During the course of his nine-year pro boxing career, veteran middleweight Marcus “Arillius” Upshaw (17-13-4, 1 NC, 8 KOs) has been called a spoiler, gatekeeper, professional opponent, journeyman and road warrior.
Upshaw has been all of the above, granted, but more than anything he’s been an honest fighter willing to take on anybody, anytime. He’s fought all comers from world champions to top contenders and promising prospects.
All he wants now, though, is a fight against a world-class opponent, hoping a victory could propel him into an often dreamed about world title fight.
If draws, split and/or close decision losses, especially if resulting from fights in an opponent’s backyard, are generally considered “wins” in boxing, Upshaw’s record could be a much different 27-8 today and the 34-year-old Floridian would have been fighting in major fights on major cable networks.
Upshaw’s official record is a direct result of him taking fights as a late replacement, on the road in hostile and biased markets, against protected fighters and sons of famous boxers, occasionally in a higher weight class than his natural 160-pound division.
His most recent fight last week in Dallas ended in typical fashion, as Upshaw fought to an eight-round draw (76-74, 74-76, 75-75) with hometown favorite Anthony Mack (12-1-1), in which Upshaw hurt his opponent several times, winning seven rounds according to his new head trainer, Orlando Cuellar, longtime manager Si Stern, and just about every person in attendance.
“The boxing world is crazy,” Upshaw said. “I’ve now had draws in back-to-back fights (the other against Aaron Pryor Jr.). I won’t let it get to me, though. I guess it says a lot about me that I can go into a fighter’s backyard, after training hard, and come out with a draw in fights that really should have been wins. Now, I know I have to get knockouts to win, and that was my intention going into the last fight because I fought a Texas guy in Texas. I wobbled him three different times and won every round but one.”
The height of Upshaw’s career was in 2010 when he traveled to Quebec City and shocked 21-1-1 local hero Renan St. Juste, winning a 10-round decision to elevate Upshaw in world middleweight rankings (IBF #6, WBO #9 and WBC #11). Prior to the St. Juste fight, Upshaw derailed the career of the then 19-1 James McGirt, son of famed world champion/elite trainer James “Buddy” McGirt, with a controversial 10-round majority draw. Two fights later, he stopped 10-0 prospects Ashandi Gibbs (10-0) in the fourth-round for the Florida State middleweight championship.
Upshaw has displayed his vast talents by going the complete distance in rounds, albeit in losses, with the likes of Mario Antonio Rubio, David Lemieux, Gilberto Ramirez Sanchez, Edwin Rodriguez, Patrick Majewski and Tarvis Simms. The latter opponent was another prime example of the injustice Upshaw has faced too many times. Simms was 24-0-1 in 2009 when he fought Upshaw at Mohegan Sun, which is a short drive from his home in nearby Norwalk. Simms won an eight-round split decision (77-74 X 2, 75-76).
Cuellar, best known for guiding the original road warrior, Glen Johnson, to a world title, added, “Marcus has always been in tough, he’s another road warrior, fighting more experienced, protected fighters including some who were super middleweights. He came close to putting this last guy away a few different times. He won seven of eight rounds and the ref even took a point away, without a warning, when Marcus’ poorly fitting mouthpiece fell out. It certainly didn’t happen because he was in trouble.
“We only had five weeks working together. We want Marcus to use his 6′ 3 ½” height to his advantage. He has to fight at a distance, using his reach from the outside. He can control a fight with a double jab, followed by a right, just like he did against Mack. I was impressed by the way he trained in the gym and even more now I’ve been with him in a fight. I think he can give anybody trouble if he fights on the outside. He gets in top shape, fights smart, and now we can plan a strategy in advance because we know each other. He has to knockout opponents to win. I train my fighters to drop and stop, which is what Marcus will be doing.”
Upshaw believes Cuellar is the missing link he’s needed to get back to the top. “I’ve already learned a lot from Orlando,” Upshaw explained, “but most of all I’ve learned that I can do anything in the ring. He doesn’t just tell a fighter to do this or that; Orlando gives a fighter the tools, the armor to go into battle, to be your best. He is like an old-school trainer. The hard part with him is training, not the fight. He’s put life into my career.
“I’ve been in with the best and also learned from those fights. My problem has not being focused the entire fight. I know I’m faster and stronger than my opponent, but I get bored sometimes and stop throwing punches. I don’t know why I do that, but it’s been my mindset. Orlando has taught me that I need to stay focused and alert throughout an entire fight.”
With his size and rich athletic bloodlines – his uncle, the late Gene Upshaw, was an NFL Hall of Fame offensive guard for the Oakland Raiders – Upshaw clearly hasn’t reached his full potential, at least not yet.
“I am delighted Marcus is now training with Orlando,” manager Stern remarked. “Marcus is tall, strong and smart in the ring. I have great hope for him in the immediate future.”