WBO featherweight titleholder Steve Luevano returns to the Southwest to show off the world title he grabbed in Great Britain. But can he keep it?
The slick southpaw Luevano (33-1, 15 KOs) defends his title against the always aggressive Antonio Davis (24-3, 12 KOs) on the semi-main event at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The fight co-promoted by Golden Boy and Top Rank will be televised on HBO pay-per-view.
Davis is a veteran who does not scare easily and like Luevano, he’s confident enough to go into hostile territory for a chance to win a world title just like he did against former WBO junior lightweight titleholder Joan Guzman.
“He’s a real aggressive fighter,” says Luevano, who has seen the tapes of Davis’s fights including the Guzman fight that took place in the Dominican Republic. “He always goes forward.”
Because Luevano is known as a left-handed boxer-puncher, the Baldwin Park youngster has fought for years in small tank towns with little fanfare. It’s rare that he fights close to his own home. Instead he’s traveled to Ohio, Texas, Arizona and other points not in Southern California. For seven years he’s traveled the rodeo circuit more than the boxing circuit.
Now the lanky boxer has arrived back in Las Vegas.
“He’s really a good kid,” said Cameron Dunkin, who manages Luevano and new middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik among others. “You almost forget about him he’s so good.”
In the year 2000 Luevano barely making the Olympic team that was heading to Australia. But he made the team as an alternate while his cousin Marshall Martinez made the team as a welterweight. Back then, as now, Luevano doesn’t go away very easily.
When the Olympics ended most of the fighters in Team USA were grabbed by boxing managers looking for the sure thing. Boxers like Rocky Juarez, Juan Diaz, Jermain Taylor, Panchito Bojado and others were signed to bonuses and fought immediately on large cards.
Luevano wasn’t one of them. But he had caught the interest of savvy boxing manager Cameron Dunkin who had seen him before the Olympics in one of the many boxing gyms in Los Angeles. He never forgot Luevano.
“He was beating the crap out of a couple of veterans I was looking at,” recalls Dunkin. “I asked who this kid was and they told me he was just an amateur. I kept an eye out for him after that.”
Even after signing Luevano it wasn’t easy convincing a promotion company of his skills. But Top Rank took a look and saw something too. They sent the California boxer to gather more skills fighting tough guys in dingy arenas and on parking lots. It was years and years spent away from home, but he was featured on the Spanish-language television stations who kept featuring him.
At first the knockouts were scarce, but slowly a surge of power developed in his skinny frame and guys known for their ability to take a punch were falling in front of Luevano. Finally the power arrived.
“As I got older I began to knock out guys,” said Luevano, 26, who has only 15 knockouts, five which came in his first six fights. “I guess I’m getting my man strength now.”
Though Luevano only had one loss in his seven years, it’s evident that Britain’s Nicky Cook saw the Californian’s knockout record and dismissed him as a long-armed boxer with no power. It must have seemed like an easy fight for the undefeated Cook, but it was anything but that.
“Steve hits hard,” says Robert Garcia, the former junior lightweight champion from Oxnard who now trains Luevano. “He doesn’t look powerful but the other guys in the team tell me they really feel his punches.”
Cook found out that Luevano can indeed bang, and the Brit was bombed out with vicious body shots.
Now Luevano’s own family are hoping this homecoming ends cheerfully when Luevano enters in the ring in Las Vegas.
“All my family are planning to come,” he says. “Usually I fight far away.”
It’s America’s turn to see what England witnessed.
Orange County’s Librado Andrade is anxious to prove that he’s ready for another shot at the world title, but first he fights Yusaf Mack (23-1-2, 14 KOs) at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Saturday..
“It doesn’t matter to me who I fight,” said Andrade (25-1, 19 KOs) from his camp in Big Bear Lake. “I just want another title shot.”
Most saw Andrade in his loss to Denmark’s talented Mikkel Kessler. Though it was a unanimous decision loss to the Danish fighter, many noticed that Andrade never seemed hurt nor did he bear serious facial damage following the 12 round affair in Copenhagen.
“I’m so motivated to fight again,” said Andrade. “I’ve been working with a lot of fighters who like to fight like that (counterpunch).”
Andrade hopes a big win against Mack will keep him as a top contender for any of the super middleweight titles. He knows that Joe Calzaghe and Kessler are about to unify and would love to fight the winner. He also knows that he needs to keep winning for that to happen.
“I have the best manager (Al Haymon) and the best promoter,” says Andrade. “I’m in a good position as long as I keep winning.”
New middleweight champion
In case you haven’t heard, Kelly Pavlik of Youngstown, Ohio knocked out formerly unbeaten Jermain Taylor and took the middleweight championship crown.
Going into the fight Pavlik was the underdog and a virtual unknown to fight fans in the east coast. But fans on this side of the country were familiar with his tenacity and ability to recuperate from a knockdown.
When Taylor battered Pavlik to the floor in the second round, it was similar to the knockdown he suffered against Fulgencio Zuniga two years ago. Pavlik later stopped the tough Colombian on cuts.
Before the showdown of undefeated middleweights, Taylor’s corner had said aloud that Pavlik hadn’t fought anybody.
That wasn’t true as Taylor found out.
It’s too bad the Arkansas middleweight had to find out in the ring that Pavlik is a true knockout specialist with one-punch power.
“He surprised me,” said the classy Taylor after the fight. “Yes I’d love a rematch.”
Pavlik welcomes a rematch with Taylor or any other middleweight.
Before the fight, Pavlik’s promoter Bob Arum predicted a victory and more for the Ohio fighter.
“He’s going to be one of the greatest attractions in boxing,” said Arum.
Bad Chad wins
Chad Dawson needed only four rounds to defend his WBC light heavyweight title against Colombia’s last-minute replacement Epifanio Mendoza at the Arco Arena in Sacramento on Saturday.
Dawson’s quickness and southpaw combinations gave Mendoza problems from the beginning. Though now trained by Eddie Mustapha Muhammad, the new fighting philosophy didn’t seem to bother Dawson who cruised to victory.
The Connecticut based fighter seeks a match with former champion Antonio Tarver.
Filipino prospect AJ “Bazooka” Banal (15-0-1, 12 KOs) captured the WBC Asia Pacific Youth junior bantamweight title with a first round knockout of Esau Gaona (10-4, 6 KOs) in Cebu City, Philippines on Saturday.
Fights on television
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Americo Santos (26-2-1) vs. Michel Rosales (12-1).
Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., Yonnhy Perez (13-0) vs. Alexander Fedorov (17-4-1).
Sat. HBO pay-per-view 6 p.m., Manny Pacquiao (44-3-2) vs. Marco Antonio Barrera (63-5); Steve Luevano (33-1) vs. Antonio Davis (24-3); Panchito Bojado (18-2) vs. Steve Forbes (32-5).
Sat. Showtime, 10 p.m., Sam Peter (28-1) vs. Jameel McCline (38-7-3).