CABAZON, CALIF.-Not long ago, Librado Andrade was one of a group of prospective prizefighters touted for a brand new fledgling company called Golden Boy Promotions.
All the fighters gathered at La Placita in Olvera Street, the site of the original El Pueblo de Los Angeles and photos were flashed. Some of those other fighters were Sergio Mora, Jose Navarro and Argentina’s Gullermo Saputo.
Andrade stood there among the more known boxers smiling as usual. Little did he know he would be the only survivor. Everyone else has departed.
“I’m proud of that,” said Andrade (26-1, 20 KOs) about being the lone fighter from that group still with Golden Boy. “Who would have guessed I would be the only one left?”
Who would have imagined that Andrade would be fighting for the number one spot against Germany’s Robert Stieglitz (31-1, 19 KOs) at the Morongo Casino Spa and Resort on Saturday March 22. The fight will be televised on HBO.
There was a time when Andrade worked behind the counter at Jack-in-the Box enduring insults and bad-mouthing from motorists at the intercom.
“The customers could be pretty mean,” says Andrade, 29, laughing.
Of course upon meeting the athletic six-footer they quickly changed their attitudes.
Imagine how customers would feel if aware that Andrade is the USBA super middleweight titleholder.
Now the former Jack-in-the-Box worker, who absorbed a lot of verbal abuse from customers, can release some of that pent up frustration.
“Sometimes I felt like punching them, but I never did,” Andrade said.
Andrade likes to be a nice guy and when he needed someone to train him he looked north to Canada where a former opponent’s brother offered to work with him. He spent two months in the frigid Montreal area working on technique.
“He could have been in the sun at home with his wife and kids,” said Howard Grant, whose brother Otis Grant lost to Andrade two years ago. “Instead he’s with us and it’s 20 degrees below zero. That says a lot about him.”
Stieglitz arrived with his German contingent and is confident of his boxing skills after viewing tapes of Andrade’s fights including the world title loss.
Andrade’s only loss came to Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler a year ago. Nobody else has beaten the native of Guanajuato, Mexico in Central Mexico.
“It just wasn’t my night,” said Andrade (26-1, 20 KOs), who lost almost every round but never stopped chasing the Danish boxer. “I didn’t feel good the whole week of the fight. I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.”
Stieglitz is a “very technical boxer”, according to his manager.
“I don’t know anything about him,” said Andrade, 29. “But he’s my next opponent.”
Andrade warmly greeted his opponent and his supporting team several times when they met on Thursday at the Morongo Casino. He’s a gentleman.
“I wish them the best of luck,” Andade said during the press conference.
Strength has always been an ally of Andrade. Since he first turned professional the lithe Mexican fighter has shown that combined with his agility and stamina, he usually is the stronger fighter inside a boxing ring.
“He’s the strongest fighter I ever faced,” said Kessler by telephone, who won by unanimous decision against Andrade.
Last October, though he was floored in the first round, he slowly out-muscled the talented Yusaf Mack and eventually knocked him out to win the USBA title. Once again Andrade’s strength bailed him out of trouble.
It’s not just physical strength, but mental muscle that allows him to drive onward.
“I told myself that I can beat him,” said Andrade about his ultimate victory over the speedy Mack. “He was a good fighter.”
Now Andrade is poised to fight for the number one spot according to the IBF and another shot at a world title.
Eric Gomez, vice president for Golden Boy Promotions, said he remembers when Andrade was one of 10 boxers at the beginning of their boxing company.
“It’s really great to see Librado Andrade persevere after all of these years,” said Gomez. “Here he is again fighting in another big fight. He’s done a lot.”
Andrade only smiles when discussing his career.
“I never thought I would ever go this far in boxing,” said Andrade. “My goal was to just win a belt. I’ve gone farther than I imagined.”