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Calderon Becomes Puerto Rico’s Fourth Current Boxing World Champion

By Gabrielle Paese

May 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico got a big boost this weekend from the smallest of its boxers, strawweight (105 pounds) fighter Ivan Calderon. The 2000 Olympian defeated Colombia’s Eduardo Ray Marquez in a ninth-round TKO in Las Vegas for Marquez’s WBO title. Marquez had barely a chance to show the belt off to his friends. He had just earned it last month by beating Spain’s Jorge Mata.

WBO president Francisco "Paquito" Valcarcel cleared the way for Marquez to fight Calderon one month later for his first, albeit unsuccessful, defense.

At 27, Calderon (16-0, 3 KO) is the eldest of Puerto Rico’s Class of 2000 Olympians, a group that also included lightweight prospect Miguel Cotto. The Guaynabo native remained amateur for nearly two full Olympic cycles because he knew the pro purses were lighter for the lightweight fighters.

"Ivan said, ‘I’m not young like Miguel. You’ve got to get me a title quick," said Top Rank vice president Todd DuBoef of promoter Bob Arum’s decision to give Calderon a title shot this early in the game.

While Calderon was still basking in the warm glow (and sporting stitches from a cut over his right eye), Calderon’s local promoter, Peter Rivera, of Best Boxing, in conjunction with Bob Arum’s Top Rank organization, was already plotting the island’s next greatest main event.

For the first time in Puerto Rico history, Showtime will broadcast a pay-per-view card from the island. The venue is Bayamon’s Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum and the fight date is June 28. Two of Puerto Rico’s current world champions will headline.

They are WBA flyweight champion Eric Morel (32-0, 18 KO) and WBO junior middleweight champion Daniel Santos (26-2-1, 20 KO). Morel will fight Mexico’s Isidro Garcia (22-2-2, 7 KO) while Santos will make a mandatory defense versus Colombia’s Fulgencio Zuniga (11-0, 11 KO). Puerto Rico’s other two current world champions are Calderon and Nelson Dieppa (WBO junior flyweight).

Top Rank prospect, lightweight Miguel Cotto, will fight Chicago’s Rocky Martinez (38-8-1, 20 KO) for the NABO lightweight title, as I said in last week’s column.

The big question mark for this fight card in Santos, who hasn’t stepped into the ring since Aug. 18, 2002 when he beat Iran’s Takaloo in Wales, for his first title defense. Santos, 28, captured the vacant WBO 154-pound title on March 16, 2002 by beating Mexican Yory Boy Campas. He is a former WBO welterweight champion, a title he defended twice.

Overweight and plagued with personal problems, Santos showed up for a press conference last week in Bayamon in a baggy sweatsuit and windbreaker in marked contrast to his usual natty attire.

Santos’ trainer, Alejandro "Pupi" De la Torre, admitted Santos is still well over his 154-pound fighting weight. While De la Torre insisted that his pupil is has only 13 pounds to go, friends hinted that Santos is actually as much as 20 pounds over where he needs to be in less than two months.

Three weeks ago, De la Torre took drastic measures, moving training camp from Bayamon, just yards away from the fight venue, to northwest Miami.

"I had him training hard for 15 days in Puerto Rico and he didn’t drop a single pound so I knew I had to do something," said the former Cuban national team trainer.

Santos is running up to two hours daily and is on the Atkins diet, De la Torre said.

"It’s hard to maintain a diet in Puerto Rico. Our records show that Daniel trains better when he doesn’t prepare in Puerto Rico," De la Torre said, admitting that Santos has been struggling for some time.

"Daniel is already a middleweight," De la Torre said.

Santosis also reportedly distracted by trouble at home. His wife, Lorraine Reyes, filed domestic violence charges against the fighter last month, charges which were later allegedly dropped in court. She did not attend last week’s press conference.

"We left Puerto Rico to train in peace," said De la Torre.

Santos is meeting his final contractual obligation with British promoter Frank Warren with this fight. He hinted that he would consider remaining at 154 only if he was offered something lucrative.

Arroyo returns to SBL action

Utah Jazz point guard Carlos Arroyo re-joined his Puerto Rico Superior Basketball League team, the Santurce Cangrejeros, last week, despite controversy over his current contract with his NBA team.

Arroyo is currently a free agent and Utah won’t likely sign him again, if they elect to do so, until September. A lot of fuss was made in San Juan last week about the rules preventing Arroyo from playing in the SBL, be they FIBA or NBA restrictions. But the fact is, the NBA is unlikely to make an issue over a player who is not actually under contract.

In the meantime, playing with Santurce will keep Arroyo in shape for the Olympic qualifier to be held in San Juan in late August.

The last of the SBL’s franchise players has left the building. After 22 years in a Bayamon Vaqueros uniform, P.R. team forward Jerome Mincy made his SBL debut for the Ponce Leones, marking the first time in his career that he has played with a team other than Bayamon. Mincy cited irreconcilable differences between current Bayamon franchise holder Juan Trinidad as the reason for the move. The 38-year-old retired from SBL play in 2002, a move he now says was made due to pressure from Trinidad. Welcome back.

Despreciado wins Puerto Rico Derby

His name means "overlooked" in Spanish, and Despreciado lived up to it Sunday when he surprised the field to win the Puerto Rico Derby, the first leg of the Puerto Rico Triple Crown at El Comandante racetrack in Canovanas last Sunday.

Despreciado will be overlooked no more. The 17-1 longshot beat a field of top-flight colts, going wire-to-wire over 1 1/16 mile to beat his closest rival, Don Cabo, by two lengths in a field of eight horses.

The son of Gold Case in Castleberry, ridden by Luis Enrique Perez, will enter the Governor’s Cup, the second leg of the Triple Crown, his trainer, Anderson Santiago said.

Despreciado was purchased by Jaime Rivera for $18,000 at a Haras Santa Isabel auction after having been passed over at three previous auctions.

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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