Sunday, May 28, 2023  |


Rubio confident he’ll make history

Fighters Network

Marco Antonio Rubio hopes to become the first Mexican to win a middleweight title when he fights Kelly Pavlik on Saturday in Youngstown, Ohio.

When a popular, young champion loses for the first time, his comeback opponent is supposed to be just that – an “opponent.”

An “opponent” is not supposed to win. He’s not supposed to have the will or the skill to add another “L” to the favorite’s record.

It’s tough enough for a young fighter to come back from one loss; rebounding from back-to-back losses is all but unheard of.

However, that’s exactly what Mexican fringe contender Marco Antonio Rubio did in order to earn his shot at middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik this Saturday.

Rubio, who will challenge Pavlik on pay-per-view television from the champ’s hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, has won nine bouts in a row since dropping back-to-back 12-round decisions to Kassim Ouma and Zaurbek Baysangurov in 2006.

Rubio (43-4-1, 37 knockouts) says the two losses were hard pills to swallow at the time but they helped him mature from a heavily hyped junior middleweight KO artist to the well-rounded boxer-puncher he is today.

“There’s two ways you can go after a loss: You either learn from your mistakes and come back all the way or you don’t and you dissolve and fall by the wayside,” Rubio said through his co-manager Julio Gudino. “I’ve tried to learn something from all my losses.

“The worst loss I ever suffered was a first-round knockout to Kofi Jantuah, but that fight opened my eyes to a lot of other things I can do in the ring and I think I’ve become a better boxer because of it. I used to just rely on my power; not any more.

“My losses to Kassim Ouma and the Russian fighter were difficult for me,” Rubio continued. “It was very frustrating because I knocked both of them down in the first round of those bouts. I think the problem was my weight. It was getting hard for me to get down to junior middleweight (154 pounds), so I had to over train to make it. I also think I gave them too much respect.”

Rubio’s not going to make that mistake again, not with Pavlik (34-1, 30 KOs), a powerful, 6-foot-3 volume puncher who will grind down any fighter who elects to stand and trade with him.

From his own experience, Rubio, 28, is counting on Pavlik to have doubts about his own ability coming off his embarrassingly one-sided decision loss to Bernard Hopkins in a non-title fight last October. Rubio aims to catch Pavlik early, before the middleweight champ has a chance to gain momentum and confidence.

“When fighters lose, especially those coming off winning streaks with a lot of knockouts, like Pavlik, they want to prove a point as soon as they get back in the ring,” Rubio said. “They are anxious to prove themselves and get back on the winning track, and sometimes they can be reckless. I can take advantage of that.

“Other times, fighters aren’t that sure of themselves. They have those doubts in the back of their head because they know they’re not invincible any more. It’s more psychological than physical, but their confidence is going against them. If I sense this in Pavlik, I will take advantage of those doubts.”

Rubio says he will seize any opportunity he gets in the ring Saturday because he’s not just fighting for his own legacy but to make history.

There has never been a middleweight champion or titleholder from Mexico. Dozens of Mexicans have held titles in the lower weight classes, such as bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight, but there is a sharp drop off above 135 pounds.

A couple of Mexicans have held 140-pound titles (most notably Julio Cesar Chavez, but also Rene Arredondo), a fewe at welterweight (hall of famers Carlos Palomino and Pipino Cuevas, and most recently Antonio Margarito), and two at junior middleweight (Lupe Aquino and Yory Boy Campas).

And one Mexico-born fighter held a major light heavyweight title (Julio Gonzalez).

However, at 160 pounds? Nada.

“It’s absolutely a motivation for me,” said Rubio, who trained in Temoaya (a town one hour outside of Mexico City) with head coach Tiburcio Garcia, who is best-known for training former titleholders Jorge Arce and Jose Luis Castillo.

“To fight not only for my country but to create history in my country, my profession and my career is an honor. That’s what I’m coming to do Saturday –make history. It’s the reason I’ve trained so hard and so seriously for this fight.”

Does he have a chance?

Former WBC junior middleweight titleholder Sergio Mora, who fought Pavlik in the amateurs and has sparred an estimated 50-60 rounds with Rubio in Southern California gyms, says the challenger will be tougher than most experts think.

“Rubio is not the hardest puncher I’ve ever felt in the ring, but he’s got some of the heaviest hands I’ve ever experienced,” said Mora, who has moved back up to the middleweight division in hopes of getting his own shot at the title. “Every punch Rubio hits you with hurts. He’s also got underrated technique and skills. He’s not a one-dimensional puncher anymore. However, he does like to come forward and that will probably cost him against Pavlik, eventually. But I think it’s going to be a pretty competitive fight until the middle to late rounds.”

Rubio also believes the fight will be competitive until the middle to late rounds, but it will be Pavlik who wilts under the pressure, he says, not him.

Rubio reminds his doubters that he has 37 knockouts in 43 victories and a series of tough fights leading into Saturday’s title bout that he believes has prepared him for a ring war.

“I knocked out Jose Luis Zertuche, who gave Pavlik a tough fight,” Rubio said. “Then I knocked out Freddie Cuevas, who went the distance with Jermain Taylor. In my last fight, I won a 12-round decision against Enrique Ornelas, who can fight at 168 pounds with no problem.

“These fights have prepared me for Pavlik. These are tough guys. They were difficult fights and I hope I proved myself in those fights. I think they prepared me for the really big fight this Saturday.”

Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]