Urango, Ndoudjo have big opportunity
Juan Urango and Herman Ngoudjo are both fortunate.
Urango, the former IBF junior welterweight titleholder from Colombia, lost a one-sided decision and his belt to Ricky Hatton in January of 2007. After that, he was considered a fringe contender.
Ngoudjo, a Montreal resident from Cameroon, lost a decision to Paulie Malignaggi in January of last year in his only title shot. He, too, was left out of the mix among big-name fighters around 140 pounds.
Yet here they are, in Montreal, set to fight Friday night on ESPN2 for the same IBF title Malignaggi vacated last September.
They are fighting for both one version of the junior welterweight title and, in all likelihood, the opportunity to face elite opponents for big money.
“I believe we have two guys near the peak of their careers,” said Yvon Michel, co-promoter of the event. “One (Urango) is 28, the other 29. One is a former champion who was 26 when he lost to Hatton. People said it was good experience, that he’d back. The other one lost to (Jose Luis) Castillo and Malignaggi. They said he was young; he’d be back.
“Now, they’re not facing more-experienced opponents. There are no more excuses. The loser will take a big step back. The winner? There’s a lot action at this weight. Hatton, (Manny) Pacquiao, Zab Judah says he wants to come back down. The winner will be part of this equation.”
Urango (20-1-1, 16 knockouts) is a beefy southpaw with considerable power.
Since the loss to Hatton, in which he was thoroughly outboxed, the Miami resident has stopped each of his three opponents within five rounds. That includes Carlos Wilfredo Vilches last April in a title eliminator to earn another shot at the belt.
He understands the magnitude of this opportunity, as his eagerness seems to indicate.
“I have prepared myself for this fight well,” he said. “I am ready mentally and physcially. I am waiting for the bell to ring. May the best man win, but I know I am going to get my belt back.”
Ngoudjo (17-2, nine KOs) has lost two of his past four fights but retains a reputation as a solid fighter.
He ended up on the wrong side of the decision against Malignaggi but put up a good fight against a decent titleholder with very good boxing skills. He bounced back with a unanimous decision over Souleymane M’Baye last June to become Malignaggi’s mandatory challenger.
Then Malignaggi vacated, setting up Ngoudjo-Urango.
Ngoudjo, a versatile boxer-puncher, has the advantage of fighting at home. Michele said the fighter has begun to develop a following, which could grow dramatically if things go well Friday night.
“I think there’ll be around 6,000 people tomorrow (at Bell Centre), which is good in January. We’ve had a big snow storm,” Michel said. “He’s fought twice here in title elminators and both times drew 7,000, 8,000 people at the outdoor tennis stadium. He hasn’t made the transition from good boxer to a star in Montreal. If he wins tomorrow, he can make that transition.
“ÔÇª He’s had only 19 fights and the last four were against tough, elite fighters. He learned a lot. I really believe he’ll give the best performance of his life tomorrow.”
Ngoudjo feels the same way.
“I am ready to fight and Urango will not do anything different that I haven't seen before,” he said. “This is my time to shine.”