It can be lonely for a Colombian in California.
Most Americans lump all Latinos together like a bowl of menudo with different ingredients mixed together thinking it’s all the same. But those ingredients can be distinctly different.
Oscar Negrete left Colombia several years ago to try his luck as a professional boxer in the United States where many of his countrymen have found success. But he wasn’t ready for the culture shock.
“It’s different, especially the food. The people are nice like in Colombia but the food is different. Mexicans like a lot of chile. The style of food is different,” said Negrete also adding the Mexican fighting style is much like the people, hot and aggressive.
Culture shock or not Negrete (16-0, 6 KOs) continues pursuit of a world title and meets the taller Sergio Frias (19-6-2, 10 KOs) in the main event on Friday June 30 at Fantasy Springs Casino. The vacant NABF bantamweight title is the prize. The bout will air on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
The speedy Negrete has adapted to not only the predominantly Mexican culture in Southern California, but the predominant Mexican style of fighting. It’s a big change from Colombian boxing.
“The Colombian boxer is more moving. Hit and move, hit and move, go more for points. But the Mexican is always looking for the knockout and going to the body. It’s a lot different but I like the difference of style,” said Negrete, 29.
Negrete says since living in Southern California his sparring sessions and workouts with many world champions in the area have sparked a change in his own style.
“When I came to the US I was sparring with world champions Daniel Ponce De Leon and Leo Santa Cruz, and after that I felt I had found myself as a professional fighter and got the style I currently have,” he said. “Mostly for the Mexicans it’s about doing damage and being more aggressive. It was easy for me to adjust to it.”
But outside the boxing gyms life can still be lonely when you are one of the few Colombian boxers in town, Negrete said. It changed when a fellow Colombian arrived.
“When I left I didn’t know one Colombian here. But one guy, Cesar Villarraga, an Olympian with me in Colombia, came here. Then we started hanging out more with each other and getting the food that we liked,” said Negrete. “But the hardest was being away from my family and being with people I didn’t know for three and a half years. That’s was the hardest part.”
World Title Hopes
Negrete has adapted and made friends but the one constant goal has been to fight for a world title.
Former world champion Randy “Matador” Caballero was supposed to be the foe in the other corner on Friday night. But the former bantamweight world titlist suffered an injury to the leg and was unable to fight. Now it will be Frias, a very dangerous champion killer in the other corner.
Last year Frias stunned a large crowd when he knocked out former world champion Vic Darchinyan in the second round. He’s tall and has a kill or be killed style of fighting. Negrete says he cannot overlook him.
“I saw when he fought Vic Darchinyan and Ronny Rios,” said Negrete about Frias. “He moves well and is tall and can hit. Plus he uses distance very well.”
It’s an important step for the Colombian living in California. Sacrifices have been made and changes taken place but he has a target goal in place.
“The reality is this moment is very important. I want a world title and I wanted to fight Randy Caballero,” said Negrete. “But there are many good rivals in my division. So wherever God takes me is where I’ll go.”
ESPN2 will televise the Golden Boy Promotions card.
Several top prospects are on this boxing card. Four of the bouts have some potential stars that can go far. Perhaps the most critical will be Ryan Martin, an undefeated lightweight from Ohio who is looking better and stronger the past two fights. He’s working with Abel Sanchez in Big Bear and it shows. He faces tough Puerto Rican Marcos Jimenez who went the distance with Jose Felix in a losing cause. Another prospect to watch is San Diego’s Genaro Gamez who had his knockout streak ended at three but showed good stamina in winning by decision in his last fight in downtown L.A.
Other Fight Chatter
San Bernardino’s Joshua Conley (14-1-1) steps up big time tomorrow when he faces Julian “The J Rock” Williams (22-1-1) in Toledo, Ohio. Conley, 25, is trained by Riverside’s Henry Ramirez and has always shown athleticism and skills. His only drawback has been failing to pull the trigger and allowing opponents to out-busy him. He shouldn’t have that problem against J Rock Williams who is coming off a knockout loss to Jermall Charlo in a world title match. It’s a good match for Conley who has sneaky quickness and power. Now if he only pulls the trigger. It will be televised on Bounce TV.
Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Golden Boy Promotions
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel