Friday, June 14, 2024  |



For underdog John Bauza, Richardson Hitchins stands between him and title contention

Bauza at Thursday's press conference. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Fighters Network

John Bauza knows the score. He’s smart enough to see that he’s the underdog in this fight against Richardson Hitchins, despite both fighters having unbeaten records. Matchroom Boxing, which promotes Hitchins, has big plans for the 2016 Haitian Olympian that are contingent upon Hitchins winning.

It’s a position that Bauza feels he’s been in before, when he was overlooked as part of Top Rank’s deep roster. The 24-year-old says he felt like his back was against the wall against Michael Williams Jr. and Tony Luis, both of whom he defeated at Madison Square Garden.

“I was always the underdog so it’s nothing new to me,” said the southpaw Bauza (17-0, 7 knockouts), who is now a promotional free agent.

Bauza is hoping to pull off a third straight win at The Garden in the ten-round bout, which will take place this Saturday at The Theater on the Amanda Serrano-Erika Cruz Hernandez card, live on DAZN.

Bauza is familiar with Hitchins (15-0, 7 KOs), who trains out of the NYC Cops and Kids Boxing Club in his native Brooklyn, N.Y. The southpaw Bauza has known Hitchins since they were amateurs, and even sparred with him a couple times a year ago.

“He’s a talented fighter, he moves a lot, he uses his angles, he has a good jab. He’s a good fighter,” said Bauza, who grew up in North Bergen, N.J. but now lives and trains in Cataño in his native Puerto Rico.

“For what I know, he’s not gonna stand in front of me and fight. He’s gonna be technical, he’s gonna using his jab, he’s gonna be moving around and try not to get hit because that’s his style.”

Bauza’s manager, David McWater of Split-T Management, says this was a matchup that they have wanted for a long time.

“We begged for it. We think it’s a great matchup for him,” said McWater, who adds that Matchroom Boxing will have options on Bauza after this fight.

While Hitchins is starting over with the first fight of a three-fight deal, Bauza too is beginning a new chapter in his career. He relocated from New Jersey to Cataño on the island’s northeast coast shortly after his last fight, a unanimous decision over Luis in March. It’s always warm there, which makes it much easier to make the 140-pound division, and he gets to be close to his family.

He was raised in Puerto Rico until the age of 9, when his family looked for a new start for the rambunctious Bauza.

“I was doing pretty bad in school, I was kind of a troublemaker. I had ADHD, I got kicked out of three schools in Puerto Rico,” said the 24-year-old Bauza.

Bauza’s father and trainer Juan Bauza had been an amateur boxer himself, but resisted bringing his son to the gym. He finally gave in and began training his son at the Union City Boxing Club in New Jersey, leading him to a 178-8 amateur record and championship wins at the USA Youth National Championships, Diamond Gloves, Regional Golden Gloves and Ringside World Championships.

It was at the USA Youth National Championships in 2016 when McWater first took note of Bauza, who won the Best Boxer award at the tournament over Ryan Garcia, Marc Castro, Keyshawn Davis and Richard Torrez Jr.

McWater, who is in his fourth fight as Bauza’s manager, says bigger things are on the way if he gets past this test.

“If he wins it, he’s a contender immediately,” said McWater. “I think he’ll be positioned into some kind of title eliminator and try to get a title shot. He’s ready for that kind of thing.”

Bauza agrees.

“This is a huge opportunity. When I win this fight this will probably put me in the top 5 of the rankings to fight for a belt,” said Bauza.

Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].