He stayed calm, and he listened; he followed the game plan; he paced himself; he was patient; he kept his temper tempered; and he represented East Wheeling’s Bullpen Fight Club exactly the way he wished.
That blueprint worked perfectly, and that is why Wheeling resident Ronell Green is the new World Boxing Council Featherweight North American Champion. His opponent, Fidel Navarrette, owned an 8-0-2 record at 126 pounds, and Green entered the ring at 11-1-0.
“My opponent was out of Chicago, but he was from Mexico,” Green explained. “After doing the research on him, we knew going in that it was going to be a tough one. I was going to have to show my best skills out there if I was going to be victorious.
“I knew that he had fought in a higher weight class before this fight, so I knew he would have a little more power than what other featherweights usually possess,” he continued. “We watched the film, and we worked on the game plan very hard in the gym. In the end, we accomplished our goal.”
But it was only because he remained the student and not the teacher.
“Traditionally, Mexican boxers come right at their opponents, so we had to figure out how to work some angles against him,” Green confirmed. “I had to step to one side and the other, and I also knew that I would need to work underneath. We were going to have to work our dip game.
“In the first round I used my jab a lot because it was my first 10-round fight, so I was going to have to pace myself,” he said. “But after that first round I was pretty confident that I would be able to do it as long as I stuck with the game plan. That was very, very important to me this time out.
“It was during that first round that I realized that what we had been working on for a month or so was going to work. And in the eighth round I caught him with an uppercut, and that was the one time I thought I might have a chance to knock him out, but I backed down a little and kept the goal in mind. I was tempted, but a lot of times when a fighter goes after a knockout, that’s when they get knocked out.”
Green’s lone loss came at the gloves of Rob Guy in Sacramento, Calif., and even Green admits the defeat was no one’s fault but his own. This time, though, in front of a large crowd at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Green stayed with his team.
“This time out Ronell executed the game plan flawlessly,” said Green’s boxing coach Mike Napple. “His performance against Navarette has allowed me to believe that he is ready for any fighter in that weight range. I’m now confident that we’ll always be able to put a plan together, and he’ll go out there and get it done.
“He took a big step by winning the North American championship, and now I know that if he would have executed the same way in Sacramento, he would have won that fight, too,” he said. “It was a great learning experience for him. He knows now the way he needs to go about it.”
His corner was confident, and so was Green at the end of the 10th and final round of the WBC title bout.
“My father and Coach Napple were in my corner, and they were telling me close to the end of the fight that they thought I had the win point-wise, and they were warning me not to do something that would turn the fight the other way,” Green said. “It wasn’t until I heard the 10-second warning in the 10th round when I decided to act a little like Coach … like the ‘raging bull.’
“He was a tough fighter, but he didn’t really hurt me the entire fight,” he continued. “When we were standing in the middle of the ring after the fight, I was just praying to the Good Lord to let us have this victory. I felt it. I was pretty sure that the announcer was going to say my name. And then he did.”
Upon hoisting the belt high above his head, Green realized the lessons he learned from that West Coast defeat. He knows now he allowed the outside world to infringe upon months of training.
“When I lost in Sacramento, that had a lot to do with what was in my head during that fight,” Green admitted. “An hour or so before that fight, some of the state officials were telling me that I was not going to get to fight because of questions about an MRI test, and that got me very frustrated.
“It was a learning experience; that’s for sure. When they told me I probably wasn’t going to get to fight, I got angry. My mindset went away from the game plan. Instead, I went out there and tried to knock his head off, and that didn’t work out,” he said. “But that experience was worth it because I took those lessons into this fight, and it all worked out.”
His contractual agreement with the WBC calls for a defense fight within 90 days of winning the belt, and Team Green is now researching qualified opponents to schedule the bout sometime in January.
“I’ll be right back in the gym soon to get ready to defend the title in January, and that fight is going to happen right here in Wheeling,” Green said. “Ultimately I would love to fight in front of a sold out-crowd in Wesbanco Arena. I’ve always dreamed of that atmosphere.”
Napple, though, is taking it one fight at a time.
“We’re going to defend that title right here in Wheeling. From there, who knows, but there is that path to the WBC’s world title if he wins a few more fights,” the boxing coach explained. “As far as being up to climb the ladder that high, I know Ronell is athletically there. It will all depend on the opponent, the game plan, and the execution of that game plan. He’s worked very, very hard for many years now so it’s an awesome thing to see him where he is today. His boxing mind is finally there.”
(Photos provided by Team Green)