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March 26, 2004
Two years of boxing inactivity had absolutely no negative effect on Vieques native Nelson Dieppa Saturday night in Guaynabo. The proof was in his gloves. It took him less than two minutes to knock out rival Kermin Guardia, of Colombia, and reclaim the WBO 108-pound belt that had been withheld from him for spending two years out of the ring instead of in it. Dieppa had not fought since his 2002 defense versus Colombian Jhon Molina ended in a no-contest due to an accidental head butt. Dieppa's record now improves to 20-2, 11 KO.
Dieppa's management team is currently in conversations with Oscar De la Hoya's promotional company. Dieppa was under contract to Don King, but for this fight he asked for, and got, a release given the comedy of errors-like circumstances in the 33-year-old's career over the past year. Dieppa dieted down to 108 three times in 2003, only to have his fights suffer cancellations for various reasons, the last one being a rain-out in Fajardo in November.
Speaking of 108, WBO minimum weight (105) champion Ivan Calderon (19-0, 4 KO) said there will be no three pound allowance either up or down as he has no plans to fight Dieppa as some in Puerto Rico have suggested. Calderon, who knocked out Edgar Cardenas in the 11th round of their "Night of Champions" headliner Saturday night, could fight the winner of the Daniel Reyes-Roberto Leyva matchup, manager Peter Rivera said. Both Dieppa and Calderon are pushing for to unify their titles.
Weight was quite an issue for Calderon's rival, Cardenas, who tipped the scale 24 hours prior to the bout at 110. Despite diuretics and two hours on the treadmill, Cardenas could only get down to 108 _ pounds. Calderon conceded to fight the Mexican, although by WBO rules, the Guaynabo native didn't have to put his title on the line.
Finally, former WBA 112-pound champ Eric Morel launched a successful campaign at 115 with a unanimous decision victory over Jesus "Kiki" Rojas. Also fighting this past weekend was Hector "Machito" Camacho Jr. in Oakland, Calif., versus Mike Davis. Camacho (37-1, 21 KO) knocked out Davis at 2:30 in the second round, according to Oakland newspaper reports. The two fought at 154, significant because Camacho Jr. has been out of boxing for more than a year now mostly because his fighting weight, 140, is such a struggle for him.
Three more boxers qualify for Athens
Three more of Puerto Rico's amateur boxers earned plane tickets to Athens via an Americas Boxing Qualifier held in Tijuana, Mexico. Juanma Lopez, Joseph Serrano and Carlos Velazquez joined Alex "El Pollo" De Jesus as the only four boxers to have earned Olympic berths thus far. Boxers from this continent have one last chance to qualify next month in Brazil.
Lopez, Serrano and Velazquez earned silver medals in Tijuana, all losing in their final bouts. Lopez, who fights at 119 pounds, lost a 29-18 decision to Canada's Andrew Kooner while Serrano was beaten by U.S. boxer Ron Siler, 34-22, at 112 pounds. Velazquez bowed to Cuba's Luis Franco, 30-8, at 125 pounds.
Serrano was a last-minute replacement on the team for Carlos Valcarcel, who opened a cut on his head that required 11 stitches during an yard-work accident just three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Lopez said he's keeping the champagne on ice until he wins at the Olympics.
"My goal in this sport is to be a world champion and I'd love to go into pro boxing with an Olympic medal," said Lopez, who defeated tough first-round rival Roberto Benitez, of the United States, 32-22, to advance in the tournament. "This time I lost to the Canadian in the final, but the next time I face him it will be Puerto Rico's flag going up on the winner's stand."
Lopez said he lost to Benitez six years ago during a boxing tournament in Caguas and was especially anxious for revenge.
"I was a kid then and had no boxing experience and I lost to him by two points," said Lopez. "This time I dominated him comfortably. Had it not been for the big boxing gloves they use at this type of tournament he would have been sprawled on the floor."
Lopez defeated Dominican Agenis Mendez, 21-15, to advance to the medal round.
"He was tough to beat because he was so much longer and taller than me and had a better reach," said Lopez. "I was uncomfortable in the first two rounds but by the third rounds I had him figured out."
Lopez, 21, of Caguas, said the celebration will be short as there is still a lot of training to do before the summer, including tune-ups in Cuba, Italy and the United States.
The International Amateur Boxing Federation and the IOC first instituted qualifiers for the Olympics of 1996 in Athens as event organizers looked to trim the number of athletes heading to the Olympics. Prior to that time, each country was allowed to field boxers in each weight class. With the new rules, Puerto Rico earned bronze in 1996 (Daniel Santos), but came up empty-handed in 2000 in Sydney. Boxing is the only sport in which Puerto Rico has earned Olympic medals in the history of its participation at the Games.
"El Gallo" Rivera takes swing at King
With promoters like Don King, who needs enemies? That was the message WBA welterweight champion Jose Antonio "El Gallo" Rivera's people had for the boxing world Tuesday.
"Don King promotes both Rivera and [Ricardo] Mayorga yet Jose has been portrayed as a sacrificial lamb heading to slaughter against King's cash cow, Mayorga," said Bob Trieger, Rivera's publicist, via press release. "A picture of world champion Rivera is conspicuously absent from "The New Era Begins" fight poster, on which Mayorga's likeness is prominently displayed."
In the press release, Trieger said team Rivera feels the odds are stacked against their boxer for the April 17 card at Madison Square Garden at which John Ruiz and Fres Oquendo will square off. Rivera (37-3-1, 24 KO) already beat tough odds last September when he decisioned a previously unbeaten Michael Trabant in Berlin for the belt.
"Last December, King's plans for a Mayorga-Sugar Shane Mosley pay-per-view extravaganza went up in smoke when Cory Spinks upset Mayorga, whose manager, Don's son Carl, officially appealed the decision claiming the referee erred by ruling two Spinks knockdowns as falls," Trieger said.
When Mayorga didn't appear for the pre-fight press conference last month in New York, King reported that Mayorga's absence was due to a hand injury suffered at training camp. Don King point man Bobby Goodman, told Rivera's manager, Steve Tankanow, however, that Mayorga had not suffered an injury.
"I just want the Kings to make sure Ricardo El Cry Baby' Mayorga shows up April 17 and after Jose wins," Tankanow said, "I hope Mayorga doesn't run crying to the New York Boxing Commission.
"You would think they learned a valuable lesson the first time around when Mayorga blew the Mosley fight. All I'm reading is Don talking about Mayorga's next opponent. Now it's supposed to be Tito Trinidad. From listening to Don, you'd never know he promotes Jose, too. Who will Don offer to Rivera after he knocks out Mayorga? Mayorga's going to need more than Don, Carl and the others in his corner to beat Jose. They can't help him once the first bell rings.
Jose is used to being an underdog, he's comfortable in that role, but come April 17 the whole boxing world is going to know Jose Antonio Rivera."
Trieger ended the press release with this warning: "Don't count your chickens before they hatch, cuz The Rooster is coming."
Baseball prospects graduate from new high school
Puerto Rico Baseball Academy High School's first graduating class received its school rings this past weekend during a ceremony held at the University of Turabo in Caguas. In his address, school principal and former Texas Rangers pitcher Edwin Correa told the future ballplayers: "This could be the first of many rings. I hope that some of you get to the World Series." Correa founded the school, which is backed by major league baseball, two years ago.
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 email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.