Antonio Orozco eager to face well-traveled Steve Forbes
The first boxing match that Antonio Orozco can remember watching was the first meeting between Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez when he was nine years old.
The bout was a contrast of polarizing opposites; the rugged Mexican living legend in the twilight of his career versus the flashy Mexican-American “Golden Boy” who was in the process of authoring his own legendary career.
As is usually the case in boxing, youth prevailed and De La Hoya won his third world title that night.
Orozco, now a 26-year-old junior welterweight prospect, is hoping that same paradigm prevails when he faces older veteran Steve Forbes at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, on Friday on Fox Sports 1.
Forbes, who is 11 years older than Orozco at 37, has only won three of his last 13 bouts dating back to 2006 but he is a savvy former world titleholder at 130 pounds who has fought many of the top names in the sport – including de la Hoya.
“When they first mentioned to us that Forbes was looking more like a possibility, I was excited. I was star struck, he was a fighter I’d seen coming up on The Contender series,” said Orozco (20-0, 15 knockouts), who was born in Tecate, Mexico but now resides in San Diego, Calif.
“I even got to watch him fight Oscar De La Hoya. He’s a very experienced fighter, very crafty. I’m sure there’s nothing in the books that he doesn’t know.”
In Forbes (35-13, 11 KOs), Orozco is facing his most accomplished opponent to date, and a win would solidify himself as among the top up-and-coming 140-pounders in the world. But, as experience has taught him, taking even a past-prime opponent for granted can have disastrous consequences.
This past January Orozco learned that lesson when he faced Miguel Angel Huerta, a respectable veteran who was one fight removed from a five-year layoff. Orozco came on strong, pressing his foe before a left hook to the chin stopped him dead in his tracks – and almost stopped Orozco in the fight.
Orozco rebounded quickly the next round, dropping Huerta before pounding his opponent to force a technical knockout.
The high-stakes individuality of boxing wasn’t the first sport that Orozco gravitated towards. Growing up in Garden City, Kansas, Orozco first picked up soccer.
“I just couldn’t deal with the whole team sports concept,” Orozco said. “If a couple of guys had a bad night then the whole team had a bad night.”
Orozco grew up the oldest of four children to a father who was an operating manager for an asphalt and pavement company and a mother who was a regional manager for Avon cosmetics and also worked with the Garden City prosecutor’s office.
“My parents are both hard-working, they’ve always provided me and my three younger siblings with everything we needed. To this day I can still count on my parents,” said Orozco.
While still in elementary school, Orozco was introduced to boxing at a fundraiser event, and with his father’s blessing he stuck with it. He enrolled in the Garden City Boxing Club, where he’d work alongside pre-teens Victor Ortiz and Brandon Rios.
“We were all very young, 10, 11. Who would’ve thought that the three of us would be in the position that we are now?” remarks Orozco. “Victor got his break to move to Oxnard with the Garcias and then Brandon followed shortly after.”
Orozco’s journey would be different. He continued boxing, winning state tournaments in a 100-fight amateur career but falling short at the national level. He remained in Kansas and fulfilled his parents’ wishes of graduating high school. Afterwards, he set his sights westward and a career in the paid ranks.
“My ticket out of Kansas was my high school diploma with my parents. I gave them my diploma and they gave me full support to go to California,” said Orozco, who himself is a father of two.
Orozco first stopped by Los Angeles to live with an aunt before heading south of the border to Baja California, Mexico to stay with an uncle. Every day Orozco and his uncle would drive an hour across the border to San Diego to train before linking up with Carlos Barragan Sr. and Jr., who would end up training him.
Orozco turned professional in 2008 and within two years had hooked up with manager Frank Espinoza and promoter Golden Boy Promotions. Fighting under De La Hoya’s company enabled him to appear on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s pay-per-view event against Miguel Cotto in 2012, where Orozco knocked out Dillet Frederick in three rounds.
The Forbes fight won’t be his first bout against a well-traveled opponent. In his latest outing in May, Orozco shut out former title contender Martin Honorio. Standing 5-foot-9, Orozco was short enough to pressure the taller Honorio while staying under his jabs but long enough to connect with counterpunches that may have otherwise fallen short.
Forbes’ recent win-loss record may not be impressive, but Orozco’s physicality isn’t likely to over-awe him. “Two Pounds” has spent most of this year dodging the unorthodox, nuclear haymakers of Marcos Maidana in sparring for each of “Chino’s” fights with Mayweather.
Forbes has only been stopped once in his 18-year career (in 2011 against Karim Mayfield) and a win inside the distance will be something that will stick his name in the back of boxing fans’ minds.
“My job is not necessarily to try to stop him and retire him; I’m going to get a win,” says Orozco. “I think a win and a good performance will speak volumes.”
Should he get past Forbes, Orozco feels he’d be ready to face a ranked opponent in a fight with higher stakes. Orozco knows, however, that many upstart careers have been derailed by looking past the battle-worn veteran in front of them.
“I also have to remember that this is an opportunity for Steve Forbes to show that he still has something in the tank. Whoever has the best night will win.”