|Alfredo Angulo “I’m Ready”
By Gabriel Montoya at the Gym (Oct 3, 2008) DoghouseBoxing.com (Photo © German Villasenor)
If you are looking for tough sparring or a glimpse of up-and-coming fighters sure to make a mark on the sport, the Maywood Boxing Club is as good a place as you’ll find here in Southern California. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of visiting Maywood and getting a glimpse into the life and work of junior middleweight prospect Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo; a fighter destined to be a player in the sport for years to come. Angulo (13-0 with 10 KOs) is in final preparation for his Saturday bout on HBO against Andrey Tsurkan (26-3 with 17 Kos).
The Maywood Boxing Club is your classic boxing gym. It almost has a barbershop feel with its smattering of old timers sitting idly by, talking in Spanish amongst themselves and waiting to watch “El Perro” work.
Set up in a kind of rec center- like building, the large room is dominated by two rings, with several heavy bags behind them along with a small maze of double-end bags, with speed bags lining the walls. On the left side of the room, the fighters are able to jump rope in front of a large mirror. At the opposite end of the room, sit weights as well as a training table. Nearby, a table covered in trophies displays the talent coming out of this particular building. Posters of Angulo, as well several classic fight posters line the walls.
Watching him fight over the past year or so, my impression of Angulo was one of a stoic fighting machine, moving forward in typical Mexican warrior fashion, taking a couple shots to land a few thunderous punches of his own. Who I found when I got to the gym was not what I had expected at all.
As I arrived, Angulo and his team were just beginning prep for the day which would include sparring and general floor work (all the bags, jump rope, and of course, a ton of sit-ups). I set up in the corner of the room to observe, not sure of when our interview would begin. Angulo sat on the ring apron, waiting and talking among his life-long trainer, Clemente Medina, as well as his brother-in-law (and my translator and guide for the day) Roberto Garcia.
After a few awkward moments, Angulo waves me over and I realize he has been waiting for me to come over and interview him.
Alfredo Angulo grew up in Mexicali, Mexico. Working from the age of nine, sweeping up local shops or doing whatever handy work he could find, Angulo found boxing at age 17 and worked his way through a successful amateur career. Boasting a 95-15 record, Angulo won a bronze medal at the 2003 Pan Am Games. He also fought on the 2004 Mexican Olympic Boxing Team, losing to middleweight prospect Andy Lee.
After that he turned pro, signing with Gary Shaw Promotions and appearing several times on Showtime’s ShoBox series. Most recently, he appeared on HBO Boxing After Dark series where he turned in an impressive performance against Richard Gutierrez, stopping in five rounds.
Angulo speaks succinctly about the sport he loves. When I ask him what he learned from the Gutierrez fight and how he can take it into the Tsurkan fight, he simply says “I trains the same way for every fight. No matter who it is, it’s all the same. No matter who it is, I prepare the same. Big names, small names. Always intense preparation.”
That preparation includes usually begins with a tape session at the start of camp.
“We usually watch the video of the opponent once,” he says. “And then we come up with a strategy for the fight.”
The rest is “hard work and discipline,” which includes a daily 6AM run, followed by a nap. Then the usual gym work along with sparring sessions all the way up to the day before the fight.
“He doesn’t want to be lazy,” explains Roberto Garcia. “He fights all the way up to the fight.”
Up until a few months ago, Gary Shaw Promotions had two jr. middleweight prospects: Angulo and James Kirkland. A fight between seems a natural at some point but for a promotional company, having both of them seemed too much of a good thing. So Kirkland left the stable and now Angulo is in the driver’s seat, headlining cards and clearly being groomed for the upper levels of the sport. If there is any pressure from this, Angulo doesn’t reveal it.
“I feel the same way as before,” he says.
When it comes to discussing a possible future showdown with Kirkland or the other top 154 fighters like Joel Julio or Vernon Forrest, Angulo remains focused on the moment.
“I do my job,” he says. “I let the other people do their job. I just fight the opponent they give me. The next [opponent] will fit like a puzzle piece.”
Call outs or demanding a fight simply isn’t his style.
He smiles at this suggestion, “I let these do the talking,” indicating his fists.
Next comes the subject of his next opponent, Andrey Tsurkan, a tough Russian fighter with wins over Hector Camacho, Jr, and Jesse Feliciano.
“He's a strong guy,” Angulo says of Tsurkan. “He throws a lot of punches. Southpaw. Everyone expects pretty good fight.”
Does “a pretty good fight” equate to a knockout or a decision win for ‘El Perro”?
At this he smiles, “No prediction. I've never made a prediction.”
At 13-0, Angulo is somewhat different than other prospects I’ve watched. He has shown resiliency in coming back from being hurt against Gutierrez to score a KO in the same round and has blown out fighters that should have taken more than a few rounds. His performances beg the question: is “El Perro” ready to fight against the top dogs in his division.
“None of these fights are easy, “says Garcia. “He’s ready.”
And with that, Angulo begins to get ready for action. In the background, Mexican Ranchero music is playing. “He loves Mexican music,” explains Garcia. ‘It’s the only way he works. All the way here we listen to Latin music.” Trainer Medina, wraps his hands and oils him down. Angulo, already at weight since Monday, Angulo puts on three layers of shirts for good measure and gears up for sparring.
Nearby, the young son of boxing manager Rudy Hernandez, watches Angulo prepare with the admiration only a child can have. He mimics Angulo and even applies baby oil on his arms like his hero. Angulo, who has a developed a significant following among the local kids, shows the boy how to properly stretch and playfully pushes the kid around.
“He likes teaching kids how to box,” says Garcia.
Following ten minutes of jump rope, Angulo is ready for today’s sparring session. His sparring partner is Ruben Rivera, a lanky amateur (about to turn pro in two weeks) fighter at least one weight class above Angulo. A natural and fluid mover, Rivera is a nice test for Angulo.
Round one begins and right off the bat, Rivera gets his jab going. “Perro” cuts off the ring and lands a sneaky right hand as he slips the jab. He’s a slow starter but effective when countering which he does much off as Rivera starts fast and gets off often.
In round two, Angulo seems to be working on head movement as well as some catch and counter moves. Rivera’s jab lands but seemingly has no effect on Angulo who keeps moving forward, picking off shots with his gloves and ducking under others. By round’s end, Angulo’s offense is on track as he punishes Rivera to the body with shots that make my ribs hurt.
Between round two and three, “Perro” takes no water, instead pacing as Medina gives instruction to Rivera who comes out guns blazing. A left and right land for Rivera. “Perro” keeps it relaxed and simple. Cutting off the ring, jab, right to the head, left to the body. He explodes for 6 body punches and right upstairs, backing Rivera up. Rivera lands a hook that backs Angulo to the ropes but he gamely fires back a 4 punch combo and escapes. That sneaky right off a slip lands at the bell for Angulo.
In the previous round, Rivera was focused on the double jab. This round, he looks to get off the lead uppercut. But Angulo adjusts and lands an uppercut to the body. He is starting to manhandle Rivera who appears to have been slowed by Angulo’s body work.
By the 5th and final round, Angulo is in full effect. Jabs up and downstairs. Crisp rights and lefts that back up Rivera. Watching Angulo, I get the image of a train slowly picking up steam until it roars through and past everything in its path. Everything gets better as the rounds go on. Head movement, the combinations, all sharp as a tack. “He’s ready” indeed.
Angulo heads over to the five double-end bags and throws rapid fire punches on one bag then moves to another until he has hit all five. Then he starts all over again.
Then it’s time for mitt work as Medina removes his shirt and jokingly jiggles his sizable belly to those ringside. Everyone laughs which doesn’t seem like an unusual occurrence here in camp.
Now, I’ve been in the gym with two of the sports hardest punchers in Kermit Cintron and Manny Pacquiao. Both hit the mitts with thunderous. Neither is as loud as Angulo whose shotgun blast punches probably can be heard from across the street. What is most surprising is how fast he rattles off long series of punches. His punches flow one after another, crisp, fast, and extremely accurate. After several rounds, Angulo gets ready for core work.
Sweaty but hardly breathing heavy, “Perro” looks over at me and asks out of nowhere “You want an ice cream?”
“Umm . . . sure,” I answer and he gestures outside to a vendor passing out various ice creams. I settle on a drum stick sundae. It's good.
“Every day at 1 o’clock he comes. If he’s late or doesn’t come, the next day he gets yelled at,” Garcia says good-naturedly of the vendor.
As Medina removes his gloves, Angulo looks over at me and down at my shirt which depicts a lounging Sumo wrestler with the caption, “I’m Big and Beautiful.”
“Are you a fan of Clemente?” Angulo asks me.
“I’ve never seen him fight,” I answer.
“Well, you’re wearing his shirt,” he says and bursts out laughing.
“He loves me,” deadpans Medina.
Angulo catches his breath and then bursts out laughing again.
Now it’s time for sit-ups.
“Who’s your favorite fighter,” I ask as he moves through a series of gut wrenching core exercises.
“Ricardo “El Finito” Lopez,” he answers without hesitation. “He was 12 years undefeated . He never had problems with weight, drinking, or nothing. And he retired undefeated. He was a clean fighter. That means a lot to me. He always trained the same. Same trainer. Same gym. My other favorite is Julio Caesar Chavez because of course, he was the biggest fighter in Mexico.”
After passing out ice cream to the few fighters and patrons hanging out, the vendor comes into the gym with two fruit popsicles (one red, one yellow) in a bag filled with ice and ties them to the ring post. One is for Angulo. The other is for Rivera.
“He has one every day,” explains Garcia.
Angulo, done with his training, splashes Rivera with a water bottle as he walks by. Then he splashes his trainer. He grins over at me and I move away before I get splashed, too.
The work almost done for the day, Medina lets me in on one more ritual. He takes the hand wraps from today’s session and begins taping it into a ball.
“Every day for three years we have done this, “Medina says of the ball. “We wrap it and see who can make a basket first,” indicating a hanging wastebasket on a post just on the other side of the ring.
After four attempts, Medina drops in the fifth one.
Next comes Angulo, who has wrapped up the other ball. He drops it on the first shot to Medina’s dismay.
“Three days in a row he’s done that,” he smiles and shakes his head.
Call it superstition or ritual, Angulo and his team take pride in their consistency. Same gym, same trainer, same regimen. It’s a formula they hope to ride all the way to a world title. Sure he works as hard as anyone I have ever witnessed in the gym, but at 13 fights, is he ready for that step?
“That's the same question as who do you want to fight,” says Angulo with a smile. “Hey, I'm ready.”
Gabriel at: Coyotefeather@gmail.com .
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