Last July, Vicente Escobedo’s face was on fire. Nonetheless, the junior lightweight contender clenched his teeth and presented one-month-old Milana with the simplicity of a satisfied smile as he cradled her in his arms.
Though suffering from a broken nose and deviated septum, the proud papa from Woodland was happily engrossed in quality time with his daughter. Based on his previous outing in his day job where he chose to fight at a major size disadvantage rather than lose out on a six-figure paycheck, no one can question the lengths “Chente” will go to provide for his family.
“If it was just me, personally, I would have walked away,” said Escobedo (NorCal No. 7; 26-4, 15 KOs), a 2004 U.S. Olympian who returns to the ring Saturday against Edner Cherry in Atlantic City’s famed Boardwalk Hall.
This past summer, the 130-pound Escobedo arrived in Cincinnati in the shape of his life to challenge hometown hero Adrien Broner for the WBO version of the junior lightweight title. However, during the weigh-in the day before the fight, Broner was stripped of the belt after he tipped the scales at 133.5 pounds—a whopping three and a half pounds over the contracted limit. Then, in sheer audacity, Broner refused a second attempt at making weight, reportedly drinking water in the meantime to rehydrate.
The following day, a disgusted Escobedo watched as Broner had ballooned to 148 pounds with mere hours remaining before the fight. (Escobedo had risen to 140 pounds overnight, as fighters are allowed to return to their regular dietary routines at the conclusion of the weigh-in.)
In most industries, one party’s gross misconduct would make it a clear no-brainer for the aggrieved side to refuse to perform. However, this is boxing, a sport devoid of many guarantees except one: If you don’t work, you don’t eat, unprofessionalism be damned.
Combine that factor with Escobedo’s wife Valerie giving birth to Milana, their first child, just one month prior to the bout, and the fighter was cornered into quite the quandary.
When Escobedo’s manager Rolando Arellano wisely negotiated with promoter Golden Boy and HBO to double his already career-high original purse of $150,000 (as well as raise his minimum purse for his next fight), the resolution to finally accept the bout was easier—but the former Olympian’s body would surely pay the price.
“What made me change my mind was thinking about my wife and my daughter,” Escobedo said. “And also, while it wasn’t just about the money—if I stepped away I wouldn’t have any money, period, so yeah, that was a concern, too—it was about the principle as well. In the end, we went ahead with the decision.”
When Broner entered the ring, he was technically two weight classes heavier than his foe. The size discrepancy was apparent from the opening bell as the sublimely skilled but much bigger rival effortlessly walked through Escobedo’s punches and bullied him into the ropes.
By the fifth round, Escobedo had been on the receiving end of one too many shots, and trainer Joel Diaz mercifully waved off the one-sided beating. Despite the obvious lack of a fair fight, one won’t hear any excuses on the NorCal boxer’s end.
“I fought as hard as I could, but it was just that Adrien Broner was the stronger, faster, better fighter that night,” Escobedo said.
Following the defeat to Broner, Escobedo sought consultation for surgery to repair his broken nose and deviated septum. After months of recovery and getting back into shape, he is ready for Cherry (30-6-2, 16 KOs), a heavy-handed puncher from Florida. Like Escobedo, the “Cherry Bomb” is a former world title challenger who is hungry to climb back to main event status.
Escobedo has a trump card in his deck; reigning welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley, who also trains in Coachella under Diaz, defeated Cherry four years ago and has been sharing tips on his upcoming adversary’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Got some great sparring today with Timothy Bradley. Feb. 16th in Atlantic City it’s on!” Escobedo said on Twitter.
As fate would have it, the Atlantic City card headline bout will feature Broner, who has since ascended to the 135-pound lightweight limit, won the WBC world title, and will now defend it for the first time against Welshman Gavin Rees.
While Escobedo’s fight is scheduled to be off-TV, Broner will once again appear on HBO (10:30 p.m. PT). Fighting for respect and another opportunity to crash the 130-pound rankings, “Chente” has all the motivation he needs to show the network suits in attendance that he deserves another shot at the big time.
DONAIRE FILMS McDONALD’S AD, FIGHT STILL UP IN THE AIR
Despite Top Rank president Todd DuBoef informing MaxBoxing.com that junior featherweight world champion Nonito Donaire would open his 2013 campaign against Guillermo Rigondeaux on Apr. 13 in New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, the San Leandro star has been mum in announcing he has signed the contract.
Regardless if the bout comes to fruition, Donaire (NorCal No. 2, 31-1, 20 KOs) will be in the Big Apple on Apr. 11 because the Boxing Writers Association of America will present him with their Sugar Ray Robinson Award for Fighter of the Year at their annual banquet.
This week was eventful for Donaire in more ways than one. On Wednesday night, McDonald’s released a 30-second spot on their Philippine-affiliated YouTube channel that featured the fighter eating the company’s signature French fries.
The fighter took to Twitter to talk about his experience, posting: “Great people and I can't wait to work with them again! I can't thank McDonald's [enough].”
“I must admit, the McDonald's family—from the head people to the director to the stylist—they were all great,” added Donaire’s wife, Rachel, who is due to give birth to their first child this summer.
Before moving to San Leandro as an adolescent, Donaire was born in the Philippines and grew up in General Santos City, the same hometown as Manny Pacquiao. In fact, Donaire’s mother, Imelda, an elementary school teacher, had a young Pacquiao in her class.
The ad is not Donaire’s first foray into the acting game. Last year, he starred in a Filipino film called Ta Ang Nagbuot (Our Fate Decides). The script was in Donaire’s native Bisaya language, which differs from the Filipino national language of Tagalog. (He speaks both of them fluently.)
[RELATED: VIDEO -- Donaire shows off acting skills on Chronicle Live]
The irony is that while there is no doubt Donaire is the most accomplished fighter at the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos, he isn’t the first member there to land a McDonald’s deal. Amateur flyweight Marlen Esparza, who received pointers from Donaire before the 2012 Olympics, had her own commercial with the fast-food chain leading up to her trip to London, where she won bronze.
After watching the spot on the internet, Esparza chimed in with her own review.
“I really like it. It’s funny!” she told CSNBayArea.com.
Watch Donaire's commercial here.
BIKA-SJEKLOCA WINNER IN LINE FOR WARD
Speaking of Saturday’s HBO card, while Broner will headline against Rees, the original co-feature between heavyweights Johnathon Banks and Seth Mitchell fell through when Banks sustained a broken right thumb in sparring last week.
As a result, promoter Golden Boy and power-wielding adviser Al Haymon used their powers of persuasion with the network to replace the bout with Australia’s Sakio Bika (30-5-2, 21 KOs) versus Montenegro’s Nikola Sjekloca (25-0, 7 KOs) in a WBC super middleweight world title eliminator.
So why should you, the Northern California boxing fan, care about this fight? The answer is that the winner becomes the mandatory challenger to Oakland’s Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (NorCal No. 1; 26-0, 14 KOs), the reigning WBC titleholder and universally recognized champion of the division.
Ward, who has been rehabilitating his injured right shoulder at Active Care San Francisco with renowned specialist Lisa Giannone, will then have the option of defending the belt upon his return or vacating it. While Ward has not faced the unheralded Sjekloca in the past, the East Bay star had his way with Bika two years ago in a lopsided decision victory at Oracle Arena.
“We have not even begun to entertain the idea of who Andre will fight next,” said Dan Goossen, Ward’s promoter. “Right now the focus is on getting that shoulder back to normal so he can continue his dominance over the sport.”
Ward also holds the WBA and Ring Magazine’s versions of the 168-pound world title, and in this era of fragmentation, the champion makes the belt, not the other way around. Other fighters may have straps around their waist, but the truth is that the division is Ward’s until the moment he decides to move up to light heavyweight.
Thus, if “S.O.G.” opts for a different challenge, he can’t be blamed. At this point in the prime of his career, marquee matchups and paydays are and should be his priority, especially since he has eviscerated all comers so far.
WBC PREZ: MAYWEATHER-GUERRERO NEGOTIATIONS ONGOING
While the WBC endeavors to sort things out at super middleweight, its president, the controversial Jose Sulaiman, hopes that his two top welterweights—titleholder Floyd “Money” Mayweather and interim titleholder Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero—will finally agree to a contract for a May 4 pay-per-view showdown at the Las Vegas MGM Grand.
Last week, Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) stated through social media that he was close to striking a deal to fight IBF titleholder Devon Alexander—and not Guerrero (NorCal P4P No. 3; 31-1-1, 18 KOs), a Gilroy native.
The utterance sent shockwaves of skepticism through the boxing world, especially since every publication of note had reported that Team Mayweather and Guerrero’s handlers at Golden Boy had been negotiating for months, with no mention of Alexander during the process. In fact, sources within Golden Boy confirmed to CSNBayArea.com that the two sides had commenced talks as early as last November.
“Based on what I've always known, there are ongoing negotiations with [Mayweather and] Guerrero—and it's a mandatory fight for both…All I know is that [Mayweather is] going to fight Guerrero, and everything else is just unverifiable,” Sulaiman told BoxingScene.com.
Sulaiman, who has been known to use his influence to “gently push” for a fight or two to happen during his 37-plus years in power, is pretty clear what he wants—and that can only be a good sign for “The Ghost”, who certainly doesn’t wish for this golden opportunity to disappear.
The appropriately dubbed “Money” Mayweather had a $32 million base guarantee for his last fight against Miguel Cotto last May, with other revenue streams, such a cut from the American pay-per-view sales, inflating that number to at least $45 million, according to Forbes.com.
Guerrero broke the $1 million mark for the first time in his career in his brutal win over Andre Berto three months ago, and his figure for this fight has yet to be determined.
If Mayweather-Guerrero comes to fruition, the fans will be treated to a battle between two father-and-son teams. Ruben Guerrero will handle training duties for Robert, while in a surprising move, Floyd Mayweather Sr. will replace his brother Roger, whose health has deteriorated in recent months.
Mayweather Sr. and Jr. have had a contentious relationship in the past that includes an infamous screaming match between them in 2011 that was televised on HBO’s “24/7” series.
MAYFIELD CLOSING IN ON WORLD TITLE SHOT
San Francisco’s Karim “Hard Hitta” Mayfield was in talks to fight WBA junior welterweight world titleholder Khabib Allakhverdiev at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on March 30 as a possible HBO-televised co-feature to the rematch between fellow American 140-pounders Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado.
However, both sides could not come to an agreement in time, and instead, the Russian Allakhverdiev (18-0, 8 KOs) will take on Colombia’s Breidis Prescott (26-4, 20 KOs), whose claim to fame is knocking out Amir Khan in one round five years ago.
Despite the news, Mayfield (NorCal No. 4; 17-0-1, 10 KOs), who regularly spars with Khan in Hayward under the watchful eye of their trainer, Virgil Hunter, still enjoys a favorable position to land a 140-pound world title shot by the end of the year based on the current WBO rankings.
Juan Manuel Marquez
1. Brandon Rios;
2. Ruslan Provodnikov;
3. Mike Alvarado;
4. Karim Mayfield;
5. Cesar Cuenca
Marquez, who moved up from 140 pounds to the 147-pound welterweight limit to knock out Manny Pacquiao, will probably vacate the WBO belt to fight Pacquiao a fifth time.
In fact, the WBO is putting the interim world title belt on the line for Rios-Alvarado II, with the winner getting elevated to full status in the event Marquez ultimately abdicates the throne. In addition, Provodnikov will ascend to welterweight on March 16 to meet Timothy Bradley.
That leaves Mayfield is the next available contender at No. 4, which means if Marquez and Provodnikov stay north at 147 pounds, then The City pugilist would theoretically be next in line to meet the Rios-Alvarado winner, either directly or though a title elimination bout for the would-be vacant No. 1 contender spot.
“I’m ready to fight for a world title,” Mayfield said. “But I want negotiations to be fair, too.”
For the 32-year-old Mayfield, who made his successful debut on HBO last October by outslugging Mauricio Herrera on points, it’s time for “The Hard Hitta” to get a chance to swing the wood against some championship-caliber opposition in 2013.
COLLEGE CARD ON TAP IN SOUTH BAY
College boxing’s answer to March Madness is drawing near, and Santa Clara University will host one of the final local cards this weekend before the National Collegiate Boxing Association tournament begins. The card will take place at the Sunnyvale PAL gym, which is located on the same property as the Trinity Church. Several local programs will send contingents, including San Jose State, Cal, and USF.
CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.