CARSON, Calif. – There aren’t many hardcore fans or members of the boxing media picking Alfredo Angulo to win his fight with Erislandy Lara this Saturday.
It’s not that fans and the boxing media doubt the former junior middleweight contender’s ability or desire to climb to the top of the 154-pound division. Despite his brutal TKO loss James Kirkland in November 2011 and subsequent seven-month confinement to an immigration detention center last year, most folks who follow boxing know that the Mexican pressure fighter remains dangerous.
However, that old adage “styles make fights” is true, and on paper, Lara’s style is the absolute worst among top junior middleweights for Angulo to face.
The 30-year-old former Cuban amateur star possesses quick reflexes, ring savvy and a southpaw stance that seems all wrong for Angulo, a relentless-but-plodding stalker with average hand speed.
When the matchup was announced, this is reaction most fans had: “What the hell is Angulo thinking!?”
“A lot of people were surprised that I took this fight,” Angulo told RingTV.com during a media workout at the Fabela Chavez Boxing Center on Tuesday. “They don’t think I can handle the Cuban style, so I’m the underdog in this fight.
“I’m always the underdog,” he continued, speaking in English and Spanish (which was translated by Eric Gomez of Golden Boy Promotions). “I like being in this position.”
Angulo (22-2, 18 knockouts), a 30-year-old Mexicali native who lives in Southern California, believes he’s in position to surprise a lot people. He thinks fans and media are so focused on Lara’s considerable amateur credentials – which include a world championship and captain’s role on the Cuban squad – they have forgotten about his amateur experience.
Angulo won a bronze medal at the 2003 Pan-Am Games and represented Mexico at the 2004 Olympics.
“I fought many slick boxers, many southpaws in 2003 and 2004,” he said. “I admit, I never faced a Cuban star but I always wanted to.”
Angulo will finally get his chance with the co-featured bout of Showtime’s Championship Boxing broadcast from Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and he believes he’s ready for it.
Angulo got his feet wet after a one year absence from the ring due to his detainment with a first-round KO of Raul Casarez last November, and then knocked off a lot of rust with a much-tougher 10-round decision over Jorge Silva last December.
“The Silva fight helped me a lot,” said Angulo, who has trained with the BWAA 2011 Trainer of the Year Virgil Hunter for his last two bouts. “I went rounds with a strong, young fighter, who pushed me a little bit. After those 10 rounds I knew I was ready to fight at top-10 contender and Lara is one of the best.”
He says he’s had a good camp, which included sparring with 2008 U.S. Olympian Demetrius Andrade, a tall, rangy southpaw with good hand and foot speed.
Angulo wouldn’t give a prediction on the outcome of the fight, apart from that it will be “an entertaining one for the fans, like all ‘Perro’ fights.” “Perro” is “dog” in Spanish, and it’s Angulo’s well-earned nickname.
He did, however, predict what Lara (17-1-2, 11 KOs), THE RING’s No. 4-rated junior middleweight, might do on Saturday.
“I know exactly what he’s going to do,” Angulo said. “He’s going to run from me.”
When asked if he would chase after Lara, he answered:
“Like a dog.”
LARA CAN PUNCH, TOO
Lara, who was also at the media workout, looked lean and sculpted after a Houston training camp that included sparring sessions with rugged middleweight contender Brian Vera and equally durable “gut-checker” Don Mouton.
Given the style matchup and Lara’s well-conditioned appearance, the Cuban’s co-manager Luis DeCubas Jr. was repeatedly asked by members of the media if he was surprised Angulo was willing to take on such a formidable task.
“I’ve been asked that question more than any other in regard to this fight,” DeCubas said. “I get the same question from fans. I think fans and the media are thinking too much like managers. They shouldn’t look at the fight that way. Fighters are supposed to want to face the best.
“The reality is that two of the best junior middleweights are fighting and it’s an interesting matchup: the boxer vs. the puncher.”
According to Lara’s trainer Ronnie Shields, who added once-beaten southpaw Danny O’Connor to the Cuban’s sparring rotation because of Angulo’s occasional tendency to fight left-handed, his fighter is both the boxer and the puncher in Saturday’s matchup.
“We know Lara can hurt Angulo,” he said. “They don’t know it. That’s the difference in this fight.”
CHARLO’S GOT NEXT
While the Lara-Angulo fight represents two of the more accomplished fighters of the current junior middleweight landscape, Jermell Charlo might represent the future of the 154-pound division.
And if you ask Charlo (20-0, 10 KOs), a rangy 6-foot prospect from Houston, the future is now.
The 23-year-old boxer-puncher faces his most skilled and experienced opponent – former junior welterweight title contender Demetrius Hopkins – in his first scheduled 12-round bout in the opening fight of Showtime’s tripleheader on Saturday, but he isn’t lacking any confidence.
Charlo, who has one of the sharpest jabs among young American standouts, solidified his blue-chip status last year with impressive knockouts of once-beaten prospects Chris Chatman (TKO 3) and Denis Douglin (KO 5). He kicked off 2013 with an eight-round TKO of once-beaten former fringe contender Harry Joe Yorgey in January.
Charlo believes he has the ability to win a world title now but he knows he has to beat veterans like Hopkins (33-2-1, 13 KOs) – a 32-year-old technician who has looked sharp in his last three bouts at 154 pounds – in order to get that opportunity.
“There’s a lot of competition at junior middleweight and that’s just one of the things that motivate me,” Charlo told RingTV.com at the media workout. “My motivation and my hunger is what I bring to this fight.
“I know Hopkins is a technician but I’m technical, too. This fight is going to come down to who is in better condition and his hungrier. I think that’s me. There’s money to be made in this division and I’ve got a family to feed.”
FABELA CHAVEZ BOXING CENTER
There are many notable boxing gyms in Southern California but one of the oldest and most respected among L.A.-area fighters is the Fabela Chavez Boxing Center, which doesn’t receive much attention from boxing writers and fans.
Part of a city-run park and community center at 23410 Catskill Ave. in Carson, Calif., the gym was founded by Fabela Chavez – a Golden Age (1940s and ’50s) featherweight contender – who set it up to primarily serve the local youth, and it has for 35 years.
Still, some of the best Southern Cali-born fighters – including Oscar De La Hoya, who was on hand at Tuesday’s media day – have trained at the gym or fought on Chavez Boxing Center amateur shows (as De La Hoya did as a kid).
Chavez, who passed away in 2003, was no slouch. He split two fights with the original “Golden Boy” Art Aragon in 1945 when both were still prospects, and he fought Willie Pep, dropping a 10-round decision to the legendary boxer in 1952.
Chavez was also a regular at two storied L.A. fight venues – the Legion Stadium in Hollywood, where he lived, and the Olympic Auditorium – but that’s not what made him special.
“Fabela Chavez saved kids lives by opening this gym with no fanfare,” said former boxing writer and longtime publicist John Beyrooty.
De Nize Hunt, a senior recreation center supervisor oversees the gym’s USA-boxing-certified youth program, says just taking the kids to tournaments outside of California has a profound and positive impact on their lives.
“A lot of the kids who train here and participate in our boxing program have never been outside of Carson,” she said. “Traveling to the Ringside tournament in Kansas City (Mo.) lets them know there more to the world than their neighborhood.”
Hunt manages a staff of four dedicated coaches who run the gym and program. The main trainer, Jermaine Lefeiloai (a shortened version of his original Samoan surname, which is 35-letters long), is a hardcore boxing fan.
How hardcore? Lefeiloai, an admirer of Virgil Hunter, is picking Angulo to win on Saturday.
Photos / Gene Blevins-Golden Boy