Although IBF bantamweight world titlist Randy “Matador” Caballero was born and raised in the desert, the Coachella prizefighter has a sort of continental way about him.
He loves traveling.
“What I will never forget is the World Cadets in Istanbul, Turkey representing the US,” said Caballero about participating in the international amateur tournament. “I came back with a bronze medal. I was 16 years old.”
Though living in the desert and concentrating heavily on boxing for most of his life meant sacrificing the amenities, Caballero points to that experience in Turkey as the pivotal moment in his life. He realized then what fruits boxing can bring to his life.
“I think when I fell in love with boxing was traveling the world. I like to see different places in the world,” he said, adding that the fruits of sacrifice brought him the world title and he doesn’t want to lose it.
First on the list to challenge the undefeated Caballero (22-0, 13 Kos) for the IBF title will be England’s southpaw Lee Haskins (32-3, 14 Kos). They’ll meet in Las Vegas on Saturday Nov. 21, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. It will be televised on HBO pay-per-view.
Lee (Haskins), he’s a tough guy. We know he’s going to come strong,” Caballero, 25, said. ”I’ve seen his fights and I’m ready for whatever.”
The Coachella prizefighter points to his long career that started as a youth in the amateurs where he never knew about the opponents and had to be on point.
“This sport is in my blood. In the amateurs it was tough fighting every single week and not being able to hang out with my friends. You just want to go out with friends. But I just stuck with it and I thank God I stayed with this sport,” he says.
Back in the late 90s, though Caballero was only eight-years-old, he could be seen sparring and hitting the bags like a 20-year-old veteran.
“He’s going to be a world champion some day,” said Lee Espinoza, the ageless boxing guru of the desert areas, in 1999. “You can see it already.”
That day occurred last year when Caballero traveled to Monte Carlo and defeated England’s Stuart Hall. That happened exactly 13 months ago. Caballero was later injured while training and was forced to postpone a title defense. Now he’s healthy and anxious to go.
“I can’t wait to get back inside that ring,” he says after a year off. “It healed perfectly fine. I have no problems whatsoever.”
Caballero, who has Nicaraguan ancestry, has always used his cat-quick reflexes and extensive boxing skills to battle his way out of situations. Fighting in the Coachella desert area, where boxing has become a way of life, meant do or die battles on a monthly basis. It’s the same area where brothers Julio, Antonio and Joel Diaz earned their stripes, and where current welterweight champion Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley learned the ropes. Succeeding in the desert tournaments guaranteed readiness.
It’s a main reason some of the best fighters in the world visit the desert gyms to prepare for mega fights. Guys like England’s Prince Naseem Hamed sparred with many desert fighters when he was world champion. Brazil’s Acelino Freitas was also regular, as was Diego Corrales. Even Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua prepared recently in the boxing oasis.
Now another desert fighter, Caballero, finally gets an opportunity to defend his world title and he faces another prizefighter from the United Kingdom. But this time the California fighter is close to home.
“Winning the world title, it was close to his (Stuart Hall’s) home and he had a lot of people there. Now another one is trying to take the title and it’s not going to happen,” said Caballero. “I’m not going to give up that title. But I know he’s going to give it his all.”