The odds are long, the stakes are huge, and the grass-roots boxing career that Jeff Page Jr. and his family crafted out of their garage-turned-boxing gym has finally hit the big time.
“I’m right where I want to be,” Page said. “This is the opportunity that we’ve been waiting for. This is what everything has been pointing toward, this whole time.”
Friday night, Page (15-0) will take on Artur Beterbiev (6-0) in a light heavyweight fight in Quebec City, Quebec, at the 15,176-seat Pepsi Coliseum for the vacant WBO, NABO and IBF North American light heavyweight titles and Beterbiev’s NABF light heavyweight title.
The fight, which will be televised on Showtime, is the undercard to the WBC light heavyweight title fight between Adonis Stevenson (24-1) and Dmitry Sukhotsky (22-2). There will be a watch party in Wichita at Fox & Hound that is open to the public and starts at 7 p.m.
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Page is an anomaly in the boxing world and an unknown to boxing pundits — his father, Jeff Page Sr., is his manager, his uncle Jarrod Page is his trainer and 10 of his 15 professional fights have been in Wichita, with his last fight on Oct. 10, a five-round knockout of Maxell Taylor.
Locally, he’s almost as well-known for his time as an All-Jayhawk Conference linebacker at Butler Community College, where he led the Grizzlies with 103 tackles in 2011.
“The fight isn’t a career-breaker for either guy,” Page Sr. said. “But it could sure be a career-maker for us.”
Beterbiev, who shocked Tavoris Cloud with a second-round knockout on Sept. 27, is a 10-1 favorite and a known commodity. The 29-year-old Russian fought in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, and won silver at the 2007 World Amateur Boxing Championship. He lives in Montreal.
“We don’t know much about (Page) other than that he’s undefeated,” said Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood. “Until they announced the fight, I had never heard of him. You respect his record, but it would be a tremendous upset if he were to beat Beterbiev.
“Beterbiev is a pretty well-known boxer internationally. He’s a heavy hitter and someone who people think could eventually be the world champion. His win over Cloud really turned some heads.”
Jeff Page Jr. and Jarrod Page traveled to Montreal on Nov. 6 for the introductory news conference, then returned home and went almost immediately to The Summit Gym in Big Bear Lake, Calif., to work for three weeks with famed boxing trainer Abel Sanchez in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sanchez, who trains WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and has trained 14 world champions in his career, pushed Page to his limit.
“With the altitude alone, it was hard work,” said Page, 24. “Working the bag, jumping rope, whatever ... it’s 10 times harder at 8,200 feet above sea level. I’m in shape. I won’t get tired.”
Page returned home to and was welcomed almost immediately with a new baby — wife Damen had their second child, Khloee, on Dec. 5, right after he returned from training with Sanchez.
“I like having a baby around,” Page said, laughing. “I’m up early, anyway.”
Page, his uncle and grandfather left for Canada on Monday.
“This fight is a big step up for us, it could mean big things for us,” Page said. “As long as we go take care of business and get the win.”
ARTUR BETERBIEV VS. JEFF PAGE JR.
What: WBO, NABO and IBF North American light heavyweight title fight
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Pepsi Coliseum, Quebec City, Quebec
Records: Beterbiev (6-0), Page Jr. (15-0)