Had Mickey Bey decided to walk away from boxing a year ago, few would have blamed him, given the downward turn his career had taken.
But quitting isn’t Bey’s style. Despite a run of misfortune in the past year that saw the 31-year-old lightweight walk out on a bout, test positive for an abnormally high level of testosterone, then lose a fight in the waning seconds that he had all but won, Bey never lost faith in himself.
He bounced back, winning his past two fights, and can become a world champion Saturday with a victory over Miguel Vasquez, the International Boxing Federation 135-pound titleholder, at the MGM Grand Garden. The 12-round bout is part of the Showtime Pay Per View undercard in support of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s welterweight title rematch with Marcos Maidana.
“You just have to stay patient, stick with it without losing focus and never think about giving up,” said Bey (20-1-1, 10 knockouts, one no decision). “I have a good spirit. I’m not going to let people or events change who I am.”
Bey’s bad luck, much of it his own doing, started in August 2012 when he was scheduled to fight Robert Frankel on an ESPN card at Texas Station promoted by Top Rank. He had been struggling to get bouts, and he finally had the chance to fight on the televised portion of the card in what would have been his first ring appearance since Nov. 19, 2011.
But a last-minute switch by the network had moved him to the first bout. His team hadn’t even arrived at the venue, and he was miffed by the downgrade. So he left.
“They came to me and said, ‘You’re on in 30 minutes; glove up,’” said Bey, a Cleveland native who has lived in Las Vegas for the past eight years. “I didn’t have my trainer or anyone from my team there, and I felt disrespected. That’s why I left.”
He joined Mayweather Promotions in late 2012 and returned to the ring Feb. 2, 2013, almost 15 months since he had last fought. Bey stopped Robert Rodriguez in the third round, and everything seemed to be good with his career.
But his postfight drug test showed an abnormally high testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 30:1. (Nevada’s allowable level is 6:1; a normal level is 1:1.)
He was fined $1,000 and suspended for three months instead of the usual nine for first-time offenders by the Nevada Athletic Commission, which believed his story that his doctor gave him the wrong dosage of medication to treat the testosterone condition. And his victory over Rodriguez was changed to a no contest.
Bey returned to the ring July 19 and had John Molina all but beaten. He was ahead comfortably on all three scorecards.
But Bey admittedly lost focus in the 10th and final round, and Molina scored a stunning technical knockout after knocking Bey down midway through the round with a left hook to the jaw. Referee Vic Drakulich stopped the fight with 59 seconds remaining.
“Molina was on me,” Bey said. “If I hadn’t goofed off, it could have been one of my best performances.”
Bey has since regrouped. On Dec. 6, he stopped Carlos Cardenas in the third round, and on May 2, he won a 10-round unanimous decision over Alan Herrera.
Now, he gets his shot at a world title against Vasquez (34-3, 13 KOs), who has been the IBF champion since 2010 and whose awkward style can frustrate opponents.
“I have a lot of experience going into this fight, but you always have to work hard,” said Vasquez, 27. “People may complain about my style, but I base my style on the fact I don’t want to get hit. Thank God my style has worked for me so far in my career.”
But Bey, who is trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr., believes he can penetrate Vasquez’s defense and find a way to take his belt.
“I feel I’m bigger, stronger, faster than Vasquez,” Bey said. “We went back to the old ways to train for this fight. Floyd Sr. was like a drill sergeant. I’d run Mount Charleston in combat boots at 6 in the morning. I shadow-boxed a lot. I must have had 10 different sparring partners.
“I couldn’t be more ready for a fight than I am for this. When I beat him, this will be one of the great comeback stories in recent boxing history.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.