Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora and Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo are set to meet in a “Play It to the Bone” moment. That’s a movie in the late 90s about two friends forced to fight each other.
Former world champion Mora (28-5-2) of East L.A. meets former contender Angulo (24-6, 20 KOs) of Mexicali in an eight round super middleweight fight at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday. It will be streamed on the Showtime app.
The 1999 movie starred Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas as two buddies that train together and travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and fight each other. It becomes a murderous bloody war of wills.
Mora (pictured on the left) and Angulo have known each other for more than a decade and have spent countless rounds sparring each other. They really don’t want to fight each other.
Back in the early 2000s Mora and Angulo trained in the same gym at South El Monte. At the time Mora was perhaps one of the quickest middleweights in the world and Angulo was a sledgehammer puncher who was part of Antonio Margarito’s team of ring assassins. These guys would train everyday together and then spar. It was gruesome.
Angulo, Margarito, Jesus Soto Karass and others would club each other with abandon as a few people inside the gym would watch in horror and awe.
“They would kill each other every day,” said Mora, 38.
At the time Margarito was already a top contender in the welterweight division and Angulo was an unknown fighter with a stub of beard who looked like he was built for war.
I remember asking the gym supervisor Ben Lira, who now works Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s corner, if he knew anything about Angulo.
“He’s a tough kid,” said Lira as we witnessed Angulo and Margarito slaughter each other and anyone else who entered the ring, except Soto Karass who was very young at the time and seemed to get a pass.
Soon the group moved to Montebello, Calif. when Mora’s team acquired a gym near the city park. The wars continued.
Mora spent round after round perfecting his movements and defense against the group of Mexican sluggers. It was a perfect blend for the fighters who each benefited from the mixture of styles. Mora provided the speed, agility and defensive tactics and Angulo provided the constant pressure and nonstop punching. For many years and many rounds they exchanged blows in South El Monte, Montebello and Maywood. Anyone who witnessed those sparring sessions remembers it was like sneaking into a major fight card through the side door.
“People used to tell me all the time you should sell tickets to those sparring sessions,” said Mora. “Angulo and Margarito used to kill each other. It was crazy.”
After their sessions they would all sit around and talk. It was amazing to see, especially after the bloodlust of blows emptied in their sparring sessions. All would be laughing and chuckling as if nothing had happened.
Mora and Angulo were very good friends back then and are now. When this fight was first offered a year ago each said no. Neither wanted to fight each other and though the offer persisted they continued to say no. But when they met in Las Vegas several months ago Angulo was with his wife and she stepped in to say “this is business.”
Both Mora and Angulo relented a little more than a month ago and now the fight is on.
“I’m not the same fighter and neither is he,” said Mora honestly. “My legs are not the same and I had to change my style to adapt.”
The slippery movements and agile pivots Mora used to defeat the late great Vernon Forrest in 2008 are now gone. When he met Daniel Jacobs the first time in August 2015 he tore his leg while getting knocked down against the New Yorker. When they met again a year later in 2016 it was clear his legs were gone. He was a stationary target for Jacobs and though the leg was unstable Mora survived somehow for seven rounds.
Angulo, 35, at one time was one of the most feared super welterweights in the world. Despite losing time because of immigration issues the popular “Perro” remained a contender and was primed for big things.
Around 2012 Angulo began training with Virgil Hunter in Northern California and that’s when things began to slip. When Angulo met Cuba’s Erislandy Lara at the StubHub Center he hunted down the fleet-footed southpaw but suffered a horrible gash that resulted in a 10th round stoppage.
From that point on Angulo, though always willing, seemed to look physically different inside the boxing ring. Against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez the Mexicali fighter looked pale and gaunt. His speed seemed to diminish and he was stopped in the 10th round. Next was James De La Rosa and once again Angulo was stopped in the 10th round.
The last time Angulo entered the boxing ring was against Mexico City’s Freddy Hernandez in August 2016. Angulo lost by unanimous decision after 10 rounds.
It’s been almost two years since Angulo or Mora last fought though both remained training in the gym.
Angulo no longer has the same hand speed but maintains his power. Mora no longer possesses agility in his legs but retains his hand speed. Both are on the last mile of their careers.
“I really don’t want to fight Perro. I consider him a friend,” said Mora. “But this is a business.”
Will life imitate art?
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