New York City - The pro boxing experts are aware that the sport has an influx of champions of Latino descent. A majority of champions in every division hold a share of the major championships from the primary sanctioning organizations, that being the WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO.
Perhaps that is considered alphabet soup to the fans who are labeled boxing purists, but to be a champion holds significance in the sport no matter what the label is. At last look, over 70 percent of the sport is dominated by a champion from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Argentina, and those with Latino descent born in America train in Miami,Florida or up and down the coast of California.
Boxing has always been a sport that caters to a different nationality. Except now, with exception of the heavyweight division, it is the Latino heritage that continues to shine in the ring.
“Miguel Cotto still has the popularity in Puerto Rico and Felix Trinidad never loses his image as their most popular fighter,” said renounced ringside boxing judge and HBO analyst Harold Lederman Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Lederman was among the many at the final Top Rank Press conference for the Saturday evening HBO televised boxing card that includes three championship fights. The main event is the WBO Featherweight title defense as Orlando Salido (39-11-2) of Ciudad Obregon Mexico faces the undefeated, 30-0 Miguel Angel Garcia of Oxnard California.
Also, Gabriel Rosado (21-5, 13 KO’s) of Philadelphia will attempt to dethrone WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin,( 24-0, 21 KO’s) in a 12-round bout, and Juan Carlos Burgos (30-1, 20 KO’s) of Tijuana Mexico opposes Rocky Martinez, (26-1-1, 16 KO’s) of Vega Baha Puerto Rico, the WBO Super Featherweight champion.
New York City and Madison Square Garden has always been a success for Top Rank. Cotto , a four-time and three-division champion sold out the Garden twice as he defended his titles under the Top Rank banner.
And in the smaller Wamu Theater, adjacent to the arena where Saturday’s show takes place, former featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez of Caguas defended his title two times before losing to Salido in San Juan last March.
“It is where any fighter wants to be and I am finally here,” commented Felix Verdejo, about fighting in New York as a Latino at the famous arena. The 19 year old lightweight and native of Cupey, Puerto Rico represented his country at the recent Olympic Games in London this past summer. He recently signed with Top Rank and had a successful pro debut with a four-round unanimous decision in Las Vegas last month.
But the interest Saturday is with Salido against the number one contender, Garcia. Top Rank is promoting the card in conjunction with K2 Promotions and a sell–out appears to be on the horizon.
“I always wanted to fight the best and that’s why I come here,” said Salido who captured his first world title in his third attempt. Garcia has won 14 of his last 15 fights via the knockout route, so Salido is well aware this will be no easy task.
Salido said, “The fight is going to be a war in the ring.” Garcia is just as confident and vows his abilities will see a new champion crowned Saturday night."
And Bob Arum, the lead promoter of Top Rank is pleased what fans will see. His emphasis, when not looking at the interests of Manny Pacquiao, is to make fights like this happen. New York City and Madison Square Garden, with a popular Latino fan base has adapted to the exciting featherweights.
Salido could head to a return bout with Lopez, assuming things go his way. Lopez is scheduled for a return to the ring on February 2nd against Aldimir Silva Santos in Bayamon, Puerto Rico after a year- long suspension.
“New York City has a very intelligent fan base,” says Arum. “You have to understand that when you put a fight in New York City. You have to put a good card together for it to sell.”
Top Rank has a tradition of putting on good fights in the Big Apple. More so, they are aware how the Latino fighter and champion now dominate the sport. Arum tried to milk a possible Lopez-Yuriorkis Gamboa encounter in the same arena. But, that fell through when Gamboa deflected from his company and when Lopez had his share of problems.
For now, fans will settle for Salido and Garcia, and all reports are Lopez could be back in the arena soon.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com