Michael Coffie has a new opponent, Jonathan Rice, but the same focus for Saturday
The gleam in Michael Coffie’s eyes is undeniable. Behind it lies a storage chest of things no one would want to see. They come from being a U.S. Marine on an eight-month tour, trying to navigate and stay alive in the rugged, nasty terrain of war-ravaged Afghanistan.
So, for 35-year-old Coffie to find out last weekend that veteran Gerald Washington fell out due to COVID-19 for this Saturday’s FOX PBC Fight Night main event (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, did not really shock him.
Washington will be replaced by 34-year-old Jonathan Rice (13-6-1, 9 knockouts) and the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Coffie (12-0, 9 KOs) is ready.
“It happens in life and it’s more likely to happen in this COVID climate,” Coffie said. “I just got home from training when I heard the possibility that there would be a new opponent on Saturday afternoon. My trainer, Josue Aguilar, called to let me know. The first words that came to mind are ‘Are you serious!’ I was holding out hope, and I got the official word that it would be Jonathan Rice.
“I know a lot about him by watching him fight. I got an education on YouTube. I already knew before the change and I won’t be blindsided by him and his style. My opinion of Rice is that he doesn’t necessarily come to fight. He’s a jumpy guy. If he sees someone as a threat to him, he’ll be jumpy. If he thinks he’s in the ring with someone he’s not threatened by, he’ll come to fight.
“I don’t know his opinion about me. We’ll see.”
Coffie is coming off an impressive three-round blowout of previously undefeated Darmani Rock on January 30.
“Watch Rice’s fight with Efe (Ajagba) and how jumpy he was in that fight,” Coffie said. “I definitely see myself in the ring one more time this year, and hopefully, that will be the Gerald Washington fight. This time next year, I would like to be on the cusp of a world title, setting up a chance against someone like (Tyson) Fury, (Anthony) Joshua or (Deontay) Wilder.
“But I would like to get to those guys who fought Gerald Washington. I’m ranked in the WBA and I need to work my way up. I’m poised and relaxed, and I’m a fighter who can switch from righty to lefty. I’m a legitimate switch fighter.”
Coffie is. He’s a natural lefty, though boxes out of the orthodox stance. But he can switch during the course of a fight.
“That’s a strength and it has thrown people off during a fight,” Coffie said. “I see the look on my opponent’s faces when I make the switch. They don’t know how to react. They’ll see me make a step back and come back at them as a lefty, and when they see me staying there, they have to adjust to that.
“With my background in the Marine Corps, with the discipline I learned there, I’ve carried that into the ring. I’ve maintained that mentality that whatever I get put through, I can deal with it. My body might not want do it, but my mind pulls me through. You’re not going break me.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.