Originally Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2013, 9:42 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 21, 2013, 1:55 am

East Moline's Venegas protecting `title' this weekend

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By Jeff Reiners, Special to Sports

Photo: Submitted
East Moline's Gilbert Venegas Sr. headlines a local card of professional boxing this weekend at Davenport's Danceland Ballroom. The veteran faces Muscatine's up- and-coming Lance Williams in a battle for local bragging rights. Venegas improved to 6-0 in local fights by beating fellow Davenport veteran Leonard Overstreet in November at Danceland.

The stakes are clear in a boxing match Saturday night for regional supremacy.

Lance Williams wants what Gilbert Venegas has claimed in a 14-year pro career -- local respect and the mythical title of "King of the Quad.''

However, the East Moline veteran is eager to answer the challenge from his younger rival in the main event of "The Civil War'' fight card that will be waged at Davenport's Danceland Ballroom.

"I'm going to put him under pressure, take him to deep water and he'll drown,'' Venegas said figuratively during a training session at Moline's Alley Cat Boxing Club.

The supremely fit Venegas, who turns 36 next month, has utilized that strategy his entire career, posting an 11-8-3 (7 KOs) record as a respect journeyman.

Included is a 3-7-3 mark in his last 13 fights as a veteran opponent in 10 different states, facing some of the nation's top up-and-coming talent, with a combined 147-24-4 mark before meeting Venegas.

Venegas even fought for the WBC's Continental America's welterweight title in 2007, batting Mexican Jesus Soto Karass to a 12-round draw.

Even more ominous for Muscatine's Williams is a spotless 6-0 record for Venegas in hometown bouts, hence his unofficial title.

"I respect (Venegas) majorly,'' Williams said. "I grew up watching him win tournaments. But it's my time now.''

After all, no less than world-title winning trainer Roger Mayweather, Floyd's uncle, made an open invitation recently for Williams (4-0, 4 KOs) to train at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas.

"To hear that from a great trainer like him was special,'' Williams said.

But to get there, the 27-year-old knows he'll need to get past the time-tested tester that is Venegas.

"Boxing is a non-stop thing for me,'' Williams said. "This won't be the first time I've faced someone with experience.''

This will be Williams' first go-around in the main event spotlight, though.

The fight with Venegas moved from co-feature to top billing this week when 3-time former world title challenger Antwun Echols, formerly of Davenport, withdrew from his first hometown bout in 13 years because of a contract dispute.

Despite the absence of Echols, the promotion anticipates a sellout, with both Venegas and Williams bringing a sizable fan base to the classic, "old vs. new'' confrontation.

Venegas improved to 6-0 in local fights by beating fellow Davenport veteran Leonard Overstreet in November's main event at Danceland.

"I've got people from Muscatine and East Moline coming to see a collision,'' Venegas said.

Ditto for Williams, who has been preparing for the bout the last two months, and believes daily sparring sessions with his older brother have him prepared for whatever Venegas brings Saturday night.

Venegas disagrees, though, saying he's sharper now than he was in his 20s.

"He thinks I'm a lot slower than I am,'' Venegas said. "He's in for a rude awakening.''


Boxing this weekend

Time & place: Dubbed ``The Civil War,'' the nine-fight pro card begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Davenport's historic Danceland Ballroom. Doors open at 6. Presented by Armer Boxing and Calkins Sports Productions.

Tickets: $25 general admission and $75 ringside at the door (Call Downtown Pawn at 563-322-1993 for $5 off advance tickets). Free parking directly across the street at the Scott County Courthouse.

Main event: East Moline's Gilbert Venegas (11-8-3, 7 KOs) meets Muscatine's 27-year-old Lance ``Lay'em Down'' Williams (4-0, 4 KOs) for local bragging rights. 

Co-feature: Instead of taking on 3-time world-title contender Antwun Echols in the main event, Galesburg middleweight George Carter Jr. (8-0, 4 KOs) settles for Nebraska's Sean Rawley Wilson (5-12-1) in the featured lead-in.

Undercard highlight: Moline middleweight Limberth Ponce (2-0, 1 KO) makes his second Danceland appearance since November. Wisconsin's Eli Smith (0-1) opposes the 21-year-old, who last spring became the area's first Chicago Golden Gloves champ in a decade.

Also in action: Moline's Vic Martinez makes his pro debut at lightweight against Florida's Ricky Thompson (1-7). ... Davenport light welterweight Travis Thomas (1-0) takes on Missouri's debuting Daurice Starr. ... Davenport's former Olympic challenger Donovan Dennis (1-0, 1 KO) draws Missouri heavyweight Dakota Talbott (0-5). ... Just weeks after a mixed-martial arts battle between them, Bettendorf's Jack Klemme (1-0, 1 KO) and nearby Ottumwa's Jeremy Marts (8-13) are rematched in a boxing battle of Iowa middlweights. ... Davenport's winless warrior Fred Thomas (0-10-2)  tries again for that first pro win vs. Clinton native Kenneth Taylor-Schmitz (2-6) at middleweight. ... Davenporters Brandon Segura and Alexx Rozman make their pro debuts together in a heavy-hitting heavyweight bout.