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Volume 14, Number 19
October 6, 2008

lifestyle

Also in this section:
American citizens: NOW is the time to cast your absentee ballots --- here's how
Panama Historical Society carries on
Tuesday Talks
Scenes from the Handicrafts Fair
Comfort food, book exchange and more at the Dolce Coffee House
Canadian Thanksgiving
The American Society's tentative US election debate
Democrats Abroad
Paella lesson
Something of a pugilistic golden age

Panamanian boxing in something of a golden age

A glorious September for the nation's pugilists
by Eric Jackson

It actually didn't start out that well. In July Rafael "El Torito" Concepción won a WBA "interim" super-flyweight championship, which was to be good for a bout for a more formal championship in December, if.... But that "if" didn't happen --- on September 15, before a Mexico City crowd of some 15,000 on the evening before Mexico's independence day, he fought hard but was beaten  up and worn down by hometown favorite Jorge "El Travieso" Arce, until he was knocked out in the 10th round.

Three days later, however, the boxing world turned its eyes on the Figali Convention Center for another night of stellar bouts and another Panamanian fighter won another WBA interim championship. This time it was
Ricardo "Maestrito" Córdoba, who took a unanimous decision in a super-bantamweight bout against Nicaraguan Luis Alberto Pérez. In this, a battle between southpaws, the Nicaraguan was the aggressor thoughout most of the fight, but Córdoba danced away and counter-punched. By the seventh of 12 rounds, Pérez was able to rally and put Córdoba against the ropes, but by then the Nicaraguan had punched himself out and the Panamanian came back to dominate the rest of the fight.

El Maestrito's lesson in the penultimate bout was an elegant lesson in classical boxing and a convincing win, but it was by no means the night's highlight.

Anselmo "Chemito" Moreno's successful defense of his WBA bantamweight crown in the final bout on the card was also pretty convincing, before it ended in the seventh round when the Mexican challenger, Cecilio Santos, was cut too badly by an accidental head butt to continue and the judges' cards had Moreno winning every round. But that wasn't the best show either.

Earlier in the night, Celestino "Pelenchín" Caballero knocked Colombian challenger Elvis Mejía to the canvas with a left hook, then after the knockdown swarmed all over his opponent until the ref had to stop the fight at 2:51 in the first round after too many unanswered blows. Count that as one more defense of Caballero's WBA super-bantamweight title, but it was really a mismatch to put the 27-7-1 Colombian in the same ring with the 29-2 champ. But the next one won't be a mismatch. The next bout, in December, will give Caballero a chance to unite some titles against some serious competition. "I can get better," Caballero warned.

Preceding that mismatch was another, wherein undefeated Puerto Rican cruiserweight Francisco "Wizard" Palacios pounded the hapless Panamanian Luis Andres Pineda to the canvas in the first round and would have finished the bout but for the bell, then came back in the second round to end the fight with a thundering left. Palacios is someone to watch, an up-and-coming ambidexterous talent. It appears that the knockout blow really hurt Pineda, and if he didn't go straight to the hospital for a CAT scan the situation would have to be counted as a major labor grievance for all Panamanian boxers. Nowadays they have drugs to control cranial bleeding that can kill or cripple a fighter, and machines that can pick up those sorts of injuries.

In yet a third mismatch, Roberto "La Araña" Vásquez (26-2) moved up to the bantamweight class against Colombian Felipe Rodríguez (11-5-1) and beat the guy up for two minutes and 25 seconds until the ref had to stop it. Maybe the former junior flyweight champ, who has been having trouble making weight for his fights, is back on track?

On paper, the lightweight battle between Panama's Ameth "Cloroformo" Díaz (24-7) and Mexico's Raymundo Beltrán (22-3) wasn't a mismatch. The Mexican came out throwing a left hook that might have switched off
Díaz's lights, had it landed. But it didn't connect, the Panamanian won the first couple of rounds and then in the third floored the Mexican twice. After another knockdown in the fifth, the ref gave Díaz the win by TKO. To this reporter, it was the night's most impressive performance.

So what can the nation's boxing fans hope for after a fight night like that?

Well, on September 27 in Hamburg, Germany, Panamanian cruiserweight Guillermo Jones entered a ring on the turf of
Firat Arslan, a German of Turkish ethnicity and holder of the WBA cruiserweight crown, and pounded the hometown favorite. Jones dominated the fight at the start and when Arslan tried to rally in the third round, he landed a lot of punches and they just didn't affect Jones. But Jones's punches bloodied Arslan's face in that round and after that the Panamanian took control. The referee stopped the bout in the 10th.

Thus, after a boxing career that appeared to be over at several low points, the 36-year-old Jones (
36-3-2) at long last joins Panama's pantheon of world champions, where so many figured that he belonged from the start of his professional boxing days.

Three world champions and an interim champ at one time --- yes, this is in part a symptom of a professional boxing system that's way too fragmented, but it's also a valid indication of just how good tiny Panama's boxing scene really is at this shining moment. Take it all in while it lasts.

 

Also in this section:
American citizens: NOW is the time to cast your absentee ballots --- here's how
Panama Historical Society carries on
Tuesday Talks
Scenes from the Handicrafts Fair
Comfort food, book exchange and more at the Dolce Coffee House
Canadian Thanksgiving
The American Society's tentative US election debate
Democrats Abroad
Paella lesson
Something of a pugilistic golden age

 



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