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Segura enthusiastic about showdown with Calderon

26
Aug

Giovani Segura (right), here landing a booming uppercut to Cesar Canchila in their first fight, is known for his punching power, but it's his enthusiasm and respect for the sport that sets him apart from other fighters. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

Giovani Segura is not your average prize fighter.

In some very obvious ways he is. The 28-year-old junior flyweight beltholder has average hand and foot speed. His defense and technique can be described as below average.

However, his will to win is definitely above average. How else could a guy who started boxing at 20 and only had a dozen amateur bouts go on to win a major pro title?

His power had a lot to do with his success. The southpaw’s punch is way above average. In fact, many believe Segura’s only shot at upsetting Ivan Calderon, THE RING junior flyweight champ he challenges on Saturday in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, is the proverbial puncher’s chance.

If that’s the only chance the Southern California-based Mexican has to win, he should not be counted out. Segura, THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior flyweight, has scored 20 knockouts in his 24 victories.

But it’s not Segura’s vaunted power than sets him apart from his fellow fighters; it’s his enthusiasm for the sport.

Segura (24-1-1, 20 knockouts) is just as excited about Saturday’s showdown as the next hardcore fan, and for the same reasons.

He loves the pure boxer-versus-pure puncher matchup. He’s motivated by the historic Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry. And he respects the fact that Calderon (34-0-1, 6 KOs) holds THE RING title. In fact, he says he won’t consider himself to be a bona fide champion until he beats Calderon.

“This fight is very special to Giovani,” Segura’s manager Richard Mota told RingTV.com. “He knows that if he beats Calderon he will no longer be a titleholder, he’ll be a real champion, and that’s something he’s dreamed about for many years.”

Most fighters dream about one day becoming “the champ,” but it’s very rare for those few who do go on to win one of the many sanctioning-organization belts not to view themselves as a “real” champion.

Every prize fighter who considers himself to be a hardcore fan wishes to be recognized as “world champ” once he claims an alphabet title, even though he knows there are three to five other beltholders in his division claiming the same thing.

Not Segura. He respects the 108-pound belt he won by stopping Cesar Canchila in a wild rematch last March. In fact, he dropped to his knees and cried in the middle of the Mexicali ring when the bout was stopped at the end of the fourth round.

But that one belt is not enough to satisfy the lifelong boxing aficionado whose main ambition is to earn the respect of his fellow hardcore fans.

Which is why the Calderon fight, available in the U.S. on an Integrated Sports pay-per-view broadcast, is the realization of his dream.

“This fight separates me from being just another fighter with a belt,” Segura told RingTV.com. “If I win, it makes me a champ. That’s everything to me. The respect from beating a great champion like Calderon is everything to me. If I beat him, I won’t be just another fighter from Mexico, I’ll be the Mexican fighter. The kind that Mexican fans get behind. That’s what I want.”

He’s wanted it for quite some time. However, until now, Segura hasn’t had the opportunity to face an opponent who had enough respect or name-recognition to prove his mettle.

“There aren’t a lot names at junior flyweight, but Giovani has wanted to fight the few that are out there for the past three or four years,” Mota said. “He wanted to fight Brian Viloria. He was willing to travel to France to face Brahim Asloum. He wanted to fight the best Mexican belt holders, Edgar Sosa and Archie Solis. It never happened.

“But the fighter he wanted the most was Calderon, because Calderon is the best there is at junior flyweight. Calderon is compared to the great little fighters like [Ricardo] ‘Finito’ Lopez. That stuff gets Giovani excited.”

Segura seriously contemplated moving up to flyweight or even junior bantamweight in order to find a fitting rival. So when Calderon’s promoters, Peter and Ivan Rivera of PR Best Promotions, offered the fight, he didn’t even consider playing hardball during negotiations.

“I didn’t ask where the fight would take place or how much I was going to get paid, I just told Ricky to ‘do it,'” Segura said. “We agreed to everything they wanted, all the little details. Everything favors Calderon. And why not? He’s been around for years and he’s done nothing but win. He’s earned the right to get what he wants, and I’m happy to give it to him.”

Segura is such a fan he’s actually happy to fight Calderon, widely considered to be one of the top two or three pure boxers in the sport, in the crafty southpaw’s hometown.

“I’m enjoying every part of this fight,” Segura said. “The training and the travel. It’s the experiences that I want. I’m looking forward to going to Puerto Rico. There have been so many great fighters from the island, and one of them, Felix Trinidad, I’m going to get the chance to meet before the fight. I can’t wait. Meeting Tito, one of my all-time favorite fighters, is going to be like a fantasy vacation for me.”

The “vacation,” of course, will be over once Segura steps into the ring with Calderon, who has yet to lose a fight in his 9¾-year pro career.

The 35-year-old veteran, who is as slick as Segura is strong, has made 17 successful alphabet title defenses over two reigns — at strawweight and junior flyweight — including six defenses of THE RING 108-pound title he won from Hugo Cazares in August of 2007.

Segura is well aware of Calderon’s accomplishments and says he’s prepared for the most intense fight of his career.

“I’ve been in hard fights, but this one will test my mind as well as my body,” he said. “It’s going to be a mental fight because of his experience and skill. That’s what I’ve prepared for. He’s not expecting a smart fight from me. He probably thinks I’m less of a threat than Hugo Cazares was.”

Cazares, who currently holds a 115-pound belt, is probably the hardest puncher Calderon has faced. The giant junior flyweight dropped Calderon late in their first fight and pressed the Puerto Rican boxer hard enough to win on one of the official scorecards.

“I’m going to press Calderon the way Cazares did, but I’m not going to be wild like he was,” Segura said. “I’m going to be the smartest Giovani Segura I can be. I’ve focused on my legs and my reflexes for this fight because it’s all about tracking him down. I know I have the power to end it anytime I land clean, but I have to be patient.

“I can fight left-handed or right-handed, and I think that’s going to be a key in winning the fight. I’ve got 12 rounds to figure out what punches I can land and hurt him with. I’m going to find out what works and go with that, but it’s all about being patient.”

Hopefully, Segura won’t be so patient that the fight lacks the kind of excitement he usually brings to the ring. Not to worry, says Mota. There’s too much at stake for Segura not to show up.

“Belts aside, there’s a lot of pride on the line,” Mota said. “Cazares is Mexican, and he couldn’t beat Calderon on the island. The other top Mexicans, Sosa and Solis, wouldn’t go to Puerto Rico. Giovani won’t be intimidated fighting in Puerto Rico. He wouldn’t have it any other way. He wants to be the Mexican who beats Calderon in Puerto Rico.

“And beyond Mexican pride, there’s his dream. Calderon has a name. Giovani always wanted a name.”

If Segura realizes his dream on Saturday, his enthusiasm for the sport and his desire to be more than an average beltholder should be credited as much as his punching power.

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