Heavy duty for Henney?

MURRAY GREIG -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

Ryan Henney's Canadian cruiserweight title won't be at stake tonight when he takes on Missouri's Gary Culp at the Shaw Conference Centre.

But it's fair to say their eight-rounder might serve as a springboard for a possible foray by Henney into the heavyweight ranks -- perhaps even a rematch with Edmonton's James Cermak.

Cermak, now campaigning as a heavyweight and ranked No. 8 in the current ratings from the Canadian Boxing Federation, is expected back in the ring in February.

The relative ease with which Henney (9-2) outboxed the bigger Cermak (11-2) last April also opens up the intriguing possibility of a sooner-rather-than-later crack at Commonwealth cruiserweight titleholder Troy Ross -- but the personable Saskatoon-based champ isn't taking anything for granted.

"Obviously the Commonwealth championship is something that's out there and it's definitely something I'm interested in challenging for, but the most important thing at this stage of my career is to stay active and fight the best available competition," says Henney.

"Cruiserweight is one of those divisions where it's not always easy to find guys to fight, but the promoters here have a knack for coming up with opponents who test me.

"I love fighting in Edmonton; it's become like a second home to me and the fans here are very know-ledgeable and very supportive.

"If I can continue to stay active and continue to improve, I hope I can repay Edmonton fans by fighting a world-ranked contender or a Commonwealth title bout here."

That's on Henney's long-range radar. The immediate task at hand is to get past the hard-punching Culp, with Cermak's large shadow looming in the wings.

HIT OR MISS

Based on Culp's history, his chances against Henney could be summed up in three words: hit or miss.

Seven of the American's eight victories have come by KO -- but he's also been stopped in all six of his losses.

In his last outing, Aug. 25, Culp blasted out Andy Utterback in two rounds to claim the Missouri super middleweight crown. In the fight before that one, Culp was himself dispatched in a single round by unbeaten George Tahdooahnippah.

By all accounts Culp is a powerful puncher, but he's from the take-two-to-land-one school of boxing.

The Henney-Culp match figures to be the showcase prelim on KO Boxing's six-bout Fight for the Cure card, headlined by Edmonton's Jelena Mrdjenovich defending her World Boxing Council super featherweight title against Dominga Olivo of Monticello, N.Y.

In the semi-main, Edmonton's Kris Andrews is challenging Winnipeg's Gareth Sutherland for the latter's Canadian junior middleweight crown in a rematch of the war they fought here last spring.

FOUR-ROUNDERS

Also appearing on the undercard in a trio of four-rounders are local heavyweight Sheldon Hinton (vs. Winnipeg's Bruce Paizen), Edmonton lightweight Amy Johnson (vs. Victoria's Megan Williams), and, in a battle of junior welterweight debutantes, Edmonton's Ayana Pelletier and Victoria's Lindsay Ball.

"Nervous? For sure I am," the 26-year-old Ball said after checking in yesterday.

"The last 24 hours are the hardest. I've been training for this and looking forward to it for weeks.

"Turning pro seemed like the natural thing for me to do after being a kick-boxer and having a lot of 'unofficial' bouts, but I've still got a stomach full of butterflies. This is a big step for me."

The card's Fight for the Cure theme, which will see a portion of the gate proceeds donated to the Alberta Cancer Foundation, is especially near and dear to Johnson, whose longtime trainer, the Cougar Club's Larry Fleming, succumbed to the disease last year.

"Getting back in the gym, training for this fight, made me realize how much I missed boxing ... and how much I miss Larry," said Johnson (5-2-1), who's fighting for the first time in 20 months.

"He was in my corner for every one of my amateur fights and all my pro fights, so in a way, I'm still fighting for him.

"I always hear his voice when I'm training and every day before my workout I say a little prayer for him."

Johnson holds the distinction of winning the most high profile bout in recent Alberta history when she got off the canvas to KO obnoxious figure skater-turned-fighter Tonya Harding here in 2004.


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