Your winner… and new IBF heavyweight champion of the world Fres 'The Big O' Oquendo! Well, that is at least what Team Oquendo and the Connecticut crowd along with the HBO viewers who witnessed the twelve round title match September of 2003 thought would happen. Almost all who watched Oquendo's title challenge of Chris Byrd would have bet that the likeable Puerto Rican would have been announced the winner, but once again politicking mayhem would rear its ugly head out and hand out another sour decision in the corruptible sport. No disrespect to Chris Byrd, whom I personally like and respect, but Oquendo had the early rounds and the middle rounds and appeared to have pulled off a solid victory, but when the judges speak it is often over the heads of the two fighters and the fans. But that is water under the bridge and we fast forward to April of this year when 'Fast Fres' stepped in the ring with the 'Hugging Heavyweight' John Ruiz to compete for Ruiz’s WBA title. In what was a far from exhilarating fight to watch (but what Ruiz fight is?) the foul face of a premature stoppage once again declined Fres Oquendo the chance to sport a major title around his waist. After a display of clinching, holding and headlocks with just thirty-two seconds left in the eleventh round, Ruiz landed four clubbing shots to the head of Oquendo, putting the challenger on the ropes that prompted referee Wayne Kelly to jump in and stopped the contest even though Oquendo was still on his feet. Hey, can this guy ever get a break? At thirteen little Fres started the sweet science and went on to become a five time Chicago Golden Gloves State Champion and an Olympic Festival Champion with an amateur record of 97-8. Fast Fres stepped in the professional ranks in 1997 and went on a twenty-two bout winning streak and pounded out victories over then unbeaten fighters such as Duncan Dokiwari by unanimous decision in 1999 and in 2001 Oquendo dismantled Clifford Etienne by eighth round TKO in a fight where 'The Black Rhino' tasted the canvas a total of seven times. In 2002 Fres clashed with the smashing Samoan David Tua for the NABF heavyweight title and was dominating the heavy hitter until what Fres called cockiness took over and he got caught with a Tua bomb in the ninth. Oquendo went on to defeat George Arias for the vacant WBA Fedelatin heavyweight title and then knocked out Maurice Harris in the IBF title eliminator that gave Fres the go ahead for the Chris Byrd bout, and we know the outcome of that fiasco. So now what is up with Fres? Well he is rejuvenated, recharged and ready to set the records straight and show the boxing world that he is 'The Big O'. Now he is self-managed and hoping to return to the ring in January or February of 2005. Fres stopped by the Doghouse to offer his thoughts on the politics of boxing, his past and the future of his career.
Benny Henderson Jr.: Hey Fres what have you been up to lately?
Fres Oquendo: I have been maintaining back home where I started my boxing career in Chicago with my family and kids and looking forward to starting over a brand new leaf.
BH: You had a controversial loss or should I say you were robbed in the Byrd fight?
FO: Right, oh yeah, no doubt.
BH: OK, so you should have been the IBF heavyweight champion and then you faced John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title. Looking back in the bout against Ruiz it was a close fight until referee Wayne Kelly stopped it in the eleventh round in which you didn’t seem to be out on your feet in my eyes, just my opinion though.
FO: Oh of course, I was jumping around to let the ref know I was ok, that I have my legs so let me fight, this is the world heavyweight championship so don’t stop this fight. It was unfortunate that I was a victim of an early stoppage, another controversial loss in my career.
BH: So you feel the stoppage against Ruiz was premature?
FO: Oh yeah, most definitely.
BH: Yeah I interviewed Ruiz and asked him if he thought it was premature and of course you probably know that answer.
FO: Right, exactly [Laughs]. I just want to get this fight hopefully in January, the elimination bout so I can get right back to John Ruiz or Chris Byrd a rematch so I’m going to Florida this coming week and hopefully from there we will get a green light to get ranked and fight Byrd or a rematch with Ruiz. So I can prove the real me. My last fight unfortunately I was going through a lot of managerial problems with Tito Trinidad’s financial advisor. He kind of wasn’t working in my best interest and he showed his true colors, he was looking for his own. Unfortunately I wasn’t mentally ready for the fight, I was physically ready but not mentally. I fought Maurice Harris whom is a better fighter than Ruiz, David Tua I was dominating until I got to over confident and I fought Byrd, so I fought way better fighters than this guy. I looked terrible for this fight it wasn’t my best performance and I wasn’t ready for it mentally going into that fight. I wasn’t like I was when I fought the Black Rhino or these other fights where I had the urge or the motivation. Unfortunately there were a lot of things going on in my life in my personal life that caused me to not really perform up to par.
BH: So you should be the IBF and possibly the WBA heavyweight champion as we speak.
FO: Oh thank you very much, I definitely agree.
BH: How disappointing is that to your career to know that you could have had those two belts and instead you are dropped out of rankings?
FO: It is just politics but the most prestigious rankings which is USA Today Boxing and The Ring Magazine, they got me ranked higher than the WBO heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster because the know who the real world contenders are and they are the rankings that really count. But like you said in the politics of it, yeah you know they’ll try anything to get me out of there.
BH: Any news on your next opponent and when your next bout may be?
FO: It was supposed to be against Mount Whitaker but I guess they don’t want to risk their high ranking or what not so I will be heading to Florida and find out who is going to be my next opponent for my top ten ranking.
BH: Who would you like to step in the ring against?
FO: I would definitely get in with the top ten, like Monte Barrett or James Toney, especially him. So I definitely want to get into the ring.
BH: Looking back on your career so far what have been your most memorable moments?
FO: My break through fight when nobody gave me a chance when I fought the Olympic Silver medalist Duncan Dokiwari on the Tyson-Botha, I knocked him down twice and I showed the world I was a force to be reckoned with.
BH: Do you feel like you get respect from the boxing world?
FO: Well the boxing experts they know the caliber of my ability, but as far as the public, no. They try to write a brother off but I am fortunate and sooner or later I will get myself right back in the top. Sooner or later I will be fighting these top ten fighters and I will be beating them. I am the youngest guy in the bunch; I am thirty, these other guys are around thirty-four, thirty-five. I still have a lot of rejuvenation in me and a lot left in my tank.
BH: Why do you feel like you were short changed in the Byrd and Ruiz fight?
FO: It is the politics of the game. The Byrd fight, you know, if they would have gave me the decision my next fight, Don King would have had to give me over two million dollars for my next fight to defend my title. And you see that he has been paying Byrd less than a million dollars in his last couple of title defenses, it is like he said the industry of boxing is dry or whatever you know the excuses he always makes to not try to pay us the right amount. I guess for him not to come out of his pocket he made sure that decision didn’t go my way.
BH: What do you feel the future hold for Fres Oquendo?
FO: It holds a lot. I am still young, the public demands especially my countrymen of Puerto Rico and Chicago they are looking forward to me coming in especially going to see those fights live, the heavyweight tournament they had in Madison Square Garden. I looked at that fight and I don’t know how in the hell I could lose to Ruiz but you know, I know I am a way better fighter than what I did last time. And I know I am a better fighter than all those heavyweights today and I just want that opportunity to prove myself and show them.
BH: Is there anything in closing that you would like to add or address? You have open forum to do so.
FO: I definitely want to say to my people that I will definitely be back. I have turned over a new leaf fighting all these negativities in my career and I am looking forward to being my own man. It is the first time in guiding my own career and I am a new fighter mentally with a clear state of mind this time coming in 2005.
I would like to thank Bernie Bahrmasel of www.8countproductions.com for his help on this interview and a big shout out to Fres Oquendo for his time.
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