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WBO’s Steve Luevano Opening Eyes

BY David A. Avila ON March 13, 2008
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Left-handed Steve Luevano doesn’t have the power of a Pacman or the slickness of a Sweetpea, but he keeps on winning.

The quiet kid from La Puente defends his WBO featherweight title against Thailand’s Terdsak Jandaeng on Saturday March 15 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. It will be televised on HBO pay-per-view.

If you visit boxing gyms often, Luevano was one of those kids that showed up everyday with floppy white socks, old tennis shoes and tattered T-shirt, and ready to box. Many people probably wrote him off as just another imaginative kid who aspired to be the next Oscar De La Hoya.

Just another fresh scrub with boxing gloves on.

Even now Luevano doesn’t strike fear in his opponents. Not at all. With his wire thin frame, pale skin and Doogie Howser look, he probably resembles those kids you see supermarket security guards chasing away.

You know the type: young kid on skateboard.

Few people realize that Luevano is defending the featherweight title for the second time and that he’s been fighting professionally for eight years. He was once an alternate on the 2000 Olympic boxing team.

Unlike most boxing world champions, Luevano can go almost anywhere with little fear of getting trampled on by adoring fans. He could be wearing his boxing gear and few would place him as a titleholder, let alone a prizefighter.

“I went to play bingo and a guy saw me with my gym stuff. He asked me if I was a wrestler,” Luevano said. “I told him no, I was a boxer. He didn’t believe me.”

Imagine if that bingo guy was told Luevano is the WBO featherweight champion?

Luevano just shrugs when you ask if it bothers him. He’s quite content getting respect inside the ring. If popularity eventually comes his way, so be it. If not, so be it. It’s been that way throughout his boxing career that began when he was a young pipsqueak.

As a youngster Luevano and his brother were taken to a local boxing gym by their mother and from then on he was a boxer. Though his brother quit, Steve Luevano continued getting a ride to the gym and putting on his sweat clothes and tennis shoes to work in the ring.

“I don’t know why,” says Luevano when asked about his continued participation. “It was something to do.”

Luevano’s not one to brag or boast of his prowess. Instead, he goes about his work almost invisible to even the most ardent boxing fans. But other prizefighters know who he is.

“He’s a very good boxer,” said Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, who holds the rival IBF featherweight title and could be a future opponent. “He’s very technical.”

Though both are southpaws, Luevano and Guerrero are distinctly different in their approach. Guerrero is a power puncher with rapidly improving overall boxing skills. Luevano is a ring tactician with rapidly improving power.

“This kid can really fight,” says Cameron Dunkin, who manages Luevano, Kelly Pavlik, Nonito Donaire and others. “He fools people all of the time.”

He fooled Nicky Cook who he beat in London for the title and he fooled Antonio Davis in the first title defense last year in Las Vegas.

“A friend of mine watched my last fight on TV with a bunch of people. They saw my opponent was bigger and had big muscles. They bet her I would lose,” Luevano (34-1, 15 KOs) said. “After the fight they told her they wanted to meet me.

That night Luevano dominated against Antonio Davis and nearly stopped him in the last two rounds of the 12-round contest. The audience seemed stunned by the apparent physical mismatch that turned out to be the skinnier less imposing fighter dominating the fight.

“Steve is one of those fighters who fools you into overconfidence,” said Dunkin, who flew to London with Luevano during his title-winning effort last July. “I’m sure other fighters take a look at him and think it’s going to be an easy fight. He always fools them.”

Now it’s the talented Thai veteran Jandaeng who tests Luevano’s ring skills. He’s had a test against Juan Manuel Marquez and came up short. He’s hoping that experience can lead to better things against the younger Luevano.

Luevano is looking for a win so that he can fight the other young talented fighters such as Guerrero and WBA titleholder Jorge Linares. It could be a super tournament if it evolves to that.

“I feel the other champions are good,” said Luevano, 27, who trains in Oxnard. “I wouldn’t mind fighting any of them.”

But it’s time to work, and Luevano is a lunch pail kind of guy.

“He never asks for anything, he just comes in and does his work,” said trainer Robert Garcia, a former world champion who also trained Fernando Vargas. “He’s kind of quiet.”

Fights on television

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Miguel Angel Huerta (26-8-1) vs. Javier Jauregui (52-14-2).

Sat. HBO pay-per-view, 6 p.m., Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2) vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (48-3-1); Steve Luevano (34-1, 15 KOs) vs. Terdsak Jandaeng (29-2); Abner Mares (15-0) vs. Diosdado Gabi (30-3-1).

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