Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Q&A: Fernando Saucedo

Fernando Saucedo (L) fighting Chris John for the WBA featherweight title in 2010. Saucedo lost by unanimous decision. Photo by BAY ISMOYO - Getty Images.

Fernando Saucedo (L) fighting Chris John for the WBA featherweight title in 2010. Saucedo lost by unanimous decision. Photo by BAY ISMOYO – Getty Images.

Hardship and bad luck are part of every boxer’s DNA, but in the case of Fernando Saucedo (who will be seen this Saturday on Showtime facing Rances Barthelemy in Connecticut), they appear to play an even larger role in his personal story.

Born in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1982, “The Basque” is a throwback to the old neighborhood idol, the kid who earned his respect on the streets and made it all the way to the national boxing team without neglecting his roots.

After fighting in the national team alongside names such as Hugo Garay, Omar Narvaez, Mariano Carrera and other future and former champions, he embarked on a pro career in which he managed to score only one KO in 30 fights. But his polished boxing style earned him a place in the rankings, and soon enough he was given a title shot against featherweight incumbent Chris John in Indonesia in 2010. He lost, but he was planning to finally build his home with the purse money after arriving back in Argentina. But 10 days later, his 58-year-old father, Daniel, who had been in his son’s corner in every one of his fights, suddenly died of a heart attack. Daniel had either stashed or deposited the purse money so well that Fernando was unable to find it, and he was left to start over again with the help of his brother, Marcelo, who changed Fernando’s fighting style completely to make him into the aggressive, heavy puncher he is today.

Saucedo was supposed to have another big chance when he was scheduled to face Wales’ Gary Buckland on the 2013 card headlined by Sergio Martinez vs. Martin Murray in a 45,000-seat soccer stadium. Due to the heavy rain that fell that day on Buenos Aires, the schedule of the event was altered, and Saucedo-Buckland was demoted to the category of swing bout, waiting for an early KO to make room for it in the undercard. When this did not materialize, Saucedo’s fight was pushed back to the walk-out bout position, and that’s when bad luck struck again. The ring of the event had collapsed under the weight of a few dozen hangers-on who managed to climb through the ropes to celebrate Martinez’s victory. With no ring to support it, and both the live crowd and the TV crew fleeing the freezing rain at midnight, Saucedo’s hope of a nationally televised chance in his homeland simply disappeared.

The 32 year-old Saucedo still lives in the town of Florencio Varela, in which he grew up selling cleaning supplies door to door with his dad and then training at night at the local soccer club, Defensa y Justicia, where he still trains for every one of his fights. He holds no grudge against Martinez for the fiasco, and, on the contrary, he credits him for bringing respect to Argentine boxing and for hooking him up with Sampson Lewkowicz, his new promoter. Under Lewkowicz’s guidance, the new and improved Saucedo scored seven KOs in the 14 fights after the death of his father, and is now hoping that his newfound power will finally help him grab the biggest prize of all, which in this case is Barthelemy’s IBF junior lightweight belt. sat down with Saucedo (52-5-3, 8 KOs) prior to his trip to the U.S., and this is what he shared with us:

Diego Morilla: What do you know about your opponent?

Fernando Saucedo: I know what everyone knows: he’s Cuban, and most Cuban fighters are technically gifted. He won the title against Argenis Mendez, even though their first fight was very controversial, and he had won other controversial decisions before. I know he is a good fighter, but he has only 20 fights, and for me that could be one of the keys: his lack of experience.

DM: How did this opportunity come about? What did people see in you this time around that made them decide to give you a second chance?

FS: I think that it was a change in my style, which became noticeable when my father died and I was left with my brother, Marcelo. I had decided to quit boxing, and later we decided to continue. Then, 10 days after my father died, I fought (Ricardo) Chamorro, and I said, “If we’re going to continue, we’re going to change 100 percent.” And just like with any other process, I cannot go from boxing one day to being a brawler the next day. I believe everything takes a process. We are still on it, and we need more work. But the change is noticeable. In the past 14 fights, half of them were stoppages when I was not scoring KOs before, and against opponents that I had been unable to stop before. And I believe this influenced a lot, just as winning the [WBC junior lightweight] silver title did (against Sergio Medina in August 2013), and the televised fights have helped me to gain some attention, and I believe my promoter, Sampson Boxing, has helped a lot as well.

DM: How would you describe the change in your style?

FS: The change took place because my father had a way of doing things, a way of seeing things, and my brother is different, that’s it. My dad always acted like any other father would: protecting his son and keeping him from getting into tough exchanges. Instead, my brother said, “Well, if we have to get hurt, we will, because this is boxing and if we continue like this we’ll never make it anywhere,” and he was right. And we decided to take more risks even though this caused me a few cuts and bruises that I wasn’t used to getting, but everything was worth it to get to this moment. This is going to be the right fight for me, and if we have to get cut and bruised, we will. We are prepared for that.

DM: You have the emotional charge, the support, the training. What is the last thing you need for this fight to be perfect?

FS: I think the work has been done already. One thing that is key for me is making weight, not being dehydrated or weak, not having to drain myself in the last few days before the fight, and I think we are not going to have problems with that. My nutritionist is working with me on this and we’re right on track. But making weight is always a key factor in order to be strong and be able to recover quickly during the fight. It’s going to be a long fight, and not being well-fed or well-rested could lead to problems. I believe that’s all I need to pay attention to.

DM: Lately, thanks to the big names making a splash in the big scene, Argentine fighters continue to be called up to fight in the States in big events, win or lose. What’s your place in the current streak of success of Argentine boxing? Do you see yourself as one of the next guys who will make it big?

FS: That’s what I am talking about. This whole thing gives me more confidence. There are other Argentine fighters who are in another level, like (Marcos) Maidana, (Lucas) Matthysse, (Sergio) Martinez, as well as (Jesus) Cuellar who is coming up, just like (Diego) Chaves. Those guys are at a higher level, and then there’s the rest of us, guys who are hungry. I know that in order to get a fight in the U.S. and be called up again you need to go to war. Sometimes you don’t need to win to be remembered and be called up again, but I am not going up there with that mentality of just giving a great show and that’s it. It would be a mediocre attitude for me. I am aiming to make my dream come true and come back with everything. I want to step down from the ring having left everything there, and if I can’t win, maybe it’s because of a matter of styles.

DM: Argentines are seen differently now, they are probably seen as guys who have to be watched and who are dangerous. Does this generate extra pressure for you?

FS: Of course, we are more respected now. Thanks to the guys I just mentioned, we are being taken more seriously. They have made Argentine boxing to be respected much more today, and they don’t take us up there just to lose and look good anymore. They see us differently. They know they have to watch out for us, and this helps us a lot mentally.

DM: Once again, you’re facing a unique opportunity to reach for your dream. What are your feelings on this title bout?

FS: From the first moment I heard about the fight it’s been happiness. Going to bed after working so hard every night knowing that the day is closer and closer makes me happy, and anxious as well. Anxious and hoping there will be no problems this time, because with my luck you never know. So far, so good.