By Francisco Salazar
Photo: Bash Boxing
If one were to look at the personal life of Cleotis “Mookie” Pendarvis, one would think that he should be locked up or in jail. Maybe even dead. A product of the foster system, a younger brother who was killed, and his birth mother paralyzed were challenges that forced Pendarvis to become mentally strong at an early age. Add to that an upbringing in South Central Los Angeles, where he was surrounded by drugs and violence while he was growing up.
Yet, he was able to find solace and refuge in a boxing ring when he was 10 years old. It is the sport that he has given so much to and hopes that it will give him something in return at this stage in his career. Pendarvis will fight Robert Frankel in a 12 round junior welterweight bout tonight at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA. Both fighters will be vying for two regional title belts. The clash will headline a six-bout “War at Woodland Hills 8” card, presented by Art of Boxing and Bash Boxing.
Pendarvis (14-3-2, 5 KOs) was victorious in his last fight on January 21st, convincingly defeating Jose Alfredo Lugo over eight rounds to win a unanimous decision. With the victory, Pendarvis has won his last four bouts in a row.
He is facing his most serious test of his career in Frankel on Friday night. Frankel has fought some of the best or well-known names in boxing, even pulling off an occasional upset over some of these fighters.
He lost a 10 round majority decision to David Diaz in January of 2011 and was stopped most recently by light contender John Molina after the fifth round on June 24th.
“He’s a rugged guy,” Pendarvis told Fightnews.com over the phone on Monday night. “He’s been in there with some of the best in the world. I know that he is going to come to fight and be in great shape. However, I’ve worked too hard to prepare myself to lose on Friday night.”
Pendarvis has been training for his fight against Frankel for the last nine months. He spent five of those months in Big Bear, sparring against unbeaten Joel Diaz and once-beaten Ramon Valadez.
It is a far cry from earlier in his career, where he blamed immaturity and distractions for not putting in as much time in the gym as he should have. He relied on talent alone as opposed to incorporating conditioning and the necessary gym work in preparation for his fights.
Now he has the right people behind him in manager Warren Wilkerson, who has helped guide his career for the last year. He wishes he would have had the right people behind him since he began his career at the age of 19.
“I understand that there is always hard work to get to the top. When I was younger, I thought some people who were in my corner were doing the right things for me. I trusted the wrong people and instead, fights would fall through for me. But now, I have the right people and it’s made a world of difference for me. Now I do my job of training hard and I feel ready and strong for Friday.”
However, Pendarvis attributed his early career to distractions and making wrong decisions in and out of the ring that also affected his career.
“I only lived for the moment and not the future,” admitted Pendarvis.
His personal life affected his career in the ring. He pointed out his October 2009 fight against Mauricio Herrera, whom he lost a close eight majority decision to. Although Pendarvis accepted the defeat, he attributes part of the loss to having to deal with the funeral arrangements of his younger brother, who was murdered and having to care for his mother, who was paralyzed in an accident.
“I had to travel to San Bernardino (CA) almost every day in having to deal with my Mom and my brother. It was hard for me to get the weight off, but I already signed a contract and I couldn’t get out of the fight. Mauricio is a good guy and a good fighter, but I was at 80% when I fought him. I got tired towards the end of the fight and I know I lost the fight in his backyard. Some people thought I still beat him and I know things would be different if we were to fight each other again.”
Almost six months later, Pendarvis stopped highly-regarded Hector Sanchez in the fifth round of a scheduled eight round fight. Two and a half months later, he would lose a close eight round split decision to Terrance Cauthen.
Although Pendarvis has fought as high as 150 pounds, Pendarvis is eager to compete and prove himself worthy at the junior welterweight limit.
He has sparred with the likes of Timothy Bradley, Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya, and Ricky Hatton in recent years. Not only did he consider it a learning experience, but he thinks that he held his own against some of the best fighters in the world.
Because of his maturity and his dedication to boxing, Pendarvis is confident that he can make a major impact at 140 pounds. Although the division has an abundant amount of talented world title holders, contenders, and prospects, Pendarvis thinks that he should be mentioned amongst the those top fighters.
“I’ve sparred against some of the best fighters in the world. I’ve been in there and I’ve been able to land my gloves on them. I’ve never had that break that some of these other fighters have had to win a big fight or a title. Now, I’m with the right people and I want to show and prove to people hat I’m someone to be reckoned with.”
Pendarvis will turn 26 next month, where he could be entering into the prime of his career. He knows enough about the sport that victories over the likes of Frankel could give him that payday or big fights down the road. Although he is grateful for fighting on club shows or in empty arenas, Pendarvis thinks that a big fight could be around the corner for him.
However, as Pendarvis stated, first things first. After going through the personal challenges in his life and the frustrations earlier in his career, Pendarvis wants to make a statement against Frankel.
“I know it’s a 12 round fight, but to be honest, I do want to knock him out. I’m not going to rush in because boxing is like chess. But once he gets a taste of my power, he’s going to want to stop.”
One could say that Pendarvis has succeeded thus far in boxing. However, Pendarvis knows that there are greener pastures if he continues his winning ways. A victory on Friday would allow him to provide for his family, which includes his seven year old daughter and son, who is 18 months old.
Despite his brash style in the ring, Pendarvis is humble outside of it.
“You have to train like you’re hungry and believe in yourself. Believe me, I’m hungry everyday.”