Keys battles Williams tonight at the Boat

Looking to continue his upward trajectory in the sport of boxing, homegrown welterweight Andre Keys (12-1, 5 KOs) will take on his toughest test to date in former world title contender Dannie Williams (23-3, 18 KOs) tonight at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington. Keys, who has won 11 consecutive fights, will face Williams in the main event of Battle at the Boat 125.

A native of Tacoma, Keys was a multiple-time national champion as an amateur and is coming off the biggest win of his pro career, having defeated Manuel Monteiro by unanimous decision in a 10-roud bout on Nov. 9.

The win over Monteiro, who entered the contest with a strong 7-1 record, was the 11th straight for Keys. He has not lost in nearly four years.

“This is very exciting for us at Brian Halquist Productions and Battle at the Boat,” said promoter Brian Halquist. “We have looked at Andre since he was an amateur and now, he is the main event for the second time. This is a big fight for Andre. This is a don’t miss fight for boxing fans.”

Keys’ next fight will be against the most experienced fighter he has faced.

Williams grew up in St. Louis and learned how to box at the same gym that produced Devon Alexander. He began his seven-year amateur career at the age of 13, winning 127 of his 154 amateur fights, and was an 11-time national champion, culminating with by winning the 2004 National Golden Gloves title in the 132-pound weight division.

He won his first 12 pro fights with one of his early wins coming at the Emerald Queen Casino in 2008 when he stopped undefeated Gadiel Andaluz by TKO.

Williams suffered his first defeat against Washingtonian Eloy Perez in a bout for the vacant World Boxing Council United States featherweight champion on Sept. 12, 2009. He responded to the loss by reeling off nine consecutive victories, highlighted by a win over Manuel Leyva for the interim World Boxing Council Continental Americas lightweight title in 2011, before losing to Hank Lundy in 2012.

Williams built his record to 22-2 before losing to John Molina Jr in 2013 in a fight for the vacant World Boxing Organization NABO lightweight title.

It marked his last fight before taking a six year-long break from the sport. He returned to the ring last April, defeating Ronald Rivas by majority decision in his hometown of St. Louis.

Now with nine full months of training, the ring rust is gone, and Williams looks to climb back into title contention. A win over rising star Keys would go a long way in making that a reality.

“My opponent is a former top contender with 18 KOs to his record,” Keys said. “He has good skills and a lot of experience. I will be in top shape and look to be a technical boxer on fight night.”

In addition to the main event, Battle at the Boat 125 will include a 6-round welterweight semi main event between Antonio Neal (5-12-1, 3 KOs) and Niko McFarland (4-5-2, 1 KO).

The 26-year-old Neal is coming off a win on Oct. 26 against Clarence Brown and will look to put together his first winning streak since he opened his professional career at 2-0. Neal has gained a strong reputation for his willingness to step into the ring against any opponent. He has fought undefeated prospect Nick Jefferson and also Andre Keys.

McFarland will look to get back his winning ways as he saw his five-bout unbeaten streak come to an end in November when he dropped a unanimous decision against undefeated Chris Johnson (7-0).

Also, fan favorite Jose Cervantes (1-0, 1 KO) meets Cody Brown (1-0, 1 KO) in a four round welterweight contest. Cervantes notched his first career victory by defeating a very-game Nikolas Vasquez by second-round knockout on the undercard of Battle at the Boat 124 last November. He didn’t have much time to celebrate the win, however, as a little more than an hour later he was rushing to the hospital to be by his wife’s side as she delivered their third child.

Brown, who hails from Chicago, also picked up his first career victory by knock out on the Battle at the Boat 124 card, defeating Dylan Blakesley by first-round KO.

Making up the remainder of the four round undercard bouts will be; Juan Jackson (2-2) taking on pro debuting Joe Aguilar in a light heavyweight fight; Luis De Alba (0-3) squaring off with Marco Garcia (0-0-1) in a lightweight battle; and in a heavyweight showdown, Nick Mills (2-0, 1 KO) taking on Michael Johnson, who is making his pro debut

Doors to the EQC I-5 showroom will open at 7 p.m. with preliminary bouts set to start at 8 p.m. Tickets are available through the EQC box office and all Ticketmaster Outlets.

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