RIVERSIDE, Calif.-For decades Mexico has been sending its best across the border to beat up on boxers on this side. Lately, that trend has been reversed.
Riverside’s Joseph Landeros, with school books in tow, has been crossing the border south of us to put his mitts on prizefighters in rugged Mexico. And he’s not alone.
Landeros (11-0, 11 KOs) is part of a new trend of anxious teens itching to test their mettle against the pros. On Friday, Dec.8, in the city of Chihuahua, the 16-year-old Southern Californian fights Jairo Gutierrez (6-7) in a scheduled eight round bantamweight match.
The youngster has become an attraction with his ability to blow through opponents in three rounds or less. Most of the fans that attend the fight cards in Mexican cities like Culiacan, Aguascalientes and Tijuana are looking to see him lose against their hometown fighters.
“Yes, every fight is getting more difficult because of the politics in Mexico of me coming from the USA to fight in their backyard,” said Landeros, a slender bantamweight with a mellow demeanor who began fighting professionally at age 15.
At home, in Southern California, he also gets comments via social media on a regular basis.
“Yes, I get thousands of good comments and bad; A lot of bad ones too all day. God is my leader and I stay focused to reach my dreams,” he says.
Most of the criticism is directed toward his becoming a pro at age 15. In two months the Riverside King High School student turns 17. Parents of amateur teens in the Inland Empire cite the danger of fighting so young.
But Landeros is not alone. Lately a number of American teens like Kevin Mendoza and brothers Ryan and Sean Garcia have taken the same journey across the border.
Ryan Garcia fought professionally in Mexico four times at age 17. He is now 19 and is signed by Golden Boy Promotions. His record now is 12 wins, no losses with 11 knockouts. His younger brother Sean Garcia recently made his pro debut in Mexico and won by knockout.
Despite the many critics Landeros seeks championship dreams achieved by others that began fighting professionally as teen-agers.
“I say to myself, If Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. did it in Mexico, then I can do it too,” Landeros says.
Mexico’s legendary Chavez began fighting professionally at age 17. Several other Mexican stars also began pro careers well under the age of 18 such as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Antonio Margarito.
In Mexico it’s legal to fight at age 15. In California the legal age is 18.
Though Landeros has entered the professional fight world, school is still a priority and he diligently maintains a grip on education.
“The school is working with me giving me one week off every time I fight. We put in the request 20 days before and the school counselor gets all my homework together for the 5 days and it needs to be completed 100% by the following Monday of the week to get all my credits,” says Landeros. “I go to school every day so I only miss the week of the fight.”
Landeros and his team depart for Chihuahua, Mexico on Wednesday. All he knows is that his opponent is ranked number 45 in Mexico. Strategy is left to his team that includes trainer Mario Perez.
“I have always left that responsibility to my coach and my team to put the formula together to come back with the victory, so in my case I see the opponent the day of the weigh-in and the day of the fight. This has been the case since I was 10 years old. I really don’t worry who’s going into the ring to fight me,” said Landeros. “We trained to fight him using the ring and angles all night to get the victory.”
It’s another day and another challenge.
This time the lithe Riverside youngster will be fighting thousands of miles from home in a different time zone. Before, hundreds of his Riverside fans would cross the Mexican border to watch him fight. Not this time. It’s also a lot colder.
“The main adjustment to my training was the running at 4:00 am to make sure that I can adjust to the weather because in Chihuahua it’s going to be under 20 degrees,” he said. “And more than anything we did a lot of sparring on this training to make sure that we can adjust fast to different styles, over 150 rounds in less than two months.”
It’s a perilous journey and one that his hero Julio Cesar Chavez made to eventually become Mexico’s greatest prizefighter.
The high school teen is aware of the dangers of fighting in another country where everyone is rooting against him. But though most of his fans can’t make this journey, he is willing to take the risks.
“To all my fans, family and friends, thank you all for always giving me your support. I am so proud to have such great people like you to motivate me to pursue my dream,” Landeros said.
This Friday brings the dream another step closer and he’s still only 16.
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