Could Michel Rivera be the next Julian Jackson?
He is tough to miss. When he’s not hitting a heavy bag, or a speed bag, or sparring, he’s talking. Constantly.
Everyone seems to know where Michel Rivera is in the Caicedo Sports Training Center, in Miami, Florida, which houses eight dormitories.
If they don’t follow Rivera’s rhythmic speedbag pounding, they can always follow his happy-go-lucky voice.
But the gifted 23-year-old Dominican Republican lightweight, clad in Muhammad Ali’s classic black-and-white trunks and even wore Ali’s classic flat top haircut, found himself someplace new last Saturday night—on his back for the first time.
Rivera (21-0, 13 knockouts) discovered he could overcome adversity. He rose from a six-round knockdown to knockout hard-hitting Jon Fernandez in the eighth on Saturday night on the Showtime Championship Boxing PBC fight card from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
“Fernandez punched hard but he really didn’t knock me that down, he caught me off balance,” Rivera said through manager and trainer German Caicedo. “I was getting him with the right hand and I hit him five, six times and German told me he would come out like a bat out of hell in the seventh after he knocked me down in the sixth.
“German kept telling to throw the straight hand. I got up, but I was never hurt. I think getting knockdown proved I could take a punch. You learn from it, and I think I did. I believe that I’m in a great position now in the lightweight class. I have the skills. I have ability. I’m in a position in the WBA and let’s see where that goes.
“I’m in the best position in my career. I don’t want to just look like Muhammad Ali. I want to be a world champion like he was. I want to fight (WBA interim lightweight titlist) Rollie Romero next. If he doesn’t want to fight, give up the belt and I’ll fight who I have to for that. I’m ready right now to make a move.”
Rivera looked like Baby Muhammad Ali against Fernandez (21-2, 18 KOs).
But Caicedo said Rivera’s punching power reminds him of power punching Julian Jackson.
“The one-two that Michel knocked out Fernandez was a little bit like Julian Jackson, and how he froze people standing up with his power,” Caicedo said. “Michel has the high-top fade like Julian Jackson, and that Michel reminded of three great fighters, Muhammad Ali, Julian Jackson and Felix Trinidad.”
Said Rivera as what could be in his future, he said, “I can fight with Ryan Garcia, I can fight with Teofimo Lopez, and I’m not joking. I know that I can fight with any of the top five in the lightweight division. I live in the gym and I have made the sacrifices to be great and I have a great team behind me.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.
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