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July 1, 2005
World Boxing Organization minimum-weight champ Ivan Calderon (23-0, 5 KO) beat Mexican Gerardo Verde last weekend by a 12-round unanimous decision for his seventh title defense. Two of the judges saw it 117-11 in Calderon's favor, while a third saw him winning, 115-113.
Calderon called the defense "one of the most difficult of my career." He got hit hard by Verde in the 11th and 12th rounds and compared the fight's difficulty to his unanimous decision defense last year versus Mexico's Roberto Carlos Leyva.
"[Verde] was prepared. He did his job, but he did it a little late," said the Guaynabo native. "If he had started a little earlier [in the fight], maybe the outcome would have been different. I was in a little bit of trouble in the final two rounds, but because of my experience, I was able to survive."
Calderon's trainer, Jose "Che Che" Sanchez, said Verde hit low and hard.
"His right was very good and when he hit his shots to the body, my fighter felt them," said Sanchez, who has worked with Calderon since the fighter's amateur days. "I thought Ivan would be able to finish him off by the seventh round, but it was in the seventh that he [Verde] found his rhythm and we had to take a more tactical approach with Ivan. We used his superior speed and boxing skills to win, but Verde was better than I expected."
Calderon fought on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Arturo Gatti headliner in Atlantic City, N.J., in which Mayweather Jr. emerged victorious, opening up a possible Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto fight in the future.
As for Calderon, he's hoping to unify the division beginning Oct. 22 with a match versus Indonesia's Muhammad Rachman (50-7-4, 22 KO). Calderon's manager, Peter Rivera, said this week that Rachman, 32, must first win a mandatory defense over Mexico's Omar Soto later this month.
"We've already reserved the date and our intention is to hold the bout in Puerto Rico," said Rivera. "Anywhere we hold this bout it would be worth watching."
Rachman won his IBF title on Sept. 14, 2004 with a split decision over Daniel Reyes.
And the ESPY for Best Upset goes to...
It's a big moment for underachievers. Puerto Rico's Olympic basketball team, the one that beat the United States "Dream Team" in Athens, is up for an ESPY (Excellence in Sports Yearly) as the Best Upset. The other candidates are the victory by 14th-seed Bucknell over third-seedKansas during the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament and the OT win by 13th seed Vermont over fourth-seed Syracuse, also in that first round. Giacomo is also nominated (for the 50-1 longshot Kentucky Derby win). Fans can vote on the ESPN website.
Sanchez selected in NBA new player draft
Ricky Sanchez this week became the second Puerto Rican basketball player in history to be selected right out of high school in the NBA new player draft. The 6-11 Sanchez, 17, who finished his last year of high school at the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida, was selected 35th in the second round by the Portland Trailblazers and immediately dealt to Denver in a trade for guard Jarrett Jack.
The Guayama native, who turns 18 on July 6, was part of the U-21 Puerto Rico team that upset the Argentinean U-21 team last year at their World Qualifying in Canada. He is expected to represent the island at the U-21 Worlds in Argentina later this summer.
Sanchez played for Caguas Baptist High (alongside Peter John Ramos, who was drafted last year by the Washington Wizards) before tranferring to IMG for his senior year.
A second Puerto Rican player, Filiberto Rivera, did not get the call. Detroit Pistons point guard Carlos Arroyo, who returned to Puerto Rico this week following the Pistons' Game 7 NBA Finals loss to San Antonio, offered words of encouragement.
"Look at me, I'm a perfect example," said Arroyo, who was not drafted out of Florida State University and clawed his way into the NBA via summer camps, beginning his career with Toronto and Denver during the 2001-2002 season. "I wasn't drafted and that meant I just had to work even harder."
Ramos, who spent this past season learning the ropes on the bench with the Wizards, will play summer league from July 9-16 and miss the first week of U-21 team practices, although he is expected to play with the U-21 team at the Worlds.
Arroyo, meanwhile, announced this week that he'll skip Puerto Rico team play this summer as the senior team tries to qualify for the World championships via a zone tournament in Santo Domingo. Arroyo's wife is expecting the couple's first child, a girl, mid-August, just prior to the start of the qualifier.
Molina's hot bat
Check out Yadier Molina, the third in the Molina family of catchers (brothers Bengie and Jose are with Los Angeles). Last week, the youngest of the Molinas homered in three straight games, becoming the first St. Louis catcher in 11 years to keep up such a streak. Molina's third home run in as many games was a two-run shot versus the Pirates, although the Cardinals ended up losing 5-4 (Molina walked into a double play in the fourth inning after his teammate Abraham Nunez stopped cold on the way to second thinking that Molina had been tagged out at first). Molina's three home runs capped a seven-game hit streak for the 22-year-old Vega Alta native, who had a hit in 14 of his last 19 home games for St. Louis.
Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was 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.