A colorful poster promoting a match between Carlos “El Elegante” Bojorquez and Fast Eddie Sanchez is plastered on a boxing gym wall in Mira Loma, California.

The catch: that poster was made in 2004.

After their near collision three years ago, the two junior middleweight contenders Bojorquez and Sanchez will finally meet in the boxing ring at Pechanga Resort and Casino on Friday, March 30. This 2007 fight will not be televised.

“It’s about time,” said Bojorquez (26-9-6, 22 KOs) who keenly remembers preparing for that fight scheduled to take place in Ontario, California. “I remember training really hard then they told me he got hurt in training. I ended up fighting somebody else.”

Both Sanchez and Bojorquez are grizzled boxing veterans who have battled in distant boxing arenas in front of hostile crowds in their pursuit for the world title. In many ways they are similar despite acutely contrasting fight styles. Today they train a mere four miles from each other in Riverside County.

“I really like Carlos Bojorquez. I have a lot of respect for him and the things he’s done,” said Sanchez (15-6-2, 9 KOs) who lives in Orange County but is training at the Lincoln Boxing Club in Riverside.

Bojorquez, 34, has concentrated the bulk of his preparation at the Capital Punishment Boxing Club in Mira Loma. It’s a lonely boxing gym that has a dirt road leading to its dirt driveway. But on an average night there are at least 30 boxers pounding the large heavy bags or small speed bags.

“Carlos has trained harder than usual for this fight,” says Ruben Castanon, who serves as the trainer. “We even got lucky enough to find sparring.”

Searching for sparring partners who have the height and wingspan of Sanchez is difficult. At 6 feet two inches in height, Sanchez possesses extraordinary height and arm reach seldom found at the 154-pound weight division.

But Bojorquez has built a reputation over the years for punishing boxers that are willing to stand right in front of him. Sanchez likes to move.

For the last five years both prizefighters have scaled near the top of the junior middleweight division in search of the world title. But time and again the bejeweled world championship belt has eluded them.

Sanchez, who lived in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina rolled into the city and devastated the area, has found a place to work in Riverside where he’s sparred with many Southern California boxers. He originally lived in Los Angeles, then moved to San Diego and eventually moved to New Orleans. It’s a long story.

Lots of bad luck

“Eddie has had lots of bad luck, says Lou Messina, a long-time advisor who has been the constant force behind Sanchez’s boxing career. “First he was in a bad car accident, then he was the victim of a road rage incident where he was stabbed. Something always seems to interfere with his career.”

After getting stabbed by a motorist on a freeway squabble, the very amiable Sanchez decided to pack his bags and move to a totally different climate. A place where mint juleps and hot jazz provides a different atmosphere and road rage is 1,000 miles away. Then, while preparing for an upcoming fight in California, Hurricane Katrina battered the water levee and thousands of people were left homeless or killed.

It took days for Sanchez to discover if his family had survived.

Now the Sanchez family lives in Orange County but the boxer has found that he prefers to train in Riverside. It’s close to San Diego and Orange County and plenty of boxers are available.

“It’s real nice here,” Sanchez, 31, says. “I found it by accident.”

Throughout his career, Sanchez’s list of opponents is laced with hard-nosed opponents with little knowledge of their abilities or styles. Perhaps his greatest victory came by chance in 2004 when he arrived at the Pechanga Resort and Casino to get some free grub. Just as he picked up a sandwich, the promoter of the event ran up to him and asked him to refrain from chomping on the beef sandwich. The main event had lost one of the fighters and Sanchez was asked if he could possibly fill in against J.C. Candelo.

In less than 48 hours the lean junior middleweight dropped nine pounds before the opening bell and stepped in between the ropes to meet Candelo who was ranked in the top 10 of the junior middleweight rankings. Despite suffering weakness from the sudden loss of weight, he proceeded to out box Candelo in front of a national television audience and captured the GBU junior middleweight title.

“I was never so tired,” said Sanchez remembering that day on August 2004.

But the next two fights resulted in knockout losses so Sanchez was forced to climb up the ladder once again these past two years. Less than two months ago, he fought a tight battle against former two-time world champion Verno Phillips.

“Verno told me ‘c’mon dude fight.’ I said ‘OK’ and hit him a few times and he ran away,” Sanchez recalled of the fight that took place in Las Vegas on Feb. 16. “He made me laugh. But he’s a good guy.”

Phillips won by decision.

Bojorquez also fought Phillips for the vacant IBF junior middleweight title in 2004. He was just staying in shape when he heard through the grapevine that Kassim Ouma had suffered an injury and was unable to fight Phillips for the title. After a few phone calls Bojorquez was penciled in to meet Phillips.

With only a week of preparation Bojorquez jumped on a plane with his trainer to Joplin, Missouri and tried to knock out Phillips quickly. It didn’t work.

“He hit me with a body shot,” said Bojorquez who lasted seven rounds but was forced to stop by his corner for a seventh round technical knockout. “If I had more time to train I could have done a lot better.”

Perhaps Bojorquez’s best moment came three years earlier when he agreed to meet Hall of Fame inductee Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker in Lake Tahoe. Only three other boxers claimed a victory over the slick southpaw and two of those three are headed for the Hall of Fame too. Their names are Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. The third boxer with a win against Whitaker was Jose Luis Ramirez of Mexico.

On April 27, 2001, Bojorquez became the last boxer to face Whitaker in the ring and the last to claim a victory. After four rounds of exchanges Whitaker was unable to continue against the hard-hitting Bojorquez. He never fought again.

In boxing circles Bojorquez is known for his granite chin and powerful right hand.

“He probably hits the hardest in the junior middleweight division,” said Doug Fischer, a respected boxing columnist from Maxboxing.com.

Unwilling to quit his dream for a world title, Bojorquez has accepted dangerous fights against the best middleweights in the world including Ike Quartey, Jose Luis Zertuche and Marlon Thomas. Twice he’s lost by knockout and in the other he stopped his opponent in front last year.

“My son likes to tell the other kids his daddy is a fighter,” says Bojorquez, whose son Maxmilliano is now four years old. “I want to fight for the world title again.”

Bojorquez and Sanchez both have the same goal but will try to attain it in different ways. Their tale is not unusual for a prizefighter. On Friday, the two junior middleweight gate-keepers will prove who owns the pass key to move on.