Wednesday, May 31, 2023  |



Antillon ready for Harris and the lightweight division

Fighters Network

Urbano Antillon has gained a small measure of notoriety among hardcore fans over the past two years with a string of televised knockout victories, but he has probably gained more press for his sparring sessions with Manny Pacquiao than he has received for all of those Telefutura and the Versus appearances combined.

Antillon, a rugged pressure-fighting sharp shooter from Maywood, California, is probably better known for his rough sparring sessions with Pacquiao and other world-class fighters than he is for anyone he’s actually fought in the ring.

Although the undefeated lightweight is proud of the quality gym rounds he’s provided the likes of Pacquiao, Joan Guzman, Edwin Valero and Jorge Linares, he wants to be known as a bona fide contender on the cusp of a world title shot, not as a tough sparring partner.

If Antillon (25-0, 18 KOs) wins his next fight — an Azteca America-televised main event against Tyrone Harris at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on Friday — he will get the chance to prove he belongs in the ring with top lightweights like Guzman and Valero without headgear.

Antillon is rated No. 1 at lightweight by the WBC, which recognizes Valero as it’s champion. He’s also in good position with the other sanctioning organizations, according to his advisor Ray Alcorta.

“Valero won the vacant WBC title when he knocked out (Antonio) Pitalua,” Alcorta said. “The WBC’s rule is that the fighter who wins a vacant title has to begin negotiations to fight the No. 1 contender within six months.

“We also received permission from the IBF to take part in a title elimination bout with Anthony Peterson. And the WBO, which rated Urbano third at lightweight in their most recent rankings, might be open to having him fight for their title if Juan Manuel Marquez vacates it to fight at welterweight (versus Floyd Mayweather Jr.). Michael Katsidis and Antonio DeMarco are rated ahead of him. Either fight would be all action with Urbano.

“The great thing about the lightweight division right now is that it’s a deep and talented division with young fighters who are willing to fight each other.”

Antillon, who is currently THE RING’s No. 7-rated junior lightweight, can definitely be a player at 135 pounds, but he has to beat Harris (23-4, 15 KOs) in impressive fashion to get the opportunity.

Harris, a crafty southpaw from Michigan, is not a world beater, but he’s a well-schooled boxer with solid whiskers and difficult to look good against. Harris has gone 8-2 in his last 10 fights — losing a majority 12-round decision to former titleholder Steve Johnston and an eight-round decision to Josesito Lopez — and he was competitive in both bouts.

Antillon, who fought three southpaws in a row — Wilson Alcorro, Adrian Valdez and Bobby Pacquiao — and knocked them all out within two rounds, isn’t worried about Harris.

“I’m going into this fight confident in my ability because I’ve been sparring with the best southpaw — the best fighter, period — in Manny Pacquiao,” Antillon said. “Sparring with Pacquiao is tough. It takes it’s toll physically because of how fast and strong he is, but also mentally, because of all the hype. So I’ve had to be strong, mentally and physically.

“There’s no questioning my conditioning for this fight.”

If Antillon wins, Alcorta believes the Top Rank-promoted fighter can emerge as an attraction for Mexican and Mexican-American fight fans.

“There’s a big void with Mexican fighters right now,” he said. “The fact that Urbano is an exciting fighter of Mexican descent who speaks both Spanish and English will help Top Rank market him.”

Is he ready to go from fighting the likes of Alcorro and Harris to a dynamic puncher like Valero or a talented defensive wizard like Guzman?

Antillon thinks so.

“Five or six years ago I used to look at the best lightweights on TV and wonder how I would deal with them,” he said. “I had my doubts, but then I started sparring with them and I held my own. So those old doubts, that old mentality, is in the past. I know I’m one of the top fighters now.”

He sparred with Valero back in 2003 when the KO artist was based in Southern California and both were prospects. Antillon admits that the Venezuelan puncher got the better of him a few times. However, he also acknowledges that he’s improved greatly in recent years.

When Antillon sparred with Guzman, an undefeated former two-division titleholder, this past November, he says he more than held his own.

“To be honest, the first time we sparred, I put hands on him,” Antillon said. “I had to hold back on him.”

If Antillon looks good on Friday there won’t be any holding back on his career, and he won’t be holding back on any of his future opponents in the ring.

Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]