Pierce scored a third-round stoppage over the previously unbeaten Jesse Garcia in June 2022. (Photo via Abrams Boxing)
Junior featherweight contenders Elijah Pierce and Mike Plania will meet in an intriguing crossroads fight in the first Overtime event on Friday at the OTE Arena, Atlanta.
Pierce, who is riding an eight-fight winning streak since settling at 122-pounds, knows that if he can beat the Filipino, he will be able to step out of the dark.
“Plania is a very tough fighter, he’s world rated as well,” Pierce (17-2, 14 knockouts) told The Ring. “This is something I believe was pre-coordinated and I feel nothing can beat me and the only person that is capable of beating me is myself.
“I just have to continue to stay diligent and stay relentless in my approach and it will happen. This fight will solidify me as a contender and I know a world title awaits. I know I will be world champion at junior featherweight in the imminent future.”
Pierce began boxing when he was six-years-old with his father, Andy, who was a Martial Artist and kick-boxer. The two bonded over the experience. After his parents got divorced Pierce spent the holidays with his father and showed a natural aptitude for the sport.
However, Pierce also enjoyed basketball but his father convinced him that he was too small for basketball and eventually he switched back to boxing.
Pierce was second in a couple of national tournaments but never won the big prize, though he did compete at the Olympic trials. He went 38-12 before transitioning to professional boxing in 2016.
Quickly the Oklahoma native, who was the first Olympic trialist from the state of Oklahoma, where he received a merit from the house of representatives and the senate, realized how tough not just boxing could be but life.
He was married at a young age and had a daughter, Isabella, to support. Unfortunately, the marriage came to an end.
“That had a significant impact on me, I had my first loss in 2018 due to bad management at that time and was kind of written off,” he explained. “I took a year off and came back and took a big fight with one of Lou DiBella’s top prospects [Irvin Gonzalez] and knocked him out in the third round.
“I got signed to Lou DiBella, that’s when I went through the separation and divorce, that attributed to my second loss. After that I took a year and a half off and I was considering quitting boxing. My current manager, Trifon Petrov, found me and ever since I have been dedicated to reviving my career and getting back on top.”
The now 26-year-old southpaw’s early career wasn’t helped by fighting considerably higher than his natural weight.
“Exactly, that’s point blank what it was,” he said. “I was fighting at junior lightweight and lightweight. During in the early part of my career, I really was a natural 118-pounder.”
However, now he has settled at 122-pounds the results are clear. He’s coming off a career best win over one-time prospect Tramaine Williams (UD 10) in April.
“Me and Tremaine Williams were stablemates in 2019, when we were helping Joseph Diaz get ready for [then IBF titlist] Tevin Farmer, so we were already familiar with each other,” he recalled. “I think he kind of overlooked me, he’s about four or five years older than me, he took on more of a mentorship role while we were in camp together so, I just think he overlooked me and didn’t expect the fight to go the way it did but ultimately I displayed and showed my talent and that I’m a top 10 fighter and that I deserve to be on that top tier spectrum.
“It was a good fight; I lost some early rounds but I just had to slowly figure him out and it went how it went. I really feel like they should have stopped the fight but we were in his hometown and I feel there was a little favoritism but at the end of the day we got the victory.”
This fight will be headlining the maiden Overtime show, the opportunity isn’t lost on Pierce, who intends to make the most of the exposure he’ll get.
“Overtime are new to boxing but they’re great, they’ve been around in different sports now for a while and they’ve made a significant impact in sports,” he said. “They’ve gotten a lot of NBA players to the draft. They’re just slowly building their own empire when it comes to different sports.
“I’m honored they chose me to represent their brand and shedding some limelight on me and allowing me to further introduce myself to the world and bring some attention to myself.”
Pierce isn’t content to just face Plania, he has his eyes on bigger prizes.
“I know I’m going to beat him but in what fashion, that is to be determined,” he said. “Obviously, I would like to get the knockout and I know I’m very capable of getting the knockout. He’s not the champion, so I just look at him as another step to get there. I don’t look at him as any more importance than anybody but the champions. He’s just another stepping stone.
“I’m really hoping to get an eliminator [next.] I’ve been calling out John Riel Casimero, I’m looking to call out Ra’eese Aleem after this fight, considering before Ra’eese Aleem recently lost to Sam Goodman, his last fight was against Plania, I’m hoping that would put me in contention to fight for the title or to fight for an eliminator position. That’s the next step for me.”
Former fighter turned promoter Tony Jeter, has highly hopes for his charge not just in this fight but beyond.
“Elijah Pierce is one of the best 122-pound fighters in the world,” proclaimed Jeter. “He is a world champion in waiting!
“Plania is a tough guy but Pierce is a big 122-pounds that can punch from both sides. Pierce, we hope will be Jeter Promotions first world champion.”
Plania (28-2, 15 KOs), The Ring’s No. 8 junior featherweight, won his first 15 fights, with all but one taking place in the Philippines, before losing to the more experienced former WBA 118-pound titleholder Juan Carlos Payano (UD 10) in the U.S.
“Magic” Mike returned to his homeland and got back to winning ways before again going stateside. The 26-year-old upset Joshua Greer (MD 10) but was dropped and dominated by Ra’eese Aleem (UD 10). He has since rebounded with two wins.
On paper this looks a well-matched fight between two guys looking to get a fight at one of the champions. Pierce perhaps has more momentum coming off the Williams win and I think that coupled with him fighting at home will see him win a competitive but clear points decision.
Pierce-Plania, plus supporting undercard bouts, will be broadcast on DAZN beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/ 6:00 p.m. PT.
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