This past Saturday night on HBO boxing we were treated to Francisco Bojado putting on yet another exciting display of what the future looks like at 140-pounds. Using a recipe of raw talent, speed and power, 'Panchito' put it all together once more and served up a dandy.
In case you missed it, the 21 year old fighting out of Los Angeles, California showcased his ability to change-up his punches, put combinations together and demonstrated the savvy of knowing just when to go for the kill. Speed was on display as the young light welterweight simply was too fast and too strong for his older, formidable foe, Jesse James Leija.
The fist round was your typical feeling out process that occurs when two boxers who respect one another meet. In the second, Leija was downed twice – only once officially – but it was enough to see the outcome of the fight was cast. With a lightning fast left hook that caught Leija flush on the jaw, the first official knockdown of the fight was scored. At that point we knew that Bojado was just too good and that the man who had warred twice with Azumah Nelson, Leija, had finally seen better days.
On this night youth was served. Using his jab to set up punishing one-two's that rocked Leija back on his heels, Bojado worked up and down, head and body, and the punishment was somehow pleasing to the palate. Double hooks to the ribs and footwork that would make Mikhail Barishnikov jealous left Leija second-guessing all night, and he simply had no answers for Bojado.
By the fifth round on Saturday, Bojado's lightning fast hands and thunderous power had become too much for the 38 year old Jesse James. His face was cut and bloodied, his will to fight on now extracted from his heart, mercifully trainer Ronnie Shields stepped up onto the ring apron signaling they were throwing in the towel. It was a fitting end for a warrior who wouldn't give in even when he knew he was in over his head, or just years too late. Leija can go into the night knowing he gave his all, and did so for 16 years as a professional.
Back in 2002, 'Panchito' was all the talk in boxing as the man voted by his high school buddies as 'Most Likely to Take Over the Mantle as Boxing's Human Highlight Reel' from Arturo Gatti. He was a guy who was more dangerous if he was cut or hurt, had power and speed to spare, and wouldn't hesitate to give whatever it took to win a fight. Then came trips to Costa Rica and Mexico coupled with too many hours spent with his girlfriend and not with his first love, the sport of boxing. His loss to Juan Carlos Rubio was a lesson learned and an out of shape Bojado accepted responsibility for his actions like a man. He was growing into the best boxer he could be and this was part of the process.
Rather than fire trainer Alfonzo Marquez or change the management and guidance of Joe Hernandez, Francisco took the loss in stride. He knew he had the right people in place, they had been with him since day one, and it was his job to execute on the night against Rubio. It was he who had betrayed his team by not putting himself in a position to win. So back to the gym with the dedication to training he had in the past, yet without the assumption that boxing owed him anything or that anyone was going to do anything less than test his will and character each night, Bojado was back. Now, the win over Leija was his graduation.
In case you missed it . . . well, we did too.
Francisco Bojado did not do what it took to win the fight this past Saturday on an occasion where he was supposed to share the spotlight with Arturo Gatti. Gatti delivered by knocking out previously undefeated Leonard Dorin in two rounds. He did his job while Bojado was out-worked over 10 rounds by an older, slower fighter who never had the power or skills Bojado possesses.
The sad truth is that after the loss to Rubio, Francisco Bojado swept the blame onto his management, changed his team, and has never been the same. Nor as good.
While new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. likes his fighters to look 'pretty' in the ring, you sometimes have to accept that what you have, is exactly what you have. Bojado is a power-punching entertainer first, a younger Gatti if you wish, who can bleed and get inspired by it. What he was on Saturday was a student of the sweet science who flashed one-twos and admired his work.
In the second round of their bout, Jesse James Leija was ripe for the picking, but Bojado left the win on the branch and it spoiled. He missed it and so did we.