Alberto Palmetta counts on a special source of inspiration for his upcoming bout against Rashidi Ellis
Argentine Olympian Alberto Palmetta will have a serious challenge in his hands on July 9th, when he will take on unbeaten welterweight contender Rashidi Ellis in a 10-round bout at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
But the once-beaten Palmetta (17-1, 12 knockouts) feels he has a secret trump card to get the W on this important date in his career.
Oddly enough, that card is the date itself.
“Fighting on a July 9th means a lot to me,” said Palmetta, in reference to the Argentine day of remembrance of the declaration of independence from Spain, which took place in 1816. “It’s hard to explain, because you need to live it. After representing your country in the Olympics and other international tournaments, and feeling the fraternity among athletes and an entire country supporting you, it’s difficult to explain the feeling other than saying it’s beautiful.”
Against the 29-year-old Ellis (23-0, 14 KOs), Palmetta will need all the mojo that he can conjure. The 32-year-old represented his home country at the 2016 Olympics before turning pro in November 2016, and has since won his last 11 fights.
He aims to complete the full dozen against Ellis during the undercard of the WBC featherweight title bout between Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo and his mandatory contender Rey Vargas this coming Saturday, and according to Palmetta, things are going just as planned.
“Those who know me know that I live in the gym, 24/7. Whether I have a fight or not, I am always in the gym training. I love what I do,” said Palmetta, born and raised in Beccar, a suburb of the sprawling Greater Buenos Aires within the municipality of San Isidro. “It’s been great to see the benefits of having taken the decision that I took in 2018, to change course and move to the US to train with the best in the world. I always said that in order to be the best you have to train and fight with the best. You need to shine among the great ones, and they are all here in the US.”
As a relatively late-starter in boxing, Palmetta thought he’d spend his entire career in the amateur circuit, where the combination of government grants and other steady support makes it easier for a fighter to fully focus on the sport instead of dealing with the other, more unpleasing aspects of professional boxing. But he did make the jump once he felt his duties with his country had been fulfilled.
“I didn’t delay anything, it was a personal choice,” said Palmetta, about his decision to turn pro at 26 after realizing his big dream of becoming an Olympian. “But all that extra experience led to me becoming the person I am now, a mature boxer and athlete. I was also studying during all that time to become a physical education teacher. No one handed out anything to me.
“Usually in Argentina people start boxing later in life, so turning pro at 20 years old is difficult. In many other countries they go to the Olympics at a very young age and then they turn pro, but they started out at 10 years-old. But in Argentina it’s not very common. That’s how I started. I started boxing when I was 14 and had my first amateur fight at 16, and when I was 18 years-old I made it to the national team. And I thought ‘this is what I want to do, I want to excel as an Olympic boxer.’ And it took me a while to accept the idea of turning pro, because it is a beautiful thing to represent your country in an international competition against the elite of each country.”
All the experience and the preparation and the previous losses he endured in the amateur ranks, however, couldn’t prepare Palmetta for his first loss as a pro, which happened in his seventh pro outing.
“I think I took advantage of that loss, in the best possible way,” said Palmetta about his 5th round KO loss against Gonzalo Coria in Uruguay, in a six-rounder that he was largely dominating. “I lost by stoppage, and I accepted it. But everyone knows how the fight was going. I had dropped my opponent, I was doing well. I was not taking a beating. I would have thought differently if I had been receiving a beating in that fight, but it was just a tough hand that I took because I was underestimating professional boxing as a discipline back then, coming from the Olympic system with a lot of confidence, a few achievements, experience, etc. And the truth is that they are two completely different sports. I came to accept that and respect that fact after that fight. That’s when I said ‘I have to make a change.’ And also, before that fight I was losing my motivation. I was like ‘should I leave this behind?’”
He didn’t. And on the contrary, he doubled down on his initial bet and decided to leave everything behind to move to Florida, where he continued his career under the same premise of his old amateur days: anyone, anytime, anywhere.
“In my six years as a professional fighter, and with my promoter Sampson Lewkowicz as a witness I can tell you this, that I never turned down an opponent. I carry this tradition from my Olympic days, where you don’t have the luxury of choosing your opponents. I have that chip installed in me,” said Palmetta, who claims he didn’t study his opponent until he signed a contract to face him.
“He is 23-0, but his opponents are now well-known, except for one or two. I’ve seen videos of him having trouble with fighters who were not exactly at his same level, technically speaking. What I see is that since he was always with a promoter like Golden Boy he is always having more exposure than me. It’s logical. But on paper, it’s an even fight.
“I believe he’s a solid fighter. His main asset is his speed. But I don’t see a big puncher there, but in that regard, it doesn’t have a lot to do whether you are a big puncher or not, but rather finding the right moment to strike. I believe it’s a very competitive fight, and I am really excited. It’s going to be a great fight. I am going to come out to fight. With a fighter like Ellis, who grew used to looking good in the ring, the best thing you can do is make him feel uncomfortable, and my characteristics are strength and intelligence in the ring.”
His strategy seems clear enough for a guy who is just beginning to analyze Ellis’ style.
“I feel that I will be able to hurt him. I want to win, and I will go out looking to put pressure on him. As you know, I am a very physical fighter and I am always in great shape. I see a long fight ahead of me. He has been dropped before, and you can tell he feels the punches. If I can connect the way I want to, that could change everything. But I see a war of attrition, especially against a fighter who depends so much on his speed. He won’t be able to sustain that speed if I punish him the way I want to. In the fights that I’ve seen, his resilience drops noticeably after four or five rounds. Being patient is key, because he has fast hands and if you make mistakes he’ll make you pay for them.”
And if all of that fails, there’s always the patriotism card under Palmetta’s sleeve. And he intends to use it.
“I am here now representing my Argentine flag like I always do after being eight years in the national team, where I was a team captain for a while. I hope that everyone in Argentina feels proud of me, seeing me toiling in darkness, in the gym, where only a few people see our work. And now everyone will have an opportunity to see the fruits of that labor on Independence Day.”
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He also wrote for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and other outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing