Echard has title shot Saturday

Trying to win a championship in anything is far from easy.

That holds especially true when the matter at hand deals with boxing and the opponent is fighting in his hometown.

Such will be the case come Saturday night at Cage Power 9 when Parkersburg South graduate Dustin Echard takes on Eric Watkins at the Morgantown Event Center for the vacant West Virginia light heavyweight boxing title.

Watkins (10-5-1, 5 KOs) is coming off a six-round unanimous decision setback on Oct. 12 at Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center to 24th ranked (USA) and still undefeated Trevor McCumby. Of Watkins’ five professional defeats, four of his opponents have yet to lose.

Echard – “The Clean Coal Assassin” – will try and improve to 9-0 and like Watkins also has five knockouts.

“It’s definitely a step up,” stated manager Mike Sheppard. “Watkins is really tough. He’s been in with top competition and competed very well.

“However, Dustin has been properly groomed and is much stronger and athletic and actually has better technique than Eric. I feel he is really ready and he’s hungry for it.”

Echard, who is ranked 42nd out of 202 light heavyweight compared to Watkins at 44th, hasn’t fought since winning a four-round majority decision versus Thomas Hanshaw on Nov. 30 at the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort.

Of course, Echard also could enter unchartered territory come Saturday night since this is a scheduled 10-rounder and he’s never gone more than six.

The fight card, presented by Simons Promotions, not only has boxing, but also mixed martial arts. Tickets at the door are $30.

If I didn’t have the second showdown for bragging rights in Wood County on Saturday night at Memorial Fieldhouse between the host Parkersburg boys and Parkersburg South I’d love to be in Morgantown.

It was a treat to watch Echard back in early August at the Fish Bone Gill and Grill.

“This is just a rung in the ladder for him,” Sheppard added. “It’s his first 10-rounder and a formidable opponent. It should be a good test. But, it’s a step forward to where we want to be.

“If he wins this fight look for him to step up again within six months for a regional title in one of the four big organizations (WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF).”

Obviously, the experience Watkins, who is actually four days older than Echard, has had against tougher competition gives him an advantage.

Then again, everyone knows even the best in boxing can hit the canvas with just one punch.

Sheppard has been helping Echard train lately and they’ve made several trips to Glouster, Ohio, to work with veteran Sam Jones.

No matter what happens Saturday night, it will be an experience to draw on for years to come for Echard.

“This fight is really big, but if he doesn’t win it doesn’t mean he has no future in the sport,” Sheppard added. “I lost my first fight and still managed to have a pretty good career.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com