions. VIP seats are $125; front row is $75, $50 for floor seating and $30 for General Admission. For all purchases and inquires, please contact (215) 688-3546.