Originally the plan called for Randy Caballero to travel to England to meet Jamie McDonnell in an IBF bantamweight title eliminator, however when that fight was never consummated Caballero moved on. Instead the 23 year old from Coachella, Calif., will be heading to Japan where he'll take on Kohei Oba in a title eliminator on Friday.
Heading overseas isn't something that particularly bothers Caballero, who enjoyed a successful amateur career that saw him fight all over the globe.
"It’s somewhere different. We’re ready for a hard fight," Caballero told RingTV.com over the phone. "I’m excited to go out there and put on a great performance, see how everything goes."
Having turned pro four years ago, "El Matador" has moved at a steady pace, appearing regularly in Southern California where he's a good ticket seller.
The Golden Boy Promotions prospect who has a 20-0 record, including 12 stoppages, is excited about the opportunity to fight Oba (35-2-1, 14 knockouts), knowing victory will secure a world title shot.
“Winning the fight would be something big, it’s a title eliminator, the next one will be for a world title,” he said.
“A lot’s on the line, not only fighting for a world title, it’s my life, it’s something I’ve been dreaming for my whole life to win a world title and this is it.”
Here's what Caballero had to say prior to flying to Japan.
Anson Wainwright – On Friday you meet Kohei Oba in an IBF bantamweight title eliminator. What are your thoughts on that fight?
Randy Caballero – We’re ready. Whoever they put in front of me, we’re ready to put on a good show. We’re heading to Japan, it’s somewhere different, where I’ve never been but once you’re in that ring it doesn’t matter where you’re at. It’s just you and that fighter going head to head and I got to do what I do best inside the ring. I trained hard, so we’re ready to go and put on a good performance.
AW – What about travelling to Japan?
RC – We leave on Saturday (March 30), we’ll be there a week before. I’m excited, like I said it’s somewhere different. We’re ready for a hard fight. Like I said, I’m excited to go out there and put on a great performance, see how everything goes.
AW – Of your 20 professional bouts, 18 have taken place in Southern California. Is it a concern for you fighting so far away from home?
RC – Not at all. Once you’re inside that ring, it’s you and them. It doesn’t matter if I’m somewhere else in the world. Once you’re inside that ring, you have to give it all you got, all the training and see how it pays off. I’m excited to head out to Japan, somewhere different, different atmosphere, different people around. I’ve seen the way a crowd cheers when a fight goes on. It’s going to be a great experience, good exposure for myself in a different country where people are going to get to know who I am. I’m ready for the world title and this is one thing I’ve got to do is take this guy out and not let anyone stop me, especially him.
AW – What do you think of Oba as a fighter, in terms of strengths and weaknesses?
RC – I’m not going to take anything away from him, he’s ranked I believe four by the IBF. We know he’s going to come strong, he’s had the chance to fight for a title, he lost that opportunity and now it’s my turn. He’s going to come to fight, especially because it’s his hometown. It’s going to be a great fight.
We know he’s going to try to keep a distance, work the jab a lot, throw little combinations, use the shoulder roll here and there. We’ve trained hard. Sparring’s been great. We’re ready to go in my first 12-round fight and show them what I’ve got.
AW – While you obviously aren't looking past Oba, what would a win mean to you with it being a title eliminator?
RC – Winning the fight would be something big. Like I said it’s a title eliminator, the next one will be for a world title. A lot’s on the line, not only fighting for a world title, it’s my life, it’s something I’ve been dreaming for my whole life to win a world title and this is it. Golden Boy, the people in Japan, my team, they put this opportunity there and I’m not going to let it slip away. Everybody in life gets at least one shot. This is my shot. I have to make sure I don’t let it slip away. I got to make sure I come out with that win and get a world title soon for this Coachella Valley, another world champion for this valley. Hopefully, it’ll be me.
AW – It looked as though you were at one point going to be fighting in England against former IBF champion Jamie McDonnell. How come that fight didn't end up getting made?
RC – That fight, we were all looking forward to it. I even had fans buy their tickets. It was something that fell out; I don’t know exactly what happened. I know that (McDonnell) has two managers, who both sent the contracts to Golden Boy, and Golden Boy were like 'we only need one contract.' I don’t know if it was the manager situation or the IBF situation.
Once you’re in training camp and you hear something falling out you’re going to hear a whole bunch of rumors. I don’t really know what happened. It’s sad. I didn’t go out there because I have a lot of fans out there. It didn’t happen and then we’re off to Japan. I was like what a big difference UK to Japan. I’m sad it didn’t happen, but I’ve got to take care of what’s in front of me.
AW – You had a good amateur career. Could you tell us about that? What titles or tournaments did you win?
RC – I won many national tournaments, Desert Showdown, Ringside, Under-19. I went all the way to Istanbul, Turkey for the AIBA championship, came back with a bronze medal, third in the world, something big for me. I’ve won Junior Golden Gloves, Junior Olympics when I was younger. There’s a whole list. I know I’m missing a lot.
All that experience builds up and is what has made me the fighter I am today.
AW – You mentioned fighting in Istanbul. Did you fight many times internationally?
RC – That was my first international tournament. I fought three times out there. It was one of the greatest tournaments in the world. The only thing that did hurt me when we were standing on the podium and Cuba was second and I believe it was Russia in first place and they were playing his national anthem, it hurt listening to that national anthem, it bothered me. I looked around that stadium but all these people in the stadium wanted the chance to be where I’m standing. All the hard work I had put in, it was me standing there, it paid off. I wish I had got the gold medal, I was a little disappointed not to. It didn’t happen my way, but it was the best experience of my life. I can look back and say I flew out there and represented the U.S.
AW – You've been a pro now for four years. How do you assess your progress to this point?
RC – From the first fight to now, I’ve learned a lot. I’m still learning the sport, you never stop learning. We learn from my mistakes. I would say I’m a whole different fighter from when I first turned pro. I’m a lot stronger and smarter. Now that we go more rounds, you’re able to be more calm and pick the fighter apart. Stay calm the first couple of rounds and when we know we have the guy worked out, we start putting pressure on as the rounds go on and get that stoppage when the time is right.
AW – Do you feel that you have to score a knockout to beat Oba in Japan? Do you worry about a hometown decision?
I don’t look at it that way. I don’t look at it as though I’m in his hometown. You can never walk into a fight asking for a knockout, knockouts come naturally. You land the right punch at the right time in the right spot they’re bound to go down. I think with the time being a pro I’ve learned how to break a fighter down. My last four fights have all ended by knockout with body shots, I see they work. You have to confuse a fighter, it’s a mind game, going into his hometown knowing the crowd will be for him but it’s a motivation for myself. When I went to Florida (to fight Jessy Cruz), that was his hometown. The fans booed me when I walked in but after the fight I had a bigger fan base than he did because people were cheering for me because of the knockout. That’s what the fans look for, they might be cheering for him at the beginning but at the end once I got that clear win that I want I know the crowd will be there for me and supporting me.
A knockout (of Oba) would be beautiful. It’s something I need in my career, it’s the eliminator. It’s going to open doors for me. I know Stuart Hall has (the IBF title) in the UK but if (the Oba fight ends in) a knockout and the TV (executives) wants to see (Hall-Caballero) out here (in the U.S.) it would be amazing. That’s a dream come true. I want my first world title to be here for my fans who have supported me throughout my career.
AW – What is life like away from boxing?
RC – I’m a big family guy, spending time with my fiancé, my kids, we got two kids together. I love spending time with my family. We get out as much as we can, being outdoors. I’m not the kind of guy who likes to party. You never catch me at a club. My dad is a big fan of cooking for a lot of people so we always go over to their house. My dad barbeques. I’m surprised I’m not a heavyweight because the food my dad makes is the best food.
AW – Though you live in Southern California, you’re not of Mexican decent. Your family comes from Nicaragua.
RC – Yeah I get that a lot, a lot of people will tell me “you’re Mexican-American.” I don’t do it to offend them but I’m not Mexican, I’m Nicaraguan. My dad was from there, born over there and he came to the U.S. I’m proud to walk out there with that flag, the people out there support me and I will carry the Nicaraguan flag for the rest of my career. Those people have supported me since day one.
AW – Nicaragua is a small country but has produced several very good fighters, most notably Alexis Arguello, more recently Rosendo Alvarez and currently Roman “Chocalitito” Gonzalez. Have you met or do you know any of them?
RC – Alexis Arguello, thank God I got to meet him before he passed, he was a very nice guy.
Rosendo Alvarez, my dad trained him, he was living at our house for maybe a year. He’s a great guy. He’s like family to us. At first it was kind of weird because this guy came from nowhere and he stayed at our house but he became family. I even got to spar with him.
I met Chocalitito, he’s a really nice guy, kind of calm, in his own little world, but it happens when I don’t speak much Spanish and he doesn’t speak any English so there’s not really much conversation but my Spanish is getting better so sooner or later we’ll have a conversation. Some of the other fighters in Nicaragua I got the pleasure to meet when I went out there.
I do represent Nicaragua, there are a lot of great fighters over there but it’s hard to get exposure out there. What I’m trying to do is let the boxing world know there are great fighters out there, to start looking towards that way. Like Golden Boy just signed Rene Alvarez, he’s from Nicaragua. He’s a great fighter.
AW – I’m told you have a younger brother who’s very talented?
RC – I have two younger brothers that fight, one, Ryan he’s a professional, he has two fights, both wins. He’s kind of out of the sport right now. He has a baby on the way so he’s taking care of that right now.
I have a smaller brother Rommel, he’s 15, fighting at 119 (pounds), the same weight class as me. He’s solid, all muscle and he’s dropping kids. It’s hard to see knockouts in the amateurs with the headgear, little kids they don’t punch that hard but my brother he is one fighter that is putting guys out in the ring, strong, hurting these kids to the body. He’s a smart fighter, there’s a lot of kids avoiding him in California it’s hard to get him a fight. He’s having to move up in weight to just get a fight. That’s one fighter everyone better watch out for.
AW – Growing up who did you most like to watch box, who was your boxing hero?
RC – I like watching a lot of fighters growing up, Oscar De La Hoya was a great fighter, I love watching Miguel Cotto, I looked up to him because he has a similar style to my older brother when he used to box. Miguel Cotto is a warrior inside that ring. I also look up to Floyd Mayweather because of the type of fighter he is inside that ring, he’s very smart, there’s nobody out there who can beat him right now.
The legends would be Alexis Arguello, a great fighter inside that ring and a gentleman outside the ring. I like to pick up different things from different fighters and put into my training camp.
AW – Lastly do you have a message for Oba?
RC – You want me to say it in English or Japanese (laughs). I just hope he’s ready because I’m going into his hometown and I’m ready to go, we trained hard. My body feels good, weight’s good. We’re ready to go and put on a good show. I hope he’s ready for a war because if it comes down to it I’m going to make it a war and get that stoppage.