Mexico City crackles with an energy that only a New Yorker could understand. It’s fast, dangerous and filled with a combination of ancient America and modern Europe all at once.
Where else can you find pyramids smack in the middle of a city populated with more than 18 million?
It’s where small town Vicente Escobedo decided to learn his craft.
Escobedo returns to his home state when he meets Puerto Rico’s Pascali Adorno (10-6-2, 4 KOs) at the Morongo Casino on Friday Jan. 11. The fight card is sponsored by Golden Boy Promotions and Tecate. It will also be shown by Telefutura.
Don’t think it’s easy for a Sacramento guy to jump on a plane and find a place to live in the most populous city in North America.
Mexico City is one huge expansive metropolis located on a mountainous plateau where the ancient Aztecs once had their capital Tenochitlan. Their true name was Mexica and it was a warrior society that has passed its ferocity to its professional boxers.
Today, one of the masters of teaching professional boxing is Nacho Beristain, the architect for a number of world champions such as the brothers Juan Manuel and Rafael Marquez along with the great Ricardo “Finito” Lopez.
Beristain is recognized by many as one of the best.
Escobedo, a former Olympian, has attained a certain level of expertise but willingly seeks to reach the highest level attainable.
“Nacho Beristain is so technical,” Escobedo (15-1, 11 KOs) said. “All of his fighters are very technical boxers, not brawlers.”
Since May 2007, Escobedo and Beristain have worked together blending the Mexico City trainer’s way of doing things with the youngster’s athleticism.
Their marriage was fixed by Golden Boy Promotions that guides Escobedo.
“I did it as a favor to Oscar De La Hoya,” said Beristain, who also trains Rafael Marquez. “Vicente is a very good boxer. He can be a champion”
Escobedo burst onto the boxing scene after millions watched him perform in the 2004 Olympics in Greece. Many fans and experts were impressed with his energy, speed and power. Some predicted he would be as great as Oscar De La Hoya.
For two years everything went smoothly as Escobedo pierced through opponents like a human sabre. Then a loss to Puerto Rico’s Daniel Jimenez including a knockdown, showed that the Sacramento boxer had some flaws.
In stepped Beristain.
Escobedo packed his bags and flew to Central Mexico where Beristain has a gym located in the heart of Mexico City. If you know anything about that country’s capital you also know that an abundance of some of the country’s best fighters came from that ciudad including Vicente Saldivar, Enrique Bolanos, Ruben Olivares, Carlos Zarate, Alfonso Zamora and Marco Antonio Barrera to name a few.
“If you throw your left hook just a little different he fixes it and says do it this way,” said Escobedo. “He’s also very defense oriented.”
Beristain trains Escobedo and also Abner Mares in the same manner he treats his many Mexico City pupils. It’s rugged, precise and long training in the high altitude that taxes your lungs if you’re not ready.
The sparring is taxing too.
“Nacho has a lot of fighters,” said Escobedo, who sparred with many of the Mexico City boxers. “We spar every day working on different things.”
The daily routine of going to the gym, running and surviving in the big city has its memories and moments.
It’s the mental toughness that is part of the game too.
“That’s just as important as the physical skills,” said Anthony Escobar, who advises Escobedo in business. “You can win fights with your heart as well as your punches.”
Though millions of people mill around the city and the tourist sites could take a lifetime to visit, Escobedo wants to focus on his fighting skills.
“I mostly stay at home after working out,” said Escobedo. “It’s pretty dangerous over here where I am.”
From his Mexico City apartment Escobedo takes the subway or catches a cab to the gym every day.
“The first time I took the metro I was shocked to see the people so crowded into the subway,” Escobedo said. “You had people’s faces smashed up against the window.”
Jose Escobedo, Vicente’s older brother, says it’s a new challenge.
“Vicente is kind of a quiet person,” said Jose Escobedo, who lived helped his brother find an apartment and lived with him for a month in Mexico City. “He doesn’t go out and take part in the nightlife.”
In his short time in Mexico City he’s seen one or two sights.
“I visited the Zocalo and Xochimilco, but that’s about it,” said Escobedo, 26. “Maybe next time I’ll be able to visit the pyramids.”
He’s inspired to be great.
“No more tune ups for Vicente,” said Escobar, who has taken in interest in Escobedo the past two years. “No more time for that. It’s nothing but the big fights after Friday.”
Now, Escobedo attempts to display his new boxing knowledge when he meets Puerto Rico’s Adorno a veteran of many tough fights.
“He’s a southpaw and used to fighting good fighters,” Escobedo said of Adorno.
Several highly-touted boxers make their Southern California debuts when Daniel Garcia, Ashanti Jordan and Jonathan Arias appear on the under card at Morongo Casino on Friday.
Garcia (2-0), a Philadelphia prospect, is a quick-fisted junior welterweight with good power and very good boxing skills. He appeared in Las Vegas last December and impressed the fans with his ability.
Heavyweight boxer Jordan, 30, has little time to make his impact in the boxing world. He quickly showed the need for alacrity with his first round blow out last month. Jordan (1-0) has good speed and good power.
Arias (13-0, 6 KOs) makes his first appearance in the U.S. when he faces Javier Cintron (13-9-2) in a bantamweight contest. Arias beat Francisco Arce, the younger brother of Jorge Arce. A rematch is scheduled for next month, but first it’s Cintron.
Malignaggi keeps title
IBF junior welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi edged past Canada’s Herman Ngoudjo after 12 rounds last Saturday.
It was close.
Now what’s next for the Italian-American?
“What ever makes the most money sense,” said Malignaggi.
Southern California has a number of talented junior welterweights like Timothy Ray Bradley, Victor Ortiz and Miguel Angel Huerta ready to test Malignaggi. But will they get their chance?
So far, Lou DiBella, who promotes Malignaggi, has kept his fighter from meeting any of the California-based boxers.
It’s probably a smart move. Why risk losing the world title against a fighter that won’t bring in revenue like a Ricky Hatton?
But Hatton is searching for a bigger purse as well. A fight with Malignaggi doesn’t bring in $15 million dollar paydays. More like a $3 million dollar payday. That’s a huge difference for Hatton to squander in a match he could possibly lose.
It makes more sense that Malignaggi face WBO junior welterweight titleholder Ricardo Torres or WBC titleholder Junior Witter. Both are dangerous fights, but they will bring more money than fighting his mandatory challenger Demetrius Hopkins. Should Malignaggi opt to fight Hopkins, it’s a bad style match for the Brooklyn boxer against the long-armed Hopkins who loves to fire jabs. That’s Malignaggi’s Achille’s heel: a quick and steady flow of jabs as Ngoudjo proved last weekend.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Edison Miranda (29-2) vs. David Banks (15-3-1).
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Sergio Mora (19-0-1) vs. Rito Ruvalcaba (32-8).