Heiland beats Abalos, aims to restart his career in 2016
After several failed negotiations to meet some of the top middleweights in the world, Jorge Sebastian Heiland returned to action on Saturday, Sept. 19 to demolish Claudio Ariel Abalos in six rounds in what amounted to mere target practice while the Argentinean awaits for bigger challenges down the road.
“I’ve been away for 10 months but I’ve always stayed training and I continue getting ready with another fight in Argentina while we wait for bigger fights. At least three or four fights were talked about and canceled,” said Heiland, adding that he was offered fights with the likes of IBF titlist David Lemieux, WBA beltholder Gennady Golovkin, Tureano Johnson and RING champion Miguel Cotto, only to be snubbed at the last minute for unexplained reasons.
Even though he is known for his gentlemanly demeanor (including an episode in which he raised the hand of his opponent Sergio Sanders after the judges had awarded Heiland the victory, graciously acknowledging defeat in a heated and controversial clash in May 2011), Heiland has grown increasingly restless lately at what he perceives as his handlers’ inability to land him the title shot he feels he deserves since his dramatic win over Matthew Macklin last November.
“It really angered me,” said Heiland about his prolonged inactivity in what many perceive as the pinnacle of his career so far, “because I had always dreamed of a chance like this one with the ones who are on top, who are up there at the best level, and it’s depressing. But like I said, instead of feeling down or stop training, this adversity gives me more strength to go on.”
Heiland (26-4-2, 14 knockouts), an awkward and heavy-handed southpaw, had the best win of his career when he stopped Macklin, in the latter’s hometown of Dublin, Ireland, with a highlight-reel right hook to the head. But he has sat idle since then, with several names mentioned as possible opponents but no fights in the horizon in spite of having earned the top spot in the WBC rankings with the Macklin win.
Fighting this time in Necochea, close to his countryside hometown of Pigu├®, Heiland disposed of South American champ Abalos (29-14-3, 8 KOs) in destructive fashion, using his longer reach and better power to produce a dominating performance against one of the very few challenges remaining for him at the local level. Heiland dropped Abalos with a straight left hand, forcing the stoppage when Abalos rose on wobbly legs at the count of eight.
Heiland: “I believe my career is just starting now”
Even though he frowns upon hearing the comparisons, it is undeniable that the 28-year-old Heiland talks, walks, looks, boxes and even gestures in ways that are clearly reminiscent of his countryman and former RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
“It is flattering,” says Heiland regarding the recurring comparisons. “We all know that Sergio is a great person and a great fighter. I do believe we’re a little bit different. I can’t compare myself to anyone. I would love to be like Sergio, like [Marcos] Maidana or [Lucas] Matthysse, all those boxers who give a great impression for the country every time they fight abroad, and I hope to be a part of that list of great fighters sometime in the future.”
“I believe I am more of a fighter,” adds Heiland. “Sergio Martinez was more of a boxer. I like to brawl. I am more of a “toe-to-toe” guy. I have trained with his uncle Raul [Paniagua] and there were fights in which his style rubbed off on me a little bit but I then realized my style is not so similar and not all of us can be Sergio Martinez.”
Just like Martinez, this blue-eyed descendant of German farmers who settled in the Argentine wetlands in the early 20th century, has felt the pressure to make a “return trip” to the land of his forefathers in search of better prospects.
But unlike Martinez (who resettled in Spain to jump-start his career after suffering from a chronic lack of opportunities in Argentina before becoming a champion) and other fellow countrymen like Marcos Maidana, Jesus Cuellar and a host of other young contenders trying their luck in the US and Europe more recently, Heiland believes he can still fight his way toward stardom out of the modest surroundings of his life in Gonzalez Catan, a suburb of the city of Buenos Aires.
Still, he is fully aware that the actual fighting will have to be done abroad if he is ever to attain the level of success of his predecessors.
“I am fighting here because, after a year of inactivity, I have to fight anywhere but if I could fight abroad again, I would do it, no problem,” said Heiland, who is already familiar with the heartbreak of failing to win a title away from home after losing to Sebastian Zbik in Germany back in July 2010, meaning he also failed to capitalize on the additional motivation of fighting in his ancestral land.
But that was during a time when Heiland’s commitment to the sport was limited by his ability to make a living in it. He worked in construction sites, in a hardware store, in a water-filtering facility, in a farm and many other places just to make ends meet. And his sacrifice made him understand the type of commitment necessary to make it all the way to the championship.
“I believe that all the fighters I named took the same road; they started at the bottom and made their way all to the top the hard way. In England, in South Africa or wherever, those guys had to win at any cost in order to be world champions. I am working towards that goal and I am getting ready for that challenge,” said Heiland, who is now focused fully on boxing after moving to Buenos Aires one year ago.
“I believe my career is just starting now. After moving to Buenos Aires, I believe that’s where my real career started,” said the fighter, who also credits his trainer and father-in-law Luis Alegre for his success, as well as the interaction he enjoys with his wife and female boxer Fernanda Alegre.
“She is a terrific partner; we complement each other very well,” said Heiland about his spouse, who currently holds the WBO female junior welterweight title that she has defended in 12 occasions over two separate reigns. “We both know what we’re talking about when we talk about work. We’ve had partners that didn’t have to go through what we go through. Now, with a person who does the same as I do, we get along very well.”
In a talent-laden middleweight division, Heiland has the potential to make a splash if given the right matchups, something he hopes to see happening in the near future.
“It is very strong right now,” says Heiland about his weight class. “Starting with Golovkin and the rest is awesome too. Lemieux, Canelo [Alvarez], who is also going up in weight to 160, Cotto, who is a great boxer, and many other fighters.”
Still, Heiland hopes the “catchweight fever” that is taking over the division will not ruin his chances of getting his long-overdue new title shot.
“I have to make an effort to get to the weight but I make it, no problem,” says Heiland about his ability to eventually get down to a lower, intermediate weight. “I would make my best effort to get the fight first and then I would make the effort to make weight. In any case, if the fight is for the middleweight title, there’s no reason to fight at a lower weight but that’s an arrangement between Cotto and Canelo, in this case. But I would fight anyone, really. Anybody in the top 10 is fine with me. I would be proud to face any of those guys because they are great fighters and they’ll help me grow as a fighter if I face them.”
Diego Morilla, a bilingual boxing writer since 1995, is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He served as boxing writer for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com, and is now a regular contributor to RingTV.com and HBO.com, as well as the resident boxing writer for XNSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing