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Precocious Huerta advancing quickly

29
Jul

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FIGHT NIGHT CLUB: THE FACTS

What: Fight Night Club, a monthly boxing series featuring rising prospects at Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles
Who: The featured young fighters hail from Southern California and beyond and all of them have the potential to be successful.
When: Thursday, July 30.
TV/Internet: The card will be televised on Versus and streamed live on RingTV.com and Yahoo! Sports. The first fight begins at 7 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET.
Future shows: Aug. 27 and Sept. 24 at Club Nokia, which is adjacent to Staples Center.

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Fight fans in the greater L.A. area should enjoy watching Charles Huerta fight in the intimate confines of Club Nokia while they can.

At the moment, the undefeated featherweight prospect is the perfect staple for the Fight Night Club series at the state-of-the-art 2,000-seat concert venue. If Huerta (11-0, 6 knockouts) defeats Derrick Wilson (4-0-1, 1 KO) in tonight’s headliner, though, it won’t be long before he graduates from the monthly Golden Boy Promotions club shows.

Huerta is only 22 years old. He only has 11 bouts in a pro career that hasn’t spanned two years yet. However, the Paramount, Calif., native has trained with world-class boxers since he entered the sport at age 8. He has also fought seasoned veterans, some with more than 40 bouts, who have helped mold him into a prospect with an advanced professional style and a toughness that doesn’t seem possible for such a fresh-faced kid.

“Right now Fight Night Club and Huerta are a good fit,” said Eric Gomez, head matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions. “He’s still learning his craft, he’s got a growing local fan base and a crowd-pleasing style.

“If he does well against Wilson, he’ll have maybe one more six-round bout, and then an eight rounder, before he moves to his first 10-rounder.”

At that point, which Gomez said could be later in the year or sometime early in 2010, Huerta will no longer be headlining Fight Night Club, which is televised on the Versus cable network in the U.S. and streamed live on RingTV.com and Yahoo! Sports. He’ll be fighting in the 7,000-seat Nokia Theater, probably on ESPN2, and he’ll be attempting to make the transition from prospect to contender.

Huerta’s father and trainer, Mando, believes the young man is ready for the eight-round distance now and is perhaps one fight away from the 10-round level.

Huerta has already fought in two scheduled eight-round bouts, against veteran journeyman Trinidad Mendoza and Mexican prospect Gregorio Torres.

Huerta says both fights were grueling learning experiences that helped him mature into the baby-faced punisher that impressed so many observers with his third-round knockout of Mexican amateur standout Noe Lopez Jr. in the co-featured bout of last month’s Fight Night Club premiere.

“When I fought Trinidad Mendoza, we met in the center of the ring, practically forehead to forehead, and that’s where we stayed the entire fight,” Huerta said. “We just went at it from the first round on.

“After the first two rounds, I was thinking ‘I’m definitely going to knock this guy out.’ After the fourth and fifth rounds, I thought ‘I’m never stopping this guy.'”

However, Huerta didn’t stop trying, and late in the seventh round he broke through with a punch that hurt the tough veteran of 43 pro bouts.

“I caught him with a right to the body-right uppercut combination, that old Mike Tyson combo, and dropped him,” Huerta recalled with glee. “I finished him off with a one-two-left-hook combination in the next round.”

Boxrec.com, the most-respected record-keeping website, credits Huerta with a sixth-round TKO of Mendoza and a one-round KO of stoppage of Torres, which irks his father because it makes it harder to get quality opponents for his son.

“Charles went tit for tat with Mendoza before knocking him out in the last round; it wasn’t an easy fight for my boy,” he said. “Charles won the Torres bout by decision. It was another tough fight because Torres is very good. I don’t know where Boxrec got that Charles knocked him out in one round. I wish they didn’t have that because it scares everybody away.”

One opponent who doesn’t appear to be scared at all is Wilson, a 20-year-old former amateur standout whose flashy style has been compared to that of Floyd Mayweather Jr.

The upset-minded Cincinnati, Ohio, native recently referred to Huerta as “a wannabe (Miguel) Cotto” and said the Southern Californian had “fought a bunch of bums.”

Huerta doesn’t mind the trash talk. He says it means his opponent is confident and coming to win, which is how he prefers it.

“Wilson is like Noe Lopez Jr.; he was an amateur star and he’s never lost as a pro,” Huerta said. “That means he’s going to bring it and we’re going to put on a show for the fans.

“The most frustrating fights for me are the ones where my opponent doesn’t want to fight. It happened when I fought Andres Ledesma. I saw a tape of his fight with Gary Stark Jr., the fight he knocked Stark out cold, and I thought he was coming to fight me like that. But after the first round, he ran all night. It bothered me when the crowd started booing.”

Huerta narrowly outpointed Ledesma by a disappointing six-round split decision. The fight, which was on the undercard of the James Kirkland-Joel Julio fight in San Jose, Calif., in March, exposed the difficulty he has with lateral movement.

Wilson, who is trained by defensive specialist John David Jackson, is known for his fast hands and feet, but Huerta is confident that he will be able to adjust to any style his unbeaten opponent brings to their six-round bout.

“(Wilson) looks at these guys on my record who have more losses than wins and he thinks they’re ‘bums,’ but those are the roughest, toughest, most-difficult guys you can fight,” Huerta said. “They’ve seen it all, they’ve done it all, and some of them don’t care if they win. They just want to make you look bad or bust you up to teach you a lesson.”

Huerta learned his lessons early in his career.

In his fourth pro bout, he took on Manuel Sarabia, a veteran of 46 (16-22-8, 10 KOs) pro bouts at the time. Huerta quickly learned why Sarabia’s nickname is “El Diablo” during the bout, his first six rounder.

“That fight was my initiation into the pro game,” Huerta said. “That guy roughed me up from the first round on. He took me down twice in the first round with low blows. I couldn’t believe someone would foul like that on purpose, but he was trying to hurt me and discourage me.”

Although Sarabia lost a six-round split decision, the 31-year-old journeyman who turned pro when Huerta was seven, was successful on that front.

“That fight was the first time I was hit low and hit in the shoulders repeatedly,” Huerta said. “It was the first time someone hit me behind my head or caught me with an elbow. I complained to my dad after the first round and he told me ‘This isn’t the amateurs, they’re going to let you fight.’ I had to man-up that night.”

Huerta did more than toughen up. He smartened up and boxed Sarabia from a distance in their four-round rematch four months later.

“I played with him in the rematch,” Huerta said. “I made it an easy fight.”

The two bouts with Sarabia caught the eye of Gomez, who already knew about the precocious prospect from Paramount.

“I used to hear about Huerta when I was working with the (Oscar De La Hoya) Youth Center because he probably had more than 200 amateur fights,” Gomez said. “Rudy Hernandez, who trains his fighters at the same gym where Huerta trains, tipped me off last year that Charles had turned pro and was a free agent. He said Charles was very good and looking for a promoter.”

Gomez said Huerta’s two fights with Sarabia impressed him.

“That’s a tough Mexican dude,” he said. “To fight a guy like that so early in his career and win twice says something. I put (undefeated prospect) Carlos Ivan Velasquez in with (Sarabia) after Huerta’s first fight with him and he gave Velasquez a hard fight. He took (Velasquez) the distance for the first time.”

Huerta’s rematch with Sarabia took place at the Morongo Casino, a posh desert resort more than 100 miles from the fighter’s hometown, but the 4-0 prospect still brought a vocal group of fans to cheer him on.

Gomez took note and scheduled two “try-out” bouts for Huerta at the same Cabazon, Calif., resort. The young man, who scored a first-round stoppage of Efrain Perez and gutted out the eighth-round KO of Mendoza, passed his tests with flying colors.

Golden Boy Promotions signed Huerta last October.

“I liked what I saw,” said Gomez. “He had a crowd of fans from Paramount there, which is something a promoter has to take note of, and obviously, being a clean-cut bilingual Mexican-American fighter doesn’t hurt his popularity in Southern California.

“But what really sold me on Charles was his beautiful style. It’s a classic professional style. He’s a boxer-puncher. He’s got a good jab and he can move around if he needs to, but he has straight accurate punches that do damage.

“A lot of guys with as much amateur experience as he’s got don’t throw crisp, hard punches. In the amateurs it’s all about volume and speed. But I noticed that Charles didn’t pitty pat or waste punches.”

Huerta says his style was forged at the Maywood Boxing Club, a gym in Maywood, Calif., in which he practically grew up. While still an amateur, he sparred with former and future world titleholders like Martin Castillo and Giovani Segura on a regular basis.

The gym sessions involved the kind of head-on confrontations and body-punching clinics that rarely occurred in his amateur bouts. He says his sternest gym professor was Israel Vazquez.

“Vazquez is something else, he’s amazing,” Huerta said of the former junior featherweight champ. “Nobody can compare with him. That’s why I never worry about who I fight.”

Huerta will leave the worrying to Gomez, who is gradually testing him against various, potentially difficult styles in the Fight Night Club six-rounders.

“Charles is more advanced than his 11 fights would indicate, but we’re still developing him,” he said. “We want to move him a long, but we don’t want to push too much. We think we have something special with him.”

Doug Fischer’s column appears every Thursday. He can be reached at [email protected]

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