It has been a long wait but it is finally going down. After a year-and-a-half layoff the reigning WBA welterweight champion Jose Antonio Rivera, 37-3-1 (24), is set to defend his title for the first time since earning the belt in September ’03 . His defense won’t be an easy one, but great fights make great fighters. His opposition will be the hard hitting undefeated southpaw Thomas Damgaard, 34-0 (26), and the two are set to face in the champion’s hometown of Worcester, MA at the Centrum Center on April 2nd on the under card of the Braithwaite-Mormeck championship match-up on Showtime.
Photo © JoseAntonioRivera.com
Jose Antonio Rivera is probably one of the most best kept secrets in the welterweight division and no other title holder will even mention his name (yes, I am talking about Zab Judah). Why fight Rivera, does he pose a threat to the others in his division? Well yes he does; his hard work and dedication, his work ethic is next to none. Don’t forget about his crafty speed with his power tagging right there alongside. But Rivera won’t settle for being a secret any longer, he will take on the best, beat the best and become the best! He is your average guy working class fighter, holding down a job and still making time for his son and the ‘sweet science’.
Rivera has been inactive but not by his choice. The first meeting of Damgaard-Rivera didn’t materialize because Damgaard lost his father. Jose was then matched up against Ricardo Mayorga last March but Ricardo failed to make weight. It has just been a series of unfortunate events for the thirty year old fighter, but the time has finally come, and this time it is for real. He is set and ready to make his gallant return and show the boxing world that out of all the imposters, he is the Man! Rivera sat down with the Doghouse and discussed his thoughts on his upcoming fight along with his future, enjoy.
Benny Henderson Jr.: Hey Jose, you’ll be facing Thomas Damgaard April 2nd; can you give us your thoughts on this bout and your undefeated opponent?
Jose Antonio Rivera: It’s going to be a tough fight; he’s not undefeated for any reason. He’s definitely a good caliber fighter; he’s ranked in all the organizations. Ring magazine has him as number three and I’m not even in the top ten, so you go figure on that one, but he is a very aggressive southpaw who comes to destroy you. I will have to make sure that he knows to respect me in the ring.
BH: It has been about a year and a half since you have been in the ring due to a lot of unfortunate events with your opponents so you haven’t fought, do you think there will a problem with your inactivity come April 2nd?
JAR: No, there shouldn’t be any problems, I’m consistently in the gym and in good shape and take care of my body. I have been off because of events and circumstances beyond my control but it is what it is.
BH: You have these other welterweights out there (Zab Judah) giving all these names that he wants to fight, you weren’t one of the opponents he mentioned that he wanted. Give us your thoughts on that matter, why doesn’t Zab want to fight you?
JAR: I’m never the opponent that any of the guys mention. I think first of all that I’m to risky for not enough pay day, everybody always mentions the nig names, they want the De La Hoya’s, the Trinidad’s and the Hopkins, they only mention names that are going to generate money. Why risk getting beat for no money? So that’s the position that I’m in, so until I beat Damgaard and get the exposure on Showtime, HBO or Pay Per View and able to cross over to where I have a name and can generate some money then they will mention my name.
BH: Damgaard is a crafty southpaw with very good power who is undefeated out of thirty-four fights. What is your fight plan coming into this bout and do you see anything in Damgaard that you can capitalize on that the other thirty-four opponents maybe didn’t see?
JAR: Well I see a lot of things I can capitalize on but nothing that I will get specific on because I don’t want to give my game plan away. But I will say that he will see in me something that he has never seen before, and that I can guarantee. I never guarantee victories even thought I think I’m going to win the fight, but I can guarantee he has never seen a fighter like me and I’m going to give him fits in there. He is a really powerful fighter but he’s also going to have to respect my power.
BH: You had a very unfortunate up bringing with your mother passing at a very young age and you left to defend for yourself. And now you are a successful fighter with a title and a very good career. You are very involved with community charities and centers, pretty much giving your time to others and helping out. Do you do this because of the life you had and how does it feel to help out?
JAR: It is exactly why I do it, I do it because I feel it is my God given gift and ability and opportunity. God gave me the ability and opportunity to be able to do the things and I can do and he wants me to go out there and use it, not just in the ring but in life. If I believe I can over come the things that I have been able to over come, then it is my job to give back to the community and help those who are going through the same circumstances if not worse.
BH: Can you give us some of the organizations you work with and can you give us a bit of insight on the project Y.E.S. to success you’re involved with?
JAR: The program is called Youth Education & Success it was brought up by the police department gang unit. We go out to the schools and talk to the kids about the importance about education, goal settings, staying away from drugs and gangs. Just shoot for the stars go out there because you can do it. The reason they brought me on board because of my back ground and I’ve been able to accomplish my goals and dreams, so they are able to relate to those things.
BH: What do you feel your best quality is as a fighter?
JAR: I think it is my second to none conditioning; I really take pride in it. I’m never bragging and never cocky but one thing that I’m always jubilant about is my conditioning. The work ethic that I have and what I put my body through to me is amazing.
BH: Do you plan on trying to stay more active in the future?
JAR: Ah most definitely, I have been waiting to fight in December. I could have probably fought every month if the fights were out there but I’m under control of Don King so when he gets the fights, that’s when I fight.
BH: On your website it reads on the opening page, “Live by Faith not by Fear”. Can you explain that quote?
JAR: Well, in life people are afraid to be successful, people are bound by inferiority and insecurity. A lot of our youth and adults are that way, so life you have to live it by faith that God will give you these things and you will be over to overcome and accomplish these things. Live you life positive, don’t live by fear just live by faith.
BH: Is there anything you would like to add or say in closing?
JAR: One of the things I want to let my fans know is that I thank them and I appreciate them, especially for this long inactivity that I have had. Thanks for hanging in there with me and I hope to make you proud come April 1st and I hope to look for some big things coming up in 2005.
I want to thank Bob Trieger at Full Court Press for his help, and I want to give a big shout out to Jose for his time and thoughts, it is greatly appreciated. For more info on Jose please visit his website: www.joseantoniorivera.com