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Puerto Rican Talent Abounds In Boxing’s Lightest Weights, Expos Notes

By Gabrielle Paese

February 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Junior flyweight Alex "El Nene" Sanchez’s inactivity caught up with him last weekend when he lost by TKO in the 12th round to Mexican Jose Victor Burgos in their bout for the vacant IBF title in Las Vegas. With just three fights in the last three years, Sanchez really needed a win to break back into the boxing world he took by storm nearly 10 years ago when he won the WBO title at age 18.

The boxing career of Sanchez (29-3-1, 20 KO) has advanced in fits and starts, although at 27 he’s hardly over the hill. The problem is, two promising Puerto Rican boxers are climbing up it — and right in Sanchez’s weight range.

WBO junior flyweight champion Nelson Dieppa (19-2-1, 11 KO) is already on top and is expected to defend his title March 15, although a fight venue has yet to materialize. Dieppa is training for this fight under Manny Siaca. Siaca’s son, Manuel Siaca, will fight Lou del Valle on a March 29 Bernard Hopkins fight card in Philadelphia. Dieppa’s is a mandatory defense versus Colombian John A. Molina — a continuation of their fight last summer in Carolina that ended without a decision due to an accidental head butt.

Ivan Calderon (14-0, 3 KO), meanwhile, continues to move up the ranks at both 108 and 105 pounds (strawweight). Calderon fought eight times in 2002 and for his efforts earned the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission’s Fighter of the Year honors. Calderon is tentatively set to return to the ring as early as March 7 in Puerto Rico on a Best Boxing fight card. If he continues his winning ways, Calderon could be looking at a title shot before 2004.

In weightier matters, WBA heavyweight champion John "Quietman" Ruiz finishes up his training in Boca Raton, Fla., this week and heads to Las Vegas for his March 1 fight versus undisputed light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr.

Ruiz (38-4-1, 27 KO) will be defending his title for the third time. Jones Jr. is vying to become the first light heavyweight boxer to defeat a heavyweight since Michael Spinks beat Larry Holmes in 1986.

Ruiz broke from his "Quietman" mold earlier this week during an open workout at Miami’s South Beach. He showed off fight posters with Jones Jr.’s eyes blacked out and held up rubber chickens to taunt Jones Jr., who keeps roosters for cockfighting on his estate in Pensacola, Fla.

At 220, Ruiz said this is the lightest he’s ever been going into a fight. Jones Jr., who spoke to the media this week via conference call, said he’ll be at 190 for the weigh-in, because he plans to step on the scales with all his clothes on.

Single tickets go on sale for Expos in San Juan

Promoter Antonio Munoz, who is responsible for putting together the Montreal Expos’ 22-game home stand in San Juan this year, confirmed this week that individual ticket sales start Saturday for the first Expos games in San Juan beginning April 11 (versus the New York Mets). To purchase tickets, go to

The Expos open their season versus the Mets in San Juan April 11-14, followed by consecutive San Juan series versus the Atlanta Braves (April 15-17) and the Cincinnati Reds (April 18-20).

Individual tickets for the Expos’ second homestand featuring the Anaheim Angels (June 3-5) and the Texas Rangers (June 6-8) will go on sale on March 29.

Munoz’s son, Antonio "Tonito" Munoz also confirmed this week that he and his father have had preliminary conversations with Major League Baseball officials regarding the possibility of the Expos playing a second home stand here in San Juan in 2004.

A source working closely with Major League Baseball in San Juan recently commented that MLB is considering keeping the Expos on the road for 2004 and moving the team for the 2005 season to one of the bidding cities.

"We have no control over whether they come back or not," said Munoz. "We are interested in it [hosting the Expos in 2004] and we are available to do it but we have no idea what they are planning."

Expos executive vice president of business affairs, Claude Delorme, said it was too early to talk about 2004.

"Right now there’s a committee evaluating the future status of the Expos. I’ve been with the Expos for 22 years and things have been up in the air like this for the past five years. Last year, the talk was contraction. This year it’s the games in San Juan," said Delorme. "It’s nothing new for me to hear rumors about the team’s future."

The Expos saved themselves more than a million dollars earlier this week, getting them closer to their payroll goals, after the team won its arbitration hearing versus Puerto Rican pitcher Javier Vazquez.

Vazquez was seeking $7.5 million and the panel ruled in favor of the team’s $6 million offer. The news means the Expos will start in San Juan with Puerto Ricans Vazquez and Jose Vidro on their roster, while Vazquez won’t get the raise he was seeking.

One last note about the Expos in San Juan: If you’re a collector, bring your glove, save your money and buy a $10 seat in the outfield bleachers. It’s a no-brainer that all 22 games are going to be a fiesta for power hitters. Expos executive Delorme revealed this week that the City of San Juan won’t be extending the outfield.

"Originally the plan was to move the fence back but it was going to be too costly to put in the new carpeting and there wasn’t enough time. So, the fence will stay right where it is and we’ll make the best of it," said Delorme. "It will be fair for both teams."

The current dimensions will stand at 318 feet down the line and 338 feet in the power alleys just as the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers used for Opening Day 2001 in San Juan.

The major league ballpark average for the power alleys is about 375 feet. Bithorn’s dimensions were once a little more generous — about 335 down the line and 375 in the power alleys, but the Puerto Rico Winter League moved the fences in about five years ago.

The fence is expected to be raised from its current eight feet to 12 feet, although it won’t likely make a difference for the hitters.

Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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