Redeemed Love eyes next step to title shot

It was a year ago when J’Leon Love nearly had his boxing career sidetracked.

The super middleweight from Inkster, Mich., had survived a tough 10-round bout with Gabriel Rosado at the MGM Grand Garden on May 4, 2013, to remain undefeated.

But his post-fight drug test yielded a positive result for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide. He was shown leniency by the Nevada Athletic Commission, getting only a six-month suspension instead of nine or 12 months, as is normally the case for such transgressions.

“That wasn’t my first interrogation; I just tried to be honest with them and that it was an honest mistake,” Love said. “I wasn’t going to lie to those guys. We didn’t know the pill was a banned substance.”

He came back from the suspension with a knockout of Lajuan Simon in December, and on Feb. 28, he stopped Vladine Biosse in the 10th round to improve to 17-0 with 10 KOs.

Tonight at the Grand Garden, Love takes the biggest step of his career, a 10-round bout against veteran Marco Antonio Periban with a shot at a world title later in the year possibly riding on the outcome.

Love-Periban opens the Showtime Pay Per View telecast that has Floyd Mayweather Jr. meeting Marcos Maidana in the main event, a welterweight unification title fight.

Don’t look for any flunked drug tests this time from Love. But expect a more active fighter in the ring, one who is going to use his jab early and often and try to use his aggressiveness wisely.

“In a fight like this (with Periban), you need to bring everything in your arsenal,” Love said. “I’ve had (the jab) all along. I just hadn’t used it.”

Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, who is training Love, said there was some major overhaul done the past few months in respect to his technique as well as his mindset in the ring.

“I had to break him down and build him back up,” Muhammad said. “He now understands what it’s all about. I want to see him throw more jabs and be more aggressive and not wait. You’re going to see a new and improved J’Leon Love in this fight.”

Getting a title shot wouldn’t just be great for Love. He’s supporting his brother Gerald’s 10 young children after Gerald was shot to death in a drug deal gone bad a year ago. He was 33 years old.

“I would do that in any predicament,” said Love, 25. “It’s not much of a sacrifice. I have a nice car. I have a nice house. I have money in the bank. I pay my taxes. I’m blessed to be in my position where I can help, and I’m happy to do so.”

Love was once a street thug himself, getting in and out of trouble in Inkster, a Detroit suburb. But he discovered boxing as a teenager, training with the late Emmanuel Steward at the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit. Steward would take Love to the major pro fights in Las Vegas when he won an amateur tournament, and Love was hooked.

“I got a little taste of it, and I wanted much more of it,” he said. “Now, living here in Las Vegas, training with Floyd at his gym, seeing how he prepares, it’s been a great motivator for my career.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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