By Greg Gulas
It’s been a little over 19 months since Campbell’s Jake Giuriceo last stepped into the ring, opting to take a step back from the sport after suffering a torn retina during his last fight against Peter Oluoch on Dec. 1, 2012.
He never officially retired so when he steps back onto the canvas tonight against Travis Hartman during “Rivers Rumble IV” at Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino Amphitheater, he’ll take the first few seconds to savor the moment with the hopes of resurrecting a once promising career.
When the bell rings, however, his plan for the next six rounds, or less, is to subject Hartman to plenty of aggressive, non-stop punching.
“I’m as ready as I could possibly be and just thankful that the Lord has given me another opportunity to get back into the ring. I was happy when I got clearance from the doctor in May after suffering that torn retina and since that time, it’s just been non-stop training,” Giuriceo said.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think and train and now feel as though I am a better fighter after taking some time off. It has also been a lot of fun reuniting with my trainer, Keith Burnside, so we’re ready to get going.”
The Giuriceo-Hartman fight is the undercard of the night’s main event, which features current world-ranked contender and former IBF world champion Paul “The Pittsburgh Kid” Spadafora as he takes on three-time world title challenger Hector Velazquez.
Hartman (12-19-1, 6 KOs), who once was 8-8-1, has a deceiving record despite the fact that he is just 3-11 in his last 14 fights, seven of which have resulted in early dismissal by either KO or TKO.
“Keith and I have watched plenty of film on Travis and agree that he is a boxer who can take a shot. He’s been there, done that and has fought quite a few excellent opponents,” Giuriceo said. “He’s a taller fighter who likes to switch it up, going from orthodox to southpaw. There are some fighters able to do that and others who cannot but personally, I like when a fighter switches it up because it’s easier for me to land my right.”
Giuriceo (16-2-1, 3 KOs) said Hartman has a quick side step that he must look out for as well.
“Jake needs to be inside on Travis, going after the body and punishing him. At 31 years old he’s a durable boxer; someone who does not back up and will go toe-to-toe with you,” Burnside said.
At 5-10 Ω, Hartman has nearly five inches on Giuriceo.
That shouldn’t be a problem for Giuriceo according to Burnside.
“Jake has been working hard and sparring with taller boxers since getting the green light from his doctor. To fight at 147 pounds will also be an advantage because he’s definitely much stronger when entering the ring at that weight,” Burnside added. “In order for Jake to have a successful ring return he must go after Travis all six rounds. He must go to the body, back to the head and use his angle shots. This is a good test for us and while we’ve prepared for a six-round fight, we also realize we have to go after him at the outset with the hopes of ending the fight early.”
Giuriceo’s sparring partners might be the best endorsement as to the kind of shape he will be in come tonight.
“Three of our sparring partners didn’t want to go the full six rounds with Jake so that tells me he is fit and ready to go. Fighting at 147 pounds is also a good move because he didn’t have to kill himself and shed any unnecessary weight,” Burnside said.
“We went back to the way he originally trained and while Travis is a boxer who likes to use his jab, we’re prepared and will be able to adjust to anything he throws at us.”
The six-bout Rivers Casino card is in association with eight-time world champion Roy Jones Jr. and TNT Promotions.
Giuriceo’s manager, Joe Corvino, who was able to secure a six-month contract with TNT Promotions, hopes to position his fighter for a nice payday down the road.
“He’s just chomping at the bit to get started,” Corvino said.
The Giuriceo-Hartman co-main event should take place between 9 and 10 p.m.